"#TexansNation I'm good!!!! Thanks for the thoughts and concerns!" -- Texans left tackle Duane Brown, 2:21 PM 8/1/12 on Twitter (@DuaneBrown76)
"Thank God..." -- Every Texans fan...on Twitter, on message boards, at the grocery store, pretty much everywhere
Remember the first five minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark? If you're older than 30, you definitely do, and if you're younger than 30, you can go ask your parents about it (or seek it out on YouTube). Long story short, after finally getting his hands on a long sought after gold artifact, Indiana Jones is forced to escape a rapid-fire series of near-death experiences just to escape from the cave which contained the gold idol.
It features ceilings caving in, doors ominously closing, spikes and poisoned darts shooting from the wall, and for good measure a large, spherical boulder practically rolling down on top of him before eventually Jones finds himself on the business end of the spears of several natives. I'm telling you it was stressful and harrowing just watching ol' Indy cheat death like this.
Not dissimilar to the feeling I'm starting to get (again) watching the Houston Texans.
In 2011, the poisoned darts on the injury list looked like this:
-- Arian Foster missing nearly all of the first three games with a hamstring injury. -- Mario Williams missing the final 11 games and playoffs with a torn pectoral muscle. -- Andre Johnson missing nine games with various hamstring injuries. -- James Casey missing a few games and never really recovering from a pectoral injury of his own. -- Danieal Manning missing a month with a broken leg.
...and finally, the large, spherical championship dream-cratering boulder:
-- Matt Schaub missing the final six games and playoffs with a smushed foot, courtesy of Fat Albert Haynesworth. (Amazingly, paramedics were able to save the foot.)
It seemed like it became a weekly ritual after each game where Texan fans would collectively shake our fists at the football gods and scream at the top of our lungs, "Why, football gods, WHY?!?" Eventually, the playoff game in Baltimore ended along with our Cinderella Super Bowl hopes, and we could all turn the page, hoping that 2012 would bring a much less resistant path to paydirt.
Well, five days into training camp, the early returns are in, and at the very least it appears that it's the unflinching intent of the football gods to, at a bare minimum, playfully fuck with us again. The good news is, for now, it appears as though we've dodged two very large poisoned darts. Sunday morning, it was Andre Johnson leaving practice early after straining a groin muscle in a pass catching drill. An MRI confirmed the strain and Johnson remains out this week and possibly longer, although Gary Kubiak doesn't appear overly concerned.
Then Wednesday morning, it was left tackle Duane Brown getting his ankle rolled up and leaving the field on a cart to get an MRI of his own. (Full disclosure, Brown actually played a couple more plays after the ankle got bent, but felt gimpy so he took himself off the field.) From the sound of Brown's tweet Wednesday, it appears he will be okay.
When you make a list of the Texans' most indispensable players for the 2012 season, you don't go very far down the list before you get to Brown. I argued on my radio show on 1560 The Game that Duane Brown is the third most valuable player on the Texans behind Schaub and cornerback Johnathan Joseph. (For the record, Andre Johnson is right there in the next tier with Brian Cushing, Arian Foster, Connor Barwin and J.J. Watt.)
Brown is a guy who, through hard work and some serious physical gifts, has molded himself into possibly the best left tackle in football (and in about nine months, he will be one of the wealthiest, too). Schaub's value is inextricably linked to staying healthy, and Schaub's ability to stay healthy is inextricably linked to the health of Duane Brown. That symbiotic quarterback/left tackle "thing" along with the massive dropoff from Brown to "next in line" (no offense, Rashad Butler) are two driving forces behind Brown's importance, and the reasons why you could hear a pin drop in the Texans corner of the Twitterverse this morning when Brown went down.
But all's well that ends well, I guess. I don't know what we as a fan base did to collectively piss off the football gods to this extent. If one of you Texan faithful drove up to Canton and took a whizz on the Hall of Fame bust of Johnny Unitas, or decided to drive to Lambeau Field and bang your girlfriend on the fifty-yard-line in the middle of the night, I wish you'd come clean and confess your sins, for the sake of the health of your favorite Texans and for the sake of your soul.
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Until then, practice starts back up Thursday morning. Beware of poison darts and rolling boulders, fellas.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.