HOUSTON — 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.
Veteran running back Kevin Falk, New England's career leader in all-purpose yards, formally announced his retirement on Tuesday after 13 seasons.
"I never thought I'd be saying I'm retiring from football," said Faulk, who has suffered through injuries the last two seasons, "and I never thought I'd have three of these."
That's when he took out the Super Bowl championship rings he won with the only team he played for since the Patriots drafted him in 1999 in the second round out of LSU.
He played only two games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He began last season on the physically unable to perform list then was activated and played seven games. But he was inactive for the 21-17 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.
And this season, the Patriots' revived running game has gained the third most yards in the NFL, led by Stevan Ridley's 490. Faulk exceeded that total in just three of his seasons. Backups Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead also have been productive.
Primarily a third-down back on offense, he made his mark on return teams for New England. His 12,349 all-purpose yards, 5,041 return yards and 4,098 kick return yards are team records. He also rushed for 3,607 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 431 passes for 3,701 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"No matter what he was asked to do, nobody did it better than Kevin," Belichick said. "He always put the team first, he always worked hard. Nobody contributed more to the team winning than Kevin."
Faulk was, Belichick concluded, "the ultimate team player."