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Cushing focuses on health after injury

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HOUSTON (AP) - Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is focused on his recovery in the wake of a season-ending knee injury.

Cushing, Houston's leading tackler, was hurt in the Texans' 23-17 win over the New York Jets on Monday night on a low, rolling hit by guard Matt Slauson. He was placed on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Cushing had a protective black sleeve over his left knee when he walked into the locker room on Friday. Tim Dobbins will start in his place when the Texans (5-0) play Green Bay (2-3) on Sunday night.

``It's all part of the game,'' Cushing said. ``The next step is just to get healthy, get back on the field as fast as I can.''

A first-round draft pick in 2009, Cushing has no timetable for the necessary surgery or a return to football activities. He plans to attend as many team meetings and practices as possible while he recovers.

``I want be around, I want to be here for the guys, and help them the best I can, whether it's in spirit, or coaching tips or whatever,'' said Cushing, one of the team's emotional leaders. ``I've got a new role now, and I've accepted it.''

Slauson was not flagged on the play, but he was fined $10,000 this week by the NFL. Cushing wouldn't say if he thought Slauson's hit crossed the line.

``Whether it was or it wasn't, I'm not playing for a while,'' Cushing said. ``That's not going to change my opinion on anything. I'm not a guy that's going to look back at the past and see what I could've done differently. I'm going to look into the future and see how I can improve.''

Cushing has only missed four games in three NFL seasons, and that was to serve a suspension in 2010 for a positive test for a banned substance. His last major injury came during his junior season at Southern California, when he missed three games with a sprained left ankle.

``When you sign up for this game, I understand this is part of it,'' Cushing said.

The Texans' defense ranks third overall (275.6 yards per game), and Cushing has been its top playmaker under second-year coordinator Wade Phillips. He led the team with 114 tackles in 2011 and had an interception and a forced fumble to go along with his 38 stops this year.

He vowed to return in a confident proclamation on Twitter on Wednesday - and added a bold guarantee.

``Trust me when I say I'll be back better than ever,'' Cushing wrote. ``I appreciate all the love and want u to know WE are STILL winning THIS year's Super Bowl.''

Cushing acknowledged on Friday that the tweet drew ``a lot of mixed reactions,'' but he was only trying to send a positive message to his teammates.

``Whatever I can do to help these guys, I'm going to do it,'' he said.

Houston was crippled by injuries to key players in 2011 and still won the AFC South with a 10-6 record. Cushing thinks navigating through last season's issues will help the Texans now.

``We definitely dealt with a lot of adversity last year, especially from an injury standpoint,'' Cushing said. ``This is a mentally strong team that's built with a lot of depth. I'm not too concerned about that.''

Houston coach Gary Kubiak said this week that Dobbins was ``the best option'' to take over Cushing's role. Dobbins played his first four NFL seasons with San Diego, including one season under Phillips.

Cushing doesn't think Dobbins will need much 1-on-1 mentoring moving forward.

``Tim's played a lot of football, he's been in every single meeting I've been in,'' Cushing said. ``He's learned all the same stuff as me. He's a good player and I have a lot of confidence in him and if he has any questions, I'll be sure to answer them.''


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The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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