Eight-year veteran Chris Clark has quietly stepped in for a Texans offensive line dealing with injuries.
"It's not anything that I try to do or try to step on anybody's toes, it's just I see where I'm needed, and I try to help the young guys as much as I can," Clark said in an interview with Texans TV. "It's always about a competition—and I know we're in competition with each other—but, at the end of the day we have the same goals."
It's a "next man up" mentality, according to Clark, and the injuries have been accumulating. Starting tackles Duane Brown and Derek Newton have missed training camp while they rehab from injury. Rookie center and projected starter Nick Martin is out dealing with an ankle issue.
Clark, who has seen action in 80 games with 31 starts over the course of his career with Denver and Houston, consequently has seen a majority of first-team reps and started both preseason games at right tackle.
"There's nothing more important than the health of the team," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "There's no doubt about that. That's for every team in the league. But I also look at the positive of it, that we're getting a lot of guys opportunities that will probably have to play a lot of football for us this year, whether it's (Kendall) Lamm, or Chris Clark, or (Greg) Mancz at center, Bergie (Tony Bergstrom) at center."
Clark has had a long, winding NFL career. After being signed as a college free agent by Tampa Bay, Clarke spent his first two years in the league on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad (2008-09). Waived in 2010, Clark signed the very next day with Denver and went on to play the next five seasons with the Broncos.
Traded to Houston last August, Clark started two games at left tackle (Weeks 2 and 3) and two games at right tackle (Weeks 6 and 7). In the postseason, Clark also started at left tackle after Brown needed season-ending quadriceps surgery.
Now Clark is part of an offensive line that had has opportunities to face San Francisco and New Orleans in joint practice. On a daily basis, he lines up opposite tough pass rushers like Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. Clark also gets to block for a ground game that features Lamar Smith, a job the veteran offensive lineman seems to enjoy.
"It's always great blocking for a guy like that because he wants to score every time and you can feel it," Clark said. "He's trying to break more and more tackles every time. It's a beautiful thing blocking for a guy like that."
Clark's role may change again once the starters return. He hopes to still contribute in any way he can, both on and off the field.
"I'm fine with helping guys younger than me or older than me if it comes to that," Clark said. "So we tend to help each other out a lot. We know we're all in competition but we still have a brotherhood at the end of the day. The best guys will be on the team and that's the approach we take, so it's been good."
On Sunday, the Texans face the Arizona Cardinals in a nationally-televised preseason game. Kickoff has been changed to 3:25 p.m. CT (from 3 p.m. CT) and will be broadcast on FOX-26 and SportsRadio 610.
Texans players were excited about picking up their brand new copy of Madden 17.