Day 12 of training camp was punctuated by the news that linebacker Brian Cushing would miss at least this weekend's preseason opener against Kansas City with a sprained left knee. Cushing was in attendance at the morning and afternoon practice sessions but did not participate, observing from the sidelines with a plastic brace on his left knee.
For the latest details on Cushing's injury, click here.
LB shuffle: With the injury to Cushing, head coach Gary Kubiak had to develop a contingency plan to deal with the absence of his starting strongside linebacker for at least the preseason opener against Kansas City.
"Well, you make some phone calls this morning and say, 'Zac (Diles), you're going to SAM, (Kevin) Bentley, you're going to WILL, Buster (Davis), you're moving up,'" Kubiak said. "That's pro football, and we rose to the occasion this morning. That's about opportunity, as I always tell you."
Despite the position changes and loss of a body at practice in Cushing, Kubiak is taking it easy on linebackers Cato June and Zac Diles in order to prevent another injury at linebacker. June has a swollen knee and hasn't practiced for the past two days, while both he and Diles have been held out of all afternoon practices on the indoor turf surface to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
"Regardless of what our situation is, Zac is not going on this turf," Kubiak said. "I'm going to stick to my guns on that with him and Cato. We practiced with six linebackers this afternoon, and that's tough. The best thing for the team and for Zac is to keep him from pounding on this turf, so I'm going to stick to that."
Diles ready to step up: With a starting stint of eight games at strongside linebacker derailed by a broken tibia last season, Diles is no stranger to the position he will take over for an injured Brian Cushing. But for a player who hasn't been practicing at the position or at all during afternoon walkthrough, today's morning practice playing with the first-team defense at his old position was a bit of a re-baptism by fire for Diles.
"I had the morning practice to get the jitters out and get back into the spot and get my feet wet again," Diles said. "It would have been nice to have another afternoon practice before the game on Saturday but I got my mental reps in and was able to watch and see what was going on."
Diles' versatility at linebacker has proven to be a major asset to the Texans. The third-year pro out of Kansas State has played at all three linebacker positions during time with the team, and he said he's ready to go for Saturday's opener.
"I have all my strength, so physically I feel good," Diles said. "I just have to go out on Saturday and put it on tape in a game-like situation."
Brown strives for consistency: After hitting just shy of 90 percent of his field goals in 2008, Texans kicker Kris Brown has set his bar high in 2009. So when Brown missed three consecutive field goals during a morning two-minute drill exercise on Tuesday, the veteran kicker seemed less than pleased. Still, Kubiak has very few concerns about his kicker.
"I trust Kris," Kubiak said. "I talked to him two days ago, (asking) how he's feeling. He said, 'I'm fine coach, I'm going through a typical training camp.' I feel like he's right where he normally is."
Brown is also adapting to working with a pair of new long snappers during training camp—tight ends Joel Dreessen and James Casey.
Notes: In an appearance today on ESPN's First Take, wide receiver Andre Johnson pointed to cornerback Brice McCain and wide receiver André Davis as the fastest two players on the team. Their top-end speed was on display Wednesday morning, as McCain picked off a hanging deep bomb from Matt Schaub to Kevin Walter. McCain also saw significant reps on the first team defense at corner opposite Fred Bennett and at punt returner during the afternoon practice. Davis had his own highlight reel play as he turned on the burners to outrun Bennett and easily catch a touchdown pass from Schaub…defensive end Tim Bulman was a disruptive force on the defensive line Wednesday afternoon, tipping a pass at the line and snaring his own deflection for a rare interception that drew loud cheers of "Bull" from his defensive teammates.