Just before the 3:25 game time on Sunday as the Houston Texans were set to take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, Houston’s release of its inactive players was a bit of a head scratcher.
Three rookies all making the trip to Kansas City were deemed inactive just before game time: RB Cierre Wood, OLB Willie Jefferson and DE Sam Montgomery. These inactives seemed strange mostly because with Wood out, Coach Gary Kubiak was only dressing two running backs: Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
The move jumped up to bite the Houston Texans when starter Foster tweaked his hamstring early and was ruled out for the rest of the game, leaving Tate the lone RB. The load was to be carried between Tate and fullback Greg Jones, who has far more experience laying lead blocks than carrying the football in the NFL.
Tate would also spend a considerable amount of time on the sidelines banged up, leaving the backfield responsibilities solely up to Jones. At the time it seemed to be roster mismanagement by the Houston coaching staff, as the decision to dress only two RBs behind a rookie QB with no experience starting a game thought be contested largely in rough-nosed fashion on the ground.
The moves by the Houston coaching staff became crystal clear on Monday, as the team announced that they had cut Wood, Jefferson and Montgomery for team violations that occurred at the hotel the Texans were staying, and put the three players on flights home Sunday morning, long before game time.
The recently unemployed players were looking to get out in front of the story, and the early consensus reason for the dismissal being bounced around is that the players were smoking cigars in the hotel after curfew Saturday night.
It will go down as a missed opportunity for the players. NFL teams rarely part ways with a third-round pick six months after the draft (Montgomery), Wood was likely to play a role late in the season with a depleted backfield, and the season ending injury of LB Brian Cushing was certain to open up playing opportunities for undrafted free agent Jefferson.
We will likely find out more on the story soon. But for now, the team is playing its cards close to the vest. It doesn’t pass the smell test though, as it’s hard to believe the team would part ways with the young talent if there wasn’t something other than tobacco in the cigar.