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Texans LB Cushing out for season with torn ACL

Texans LB Cushing out for season with torn ACL

HOUSTON (AP) Linebacker Brian Cushing is out for the season with a torn left knee ligament, leaving the unbeaten Houston Texans without their top tackler and one of their emotional leaders.

Cushing was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans' 23-17 win over the New York Jets on a low block by guard Matt Slauson. Cushing walked off the field on his own, but didn't return.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday that Cushing has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will need surgery in two to three weeks, after the swelling subsides. Cushing was leading Houston in tackles (38) before Monday night's game.

``A big blow for our team,'' Kubiak said. ``We have to have guys pick it up around him and we've got to find a way to move forward. We're all just disappointed for him. It's a tough day for him.''

The Texans (5-0) play Green Bay (2-3) in Houston on Sunday night. The loss of Cushing is a foreboding sign for Houston, which ran into a rash of injuries to some of its top players in 2011, including Andre Johnson (hamstring), Matt Schaub (Lisfranc fracture) and outside linebacker Mario Williams (torn chest muscle).

In 2010, Houston lost middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans to a ruptured Achilles tendon, and the team spiraled to a 6-10 record.

``I do know that there are crises in this league, and every team has them,'' Kubiak said. ``We've had our share here the last couple of years, and boy, if this is the first one (this year), it's a big one.''

Last year, the Texans overcame the injuries, finished 10-6 and won their division, with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates running the offense. Kubiak thinks that experience may help them overcome the loss of Cushing now.

``I do know what this group is made of and I know what they're capable of,'' he said, ``and we'll find a way to work through it and somebody else will come out of this and become a good player for us. I have a lot of confidence in that.''

Tim Dobbins moved into Cushing's spot in the lineup against the Jets, and finished with four tackles and a pass deflection. Kubiak says Dobbins is ``option No. 1'' to replace Cushing in the lineup.

Dobbins played his first four NFL seasons with San Diego, including one season under Wade Phillips, now the Texans' defensive coordinator. He was traded to Miami during the 2010 draft, released after one season and signed by the Texans in August 2011. He played in 15 games last season and four this year, mostly on special teams.

``He's a veteran player, he's played with Wade before,'' Kubiak said. ``It's a lot to ask, but that's why he's here. It's an opportunity for him as a player and we'll have to rally around him and like I said, make up for Cush's loss as a group.''

Another eventual option may be Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list during training camp with a hip injury. By league rules, he can't be activated until Week 7. The Texans have a bye week after playing Baltimore on Oct. 21, and Kubiak said he'll have a chance to closely evaluate Sharpton then.

``If he was available to come off and help us today, he's still not ready,'' Kubiak said. ``But we do have some more time on our hands. We are pushing him toward that date, here in a few weeks, to where we can get a good look at him and see. There's still some progress to be made.''

No matter who steps in, Cushing will be hard to replace.

A first-round draft pick in 2009, Cushing was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He made 133 tackles that year, the second-most in the AFC behind Baltimore's Ray Lewis (134).

Cushing again led the Texans in tackles last season (114) and also intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles. He's only missed four games in his three seasons, all to serve a suspension for a positive test for a banned substance.

Cushing answered questions about it, and now ranks as one of the most respected players in the locker room.

``Those guys really look to him,'' Kubiak said. ``He's an emotional leader, the way he plays, the way he works, the way he practices. Cush loves it all. That's the thing about him. Guys feed off of that.''

Kubiak said Cushing ``was in pretty good pain'' on the field on Monday night, and seemed to realize the severity of the injury. The team talked about losing Cushing at halftime, then made just enough plays in the second half to survive a gritty effort by the Jets.

``I think there was some added incentive to finish that thing up for Cush,'' Kubiak said.

Defensive end J.J. Watt produced another dominant performance, making six tackles, including a sack. He also deflected three passes - one of them leading to Brice McCain's interception that ended a Jets' scoring threat.

Arian Foster carried the offense and helped Houston win time of possession for the fifth time this season. Foster rushed 29 times for 152 yards, both season highs.

Justin Forsett had four carries for six yards in place of regular backup Ben Tate, who missed Monday night's game with a toe injury. Kubiak said Tate ``was not close'' to playing and will be evaluated again on Wednesday.

Aside from the injuries, Kubiak has growing concerns about Houston's kick-return and coverage teams. Trindon Holliday averaged only 11 yards on three kickoff returns, and the Texans were penalized three times on returns.

Most alarming, though, Houston gave up a 100-yard kickoff return to New York's Joe McKnight, a momentum-changing play after the Texans had built a 20-7 lead. Houston also comfortably led Miami in the season opener before Marcus Thigpen ran back a punt 72 yards for a touchdown.

