Houston Texans star running back Arian Foster has yet to play a down in preseason, or participate in one snap during training camp practice. In spite of this fact, there is no reason that the Texans faithful should be concerned or worried about the status of #23 heading into the regular season. As a matter of fact, the Texans staff should continue with the cautious approach, and not let Foster suit up until week one of the regular season.
Foster has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp started, after he suffered a calf injury during OTA’s. The team thought he would be activated and practice today, but once his calf healed he began to experience soreness in his back. Foster received injections to combat the back soreness, and that caused him to feel a little pain in his legs. When asked today if he believes that Foster will be ready to go in week one, Gary Kubiak responded, “I am, because I watch him work … with (trainer) Geoff (Kaplan). Obviously there’s been a little setback as we try to get the soreness out of him. It’s not like he’s been standing around for the last three weeks.”
Foster has been working on the side field during practice, staying in football shape by doing agility drills and catching passes from the JUGS machine. With only two preseason games left and exactly three weeks away from the Texans Monday Night Football season opener at the San Diego Chargers, Foster should not suit up until the week of practice before that game. Houston should continue to be cautious, and hold him out for the remainder of the preseason.
He does not need the training camp and preseason reps that other running backs may need to be ready for the regular season. This extended rest is not necessarily a bad thing for Foster, who led the NFL with 351 rushing attempts in 2012. He will be fresher at the start of the season, while still in game shape and ready to continue his excellent production in the Houston backfield the last three seasons. He has rushed for over 1,200 yards in all three of those seasons, and has a rushing title on his resume during that span.
In his absence during the preseason, Ben Tate has taken the first team reps on offense. It has also opened up more reps for the four backs in competition for the third running back spot on the roster. Veteran Deji Karim and undrafted rookies Cierre Wood, Dennis Johnson and Ray Graham are all vying for the job. They are involved in a good competition that will likely go down to the end of preseason. It was more important for them, and for Tate, to get the majority of work during camp.
An injury to a star player is never a good thing, but the minor ailments that have ailed Foster this training camp may very well turn out to be beneficial for the Texans in the long run. They should continue the routine and ease him back into the fold slowly. There’s no need for him to play in the preseason, and as a wrote at the end of OTAs, week one has been the target for Houston’s veterans all along.