Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will have surgery on his kidney on Thursday morning but expects to return from a medical leave of absence within 10 days.
Phillips, 64, was at practice on Wednesday. He declined to go into detail about his upcoming procedure but said he thinks he will coach in the Texans' regular-season finale against Tennessee on Jan. 1. He wasn't sure about next Thursday's game at Indianapolis because he may not be able to travel.
"I feel good," Phillips said. "I don't have any physical problems right now. If I get this done, the procedure that I'm doing, then I'll be fine. I'll be out for maybe a week, maybe a little longer than that. It's the next man up. That's what we've done all year. The team is we, it's not me. I've been getting too much credit, but it's a football team, and they're going to play. I haven't done a good job if they're not ready to play, if they're not ready to practice and they're not ready to prepare to play."
Phillips said his procedure is not life-threatening or cancer-related, and he made light of his situation in a manner reminiscent of his father, former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips.
"I don't want to get into it," he said. "It's personal, but, it's not a vasectomy, in case you wondered."
Asked if it was a "GI" (gastrointestinal) procedure of some sort, Phillips quipped, "I don't know. I was never in the Army."
Hired on Jan. 5, Phillips has transformed the Texans' defense from 30th in 2010 to first in 2011. The Texans have held seven consecutive opponents to less than 20 points and have 36 sacks, one shy of the team record.
Linebackers coach Reggie Herring will be the Texans' interim defensive coordinator. He was Phillips' linebackers coach and right-hand man in Dallas from 2008-10.
"This is a system," Herring said. "I've been raised under Wade Phillips for the last four years. I've studied him. We think a lot alike. At the end of the day, I'm not Wade Phillips, but it's Wade Phillips' system. It's our calls. It's what the players know. We have confidence. It's going to come down to execution and consistency, what it does every week."
Herring has 11 years of experience as a defensive coordinator at the college level.
"I feel very confident about this," he said. "The players are all in a good frame of mind right now. We have a lot of things to finish, home-field advantage and we're number on in the NFL right now. We have a lot to play for. Players have shown a lot of character and pride. I don't see any letdown in these guys.
"Really, the only thing that changes is the actual defensive calls are going to come out of my mouth to the player. Let me just say this, and people need to be rest assured. Look, you'll see the same cats you've seen the last 13 games on this field."
The fiery, ever-vocal Herring will coach from the sidelines on Sunday as he has every week. He likened coaching from the press box to "watching TV with no volume."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Phillips' absence will not change what the defense is doing.
"You just keep going," Kubiak said. "Reggie makes the calls. Bobby (King) works with the linebackers all the time, anyway, so the dynamics of how we practice and what we do, nothing changes. Who's on the field, who's off, nothing will change there, too. It's just a matter of Reggie making the calls, and he's with Wade every day preparing to do that."
Phillips' surgery is the latest in a long line of setbacks for the Texans this season. Linebacker Mario Williams and quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are among their 12 players on injured reserve. The Texans also have played seven games without wide receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring).
The 'next man up' philosophy that has helped propel the Texans to a 10-3 record and AFC South title now applies to the coaching staff as well.
"Next coach up?" Kubiak said. "Yeah, it has been an interesting deal. It seems like something every week that we're having to adjust to, but I think that's why we're probably where we're at today because we've been finding a away to answer the call, so to speak.
"This is a situation to me where we know we're getting him back, but we need to do what's best for him right now and make sure his health is taken care of. Wade'll be back. We just need to keep going and keep working, and Reggie'll do a hell of a job."