``I'm very concerned special-teams wise,'' Kubiak said. ``We didn't get a ball past the 20 (on kickoff returns) last night, and we've given up two touchdowns. We're near the bottom of the league in covering kicks. We've got to address it. It's going to cost us, at some point. We've been fortunate, but it's not good enough right now.''

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Orlando Brown Jr.'s late father predicted his future with the Ravens

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Orlando Brown Jr.'s late father predicted his future with the Ravens

Rookie offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.'s future with the Baltimore Ravens was predicted long before he was drafted in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

His father Orlando "Zeus" Brown, who played the same position for the Ravens from 1996-98 and again in 2003-05, saw in Brown Jr. what he saw in himself.

In an NFL Films feature 'Son of Zeus,' Brown Jr. recalls being at the Ravens' training facility with his father at a young age.

"We were leaving and he was just like, you know, 'you're going to end up back here' and 'it's gonna happen dog' and 'i just foresee it,' Brown Jr. said.

Initially, "Zeus" was not for his son playing the game, wanting him to focus his attention on his education. Brown Jr. convinced his father otherwise but was taught at a young age that nothing less than dominating every single play would be accepted. 

And nearly 15 years after predicting his son's future and seven years after his sudden death, "Zeus's" epiphany came true when Brown Jr. received a phone call from Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome in April.

"The first thing he said, 'you're not kidding me are you? Is this for real?,' Newsome said on how Brown Jr. reacted. "And I go, 'yes, it's for real.'"

It was almost like a higher power was involved in the connection.

“Hey, your dad’s smiling down right now,” Newsome added.

"It was like almost like emotionally overwhelming you know just for the situation," Brown Jr. said.

During his six years with the Ravens, "Zeus" helped Jamal Lewis hit 2,000 rushing yards and even turned down larger offers to stay in Baltimore to be closer to his children.

Now 10 games into the season, Brown Jr. is playing in a way his late father would be proud of. He started four games and is proving to be a valuable addition to the offensive line.

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Ravens' John Harbaugh wants it known Lamar Jackson can and will throw the ball more

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens' John Harbaugh wants it known Lamar Jackson can and will throw the ball more

BALTIMORE -- In a league that relies heavily on the forward pass, the Baltimore Ravens have gone old-school in their bid to reach the NFL playoffs.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way , the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson ran 27 times for 117 yards, Gus Edwards garnered 115 yards on the ground and both rookies rushed for seven first downs.

There's a good chance Jackson will start for the injured Joe Flacco again Sunday when the Ravens (5-5) host the Oakland Raiders (2-8). If Jackson is the starter, it's unlikely he will again slither, slide and scramble with the ball 27 times.

"Yeah, you don't want your quarterback getting hit that much," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "It's not going to last that way. So, that's pretty self-evident."

That said, Harbaugh mocked those people concerned about Jackson's workload.

"Oh, he had 27 carries," Harbaugh said. "You know what he did? He won the game. He played his tail off. Celebrate that, and move on."

Whatever it takes to win.

"It's not what we're going to be shooting for by any stretch, but if it takes that many, Lamar will do it," Harbaugh said. "But, no, he took some hits. I think they knew the quarterback was going to run the ball. They were going after him a little bit, as you would expect. That's something that we have to look at going forward."

Selected 32nd overall in the 2018 draft, Jackson was thrust into the starting lineup because Flacco has a right hip injury that has been slow to heal and could keep him sidelined against the Raiders.

"He has a chance," Harbaugh said, without much conviction.

Jackson ran 655 times at Louisville and won the 2016 Heisman Trophy for his ability to carry the ball, not throw it. On Sunday, his carries accounted for more than a third of Baltimore's 73 offensive plays, and the Ravens finished with 54 rushing attempts compared to 19 passes.

Harbaugh bristled when someone asked him about Jackson's ability to throw the football, and where that fits into the game plan moving forward.

"Yeah, we're going to throw the ball more down the road," Harbaugh insisted. "All this veiled stuff, `Is he really a thrower?' I got news for you: He's a thrower. He's a quarterback. I don't appreciate the insinuation of the question. Lamar Jackson is a quarterback."

He's a quarterback with 256 yards rushing -- second on the team behind Alex Collins -- and 237 yards passing. Collins scored a touchdown against the Bengals, but his playing time was sheared by Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent who got 17 carries and played most of the second half.

Edwards, who scored his first NFL touchdown , got the call because of the way he's excelled in the days leading up to game day.

"He's been practicing great," Harbaugh said. "It has been a goal to get him more carries before this."

Baltimore's 265 yards rushing against Cincinnati was tied for the fifth most in franchise history, and it marked the first time in NFL history that a team had a rookie quarterback and rookie running back each top 100 yards rushing.

After he was done, Jackson made one final run -- after the referee to snag the game ball.

"However you move the ball is good. You do it based on your personnel," Harbaugh said. "You want it to be a mix, but in the end, the players deserve the credit for running the ball so well."

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