HOUSTON — Houston linebacker Brian Cushing has a sprained right medial collateral ligament in his right knee and is out indefinitely.
Cushing was injured in the first quarter of Houston’s 23-14 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday and did not return. Though Cushing is expected to miss some time, the Texans do expect him back this season.
“Brian will be back I would say sooner rather than later,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that’s obviously played a long time and knows exactly what’s wrong and he’ll work very hard to get back as quickly as he can.”
It’s the third time Cushing has missed time with a knee injury, although the first two, which were both to his left knee, were much more serious.
In Week 7 of the 2013 season, Cushing tore the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee and broke his left fibula on a low hit and missed the rest of the season. He had missed the last 11 games of the 2012 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee in Week 5 against the New York Jets.
The 29-year old returned for the opener of the 2014 season and started 14 games that year, finishing with 72 tackles. He looked to be back to form last season when he started every game and led the team with 110 tackles. It was his first 100-tackle season since he had 114 in 2011 before the first injury.
With Cushing out, the Texans will look to Max Bullough to fill in. The 24-year-old is in his third NFL season and he appeared in 13 games last season after getting into just one game as a rookie in 2014.
Benardrick McKinney, a second-year player, could also help pick up the slack during Cushing’s absence.
“Those guys are good football players,” O’Brien said. “We feel like we’ve built depth there … sometimes injuries happen. It’s a tough, tough game and the next guy has to step up.”
Bullough took over on Sunday after Cushing left the game and finished with five tackles. He was confident about his increased role and credited Cushing.
“He’s been here for a while and he’s helped me a lot,” Bullough said. “I’ve learned a lot from him … (my) thoughts are with Cush and I know he’ll be back as soon as he can.”
The Texans also said starting left tackle Duane Brown won’t return this week while continuing his recovery from quadriceps surgery in January. And they are looking for improvement from J.J. Watt after the defensive end wasn’t his dominant self in his return Sunday after sitting out the entire preseason following back surgery.
O’Brien gave last season’s Defensive Player of the Year credit for even being on the field after having surgery to repair a herniated disk in July before critiquing his play.
“He knows that he needs to go out there and play better,” O’Brien said. “I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that. As the game went on I thought he played better and better. He was getting more used to the speed of the game. He hadn’t played in a long time. No training camp. So I think you’ll see that the more he plays he’ll be back to what you’re looking for.”
The Texans (1-0) host Kansas City (1-0) on Sunday.