HOUSTON – 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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