Health concerns mount for first-place Texans


Health concerns mount for first-place Texans

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans are hurting heading into the stretch run.

The Texans (10-1) are preparing for Sunday's game at Tennessee (4-7) with a handful of worrisome injuries, most of them in the linebacking corps.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Monday that outside linebacker Brooks Reed is going to miss time with a ``significant'' groin injury suffered in the Texans' 34-31 overtime win in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Reed, a second-round pick in 2011, has 15 solo tackles and 2 1/2 sacks this season.

Houston was already short-handed at linebacker after losing Brian Cushing for the season to a torn left knee ligament in the Oct. 8 win against the New York Jets. Tim Dobbins, who took Cushing's role, hurt his left shoulder against Chicago, though he was back on the field Monday.

Kubiak says linebacker Bradie James is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, and the depleted depth chart creates opportunities for rookie Whitney Mercilus and 2011 undrafted free agent Bryan Braman, who've both played mostly on special teams.

Mercilus, the 26th overall pick, led the nation in sacks last season at Illinois (16) and he's played well in the last four games, recording nine solo tackles and three sacks. He'll move into Connor Barwin's starting spot on the weak side, and Barwin will move into Reed's position on the strong side.

``I'm definitely ready for it, I've been coached up and all that,'' Mercilus said. ``It's what I've been preparing for, what I've been training for, and the time has come now for me to step up and show the coaches that I've taken all the coaching and I'm ready to play.''

Kubiak said Braman will see action at both outside positions on Sunday. Braman has a solo tackle in each of the last two games and had four in Houston's 38-14 win over Tennessee in Week 4. He feels a higher level of responsibility this week.

``Because I don't get a lot of playing time on defense in the first place, there are a lot of things fundamentally and mentally that I do need to go through, things I don't see as much as the other players do,'' Braman said. ``It's definitely something I'm going to be working on a lot, making sure I'm fundamentally sound and knowing exactly what I'm supposed to do in every situation I'll face.''

Lead cornerback Johnathan Joseph and backup running back Ben Tate worked out with trainers on Monday as they recover from hamstring injuries. Tate has missed the last four games, but is confident he'll be ready to play in Nashville.

``I've just been listening to my body, and I'm ready to go now,'' Tate said. ``A hamstring is a thing where you have to listen to it. If you don't, you're going to, instead of missing three or four weeks, you're going to end up missing double that. It's frustrating, but at the same time, you have to be patient with it.''

Arian Foster leads the NFL with 269 carries, and Justin Forsett has moved into the backup role with Tate sidelined. Forsett had 87 yards in the Thanksgiving victory, including a controversial 81-yard touchdown run. His yardage has increased in each of the last three games, and Kubiak says he'll have a minor dilemma when Tate gets back in the fold.

``We've got to get Ben back to playing, to working with the team, practicing all week, contributing,'' Kubiak said. ``But Justin's done too good a job and been too productive for us as a player, both backing up Arian and as a special-teams player for his role not to continue.

``That's a nice problem to have, if we've got them all available,'' Kubiak said. ``Hopefully, Ben has a good week of work and that's the case, come Sunday.''

Kubiak said nose tackle Shaun Cody is back at practice after missing three games with a back injury.

Right tackle Derek Newton was also day to day with a right knee injury, Kubiak said. Ryan Harris, signed at the end of training camp, played 72 snaps on Thanksgiving and Kubiak said he'll start on Sunday if Newton can't play.

``I'm concerned about the health of our team right now,'' Kubiak said. ``But that's part of this business this time of year, so we've got to figure out a way to be as good as we can be on Sunday. It's something we've got to deal with. The players understand it, the coaches understand it. We've got ourselves in a good position. We've got to just figure out a way to keep stepping to the plate.''


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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch


Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.


Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:


Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.



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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:


2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:


4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection: