Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has been ruled out of Sunday's Week 7 game at Tennessee. Fullback James Casey will be a game-time decision.
Johnson (hamstring) and Casey (chest) both were unable to practice this week because of injuries. This will be the third consecutive game missed for Johnson, a five-time Pro Bowler who still leads the Texans in catches (25) and receiving yards (352).
"Obviously, Andre is not where he needs to be right now, but he's doing well; doing very well," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Friday. "He was catching balls today from (rookie quarterback) T.J. (Yates) and running routes. It's very impressive where he's at right now, but there's still a little 'nother step for him to take before we're comfortable. So, hopefully he'll take it here sometime soon."
Johnson had minor surgery on his right leg on Oct. 4. He was injured two days earlier against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, the Texans' last victory this season. He said "it could be possible" that he returns next Sunday to face the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"This is probably the greatest amount of progress I've made over the past couple of days, from Monday until today," Johnson said on Friday. "I feel a lot better... I'm not 100 percent, but very happy about the way I feel. After what I did today, it just lets me know that everything is headed in the right direction. We'll come back and do the same thing Monday and see how it feels."
Wide receivers Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and Derrick Mason are among those being counted on step up in Johnson's place.
"They've got to continue to do that," Kubiak said. "You go back the past two weeks, our tight ends and Kevin played very well, and last week the ball came to Jacoby. I don't know where it's going to go, but obviously the production's got to come from someplace else, and so we'll spread it out amongst them and hopefully they'll all do their part."
Kubiak said that Mason, who joined the Texans via trade last Wednesday, is "way ahead" of where he was a week ago with the offense. Mason had three catches for 27 yards last Sunday on just two days of practice.
"He's got the full grasp," Kubiak said. "Last week, he kind of played in a package. This week, he'll play in the whole scheme of things. He's moving forward."
Lawrence Vickers will start at fullback if Casey cannot play against the Titans. Kubiak is confident in Vickers, but he's eager to see the versatile Casey return to action.
"It's important all around to the team, special teams and everything," Kubiak said. "He's come a long way. He has not practiced this week, but he's a guy that I feel comfortable could play, so I'll watch him Sunday morning and try to make a decision on him. But he's been a very important piece of what we've been doing since the start of this preseason, and we need to get him back on the field."
Vickers started for Casey last Sunday and played about 20 snaps at Baltimore.
"Lawrence is working well," Kubiak said. "I thought he did some good things last week, even better in practice this week. I expect him to play well."