EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker Brian Cushing left the Texans' Monday night game at the New York Jets with a potentially serious left knee injury. He did not return.
Cushing was hit low by Jets guard Mark Slauson while pursuing a rushing play early in the second quarter. The Texans did not offer a definitive prognosis on their defensive captain after the game.
"I don't know what I can give you now other than we're very concerned, obviously," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "But I don't want to jump the gun here. We're going to get home and get it looked at, but obviously we're very concerned. We'll sit here and hope for the best on a long plane ride home."
After he was injured, Cushing sat on the field with his helmet off for a minute or two, then got up and walked to the sideline under his own power. He then walked slowly to the locker room with members of the Texans' medical staff by his side.
"They tell me upstairs he got cut on a play and his foot might have got stuck in the turf is all I've been told," Kubiak said. "I haven't seen it, but obviously, (it's) crisis number one."
Cushing entered the game leading the Texans' defense with 24 tackles. The fourth-year linebacker was the Texans' most valuable player in 2011, when he earned second-team All-Pro honors after recording a team-high 114 tackles.
"Cushing means so much to this team," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "This team is like a family, and we don't want to lose nobody. If he is gone, that's a big blow for us, personally and on the field… Cush is an animal, man. He's a playmaker, natural-born playmaker. He's always where the ball's at. You can depend on him to make big plays in key situations. He's a big part of our defense."
Veteran inside linebackers Tim Dobbins and Bradie James teamed up to replace Cushing on Monday night. Dobbins filled in for Cushing at Mo (weak inside) linebacker. Bradie James, the Texans' starting Mike (strong inside) linebacker, took Cushing's place on the field in nickel situations.
"Guys just have to rally up," James said. "Injuries are a part of the game, so guys got to step up and play. We've got enough to do that. Of course, cush is our guy, the playmaker in the middle, so it might take a committee, but we'll get it done. We've been here before. Last year, they talked about how many guys went down and guys just rallied around. It's all a team effort, and we're all looking forward to just stepping it up."
James is well-versed in Wade Phillips' defense, having played under Phillips with the Dallas Cowboys from 2007-10. Dobbins came into the league under Phillips in 2006, when Phillips was defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.
"If somebody goes down, as a backup, I'm always ready to go in and make plays," Dobbins said. "I'd like to think I can step in and play either Mike or Mo and try to get the job done as best as I can."
Phillips said he thought the Texans played well after Cushing was injured, but he admitted that losing Cushing would limit some of what the Texans can do on defense.
"Sure," Phillips said. "It takes away him rushing. He has a presence on the field that not many linebackers do, but we'll see what happens. He's one of our best players, so you hope things work out.
"I don't think we've finalized anything on whether he's playing or not playing."
Cushing, a New Jersey native who had family and friends in attendance at MetLife Stadium, had five tackles in less than 20 minutes of game action on Monday night before he was injured.
"That's our leader," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "That's our middle linebacker. That's our guy. To see that is tough. We played the second half for Cush. We won this game in Cush's home state, and we just hope he's OK and hope he's back."