Rashad Butler, the Texans' backup to left tackle Duane Brown and right tackle Eric Winston, is out for the season with a triceps injury. He has been placed on injured reserve.
Butler was injured on a fluke play during practice on Wednesday, dealing a major blow to the Texans' offensive line.
"We count on Rashad, and the backup swing tackle is one of the toughest positions there is," offensive line coach John Benton said. "He's got to be ready to play all but one play of every game. To Rashad's credit, we always kind of had him in our hip pocket as an insurance policy and felt like we wouldn't miss a beat if he was playing, and obviously we don't have that now."
With Butler out, rookie seventh-round draft pick Derek Newton becomes the Texans' swing tackle. The Texans also activated second-year tackle Andrew Gardner from their practice squad.
"They've got to step up and fill that role, but they're pretty big shoes to fill," Benton said. "Derek's got a lot of physical talent, but quite frankly he's still in the process of learning the game. We've been trying to push that learning curve. I think he realizes now what role he's in and that it's at a whole 'nother level. Whether he's ready or not, here it comes."
Butler re-signed with the Texans in July as an unrestricted free agent. A third-round draft pick from Miami in 2006, he has been with the Texans since 2007. He started four games at left tackle last season when Brown was suspended.
"He truly prepared every week as if he was going to play every play, and it really showed," Benton said. "One of the brightest, sharpest guys in the room. He studied his opponent, he studied the game planning. He was always ready to go. When he did have the opportunity to play, whether for good or evil, he always came through with high marks.
"He's a starting-level tackle in the league, and we were very fortunate to have him as a backup."
Butler joins guards Kasey Studdard and Shelley Smith as key reserve offensive linemen for the Texans to be placed on injured reserve.
"We're sure pleased with the players who've replaced them that we've brought in, but it's been really difficult," Benton said. "Those are all talented players, all guys we were expecting to either contribute or develop. Obviously, all those things are put on hold."