Texans start over with Leinart

BY foxsports • November 21, 2011

The first name is the same, and the Houston Texans say not much else is changing, either.

Matt Leinart practiced for the first time as the Texans' starting quarterback on Monday, with Matt Schaub likely out for the season with a right foot injury.

The Texans (7-3) are coming off a bye week and play at Jacksonville (3-7) on Sunday.

Leinart has been anxiously awaiting a chance to start again ever since he was demoted in Arizona in 2008 in favor of Kurt Warner. He signed with the Texans after the Cardinals cut him in September 2010.

''I've worked hard, I've been focused every day since I've been here, preparing for an opportunity like this, just in case this ever came up,'' Leinart said. ''Now it's just time to take all that preparation onto the field.''

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner did not take a snap in a game as a backup to Schaub last season. He became a free agent, but re-signed with Houston because he was comfortable with Coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans' offensive system.

He's also found a strong support system within the team that he feels will help get his career back on track.

''I've been surrounded by positivity, I've gotten my confidence back over the last 18 months,'' Leinart said. ''I feel good, ready for this opportunity.''

Schaub sustained a right foot injury during Houston's 37-9 win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 13. He watched Monday's practice in a protective boot will visit a foot specialist in Charlotte on Wednesday. Kubiak is hoping to get a ''definitive answer'' on whether Schaub will need season-ending surgery.

He's holding out hope that Schaub will return this season, but he's comfortable using Leinart for the rest of the season, if it comes to that.

''You can see the fire in his eyes,'' Kubiak said. ''What a great opportunity for him in his career. He'll give us everything he's got.''

Leinart is left-handed and Schaub throws right-handed, but Kubiak said that won't alter the offensive game plans much. And the linemen say there's nothing different with Leinart taking snaps, other than right tackle Eric Winston becoming the quarterback's blind-side protector.

''There's no difference in the running game, there's no difference in protections, there's no difference in anything else,'' said Winston, who's made 81 consecutive starts. ''I haven't seen us put anything (new) in yet. We're going to run the same running plays we always have.

''Left-handed, right-handed, under-handed,'' Winston said, ''I don't think it really matters.''

And Leinart should benefit from the return of All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson, who's expected to play Sunday after missing six games with a right hamstring injury. He can also lean on the league's second-best rushing offense (158 yards per game), with Arian Foster and Ben Tate in the backfield behind him.

''I don't think much is going to change,'' Leinart said. ''I just think we're going to go out there and execute the offense that we've been doing, and that's running the football, and play-(action) pass and getting out on the outside and making some plays.''

Rookie T.J. Yates, a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, is Leinart's backup, but Kubiak isn't ruling out adding another quarterback this week.

Jeff Garcia, Brodie Croyle, Trent Edwards, Kellen Clemens and former Rice star Chase Clement tried out for the team Monday morning.

The 41-year-old Garcia hasn't played in the NFL since 2009. He played for Omaha in the UFL last year. Edwards was cut by Oakland in training camp after spending three full seasons with Buffalo and one in Jacksonville.

Clemens was cut by Washington during training camp, and that may give him an edge - the Redskins are coached by Mike Shanahan, Kubiak's longtime mentor.

''It's probably important (to add a quarterback), because you never know,'' Kubiak said. ''You get into a situation, you lose another guy, you better be grooming somebody. We've got five guys we're going to work out. It doesn't mean we'll sign one of those guys, but I think it's probably important here, at some point.''

Notes: Safety Danieal Manning practiced on Monday after missing three games with a broken left leg. Kubiak said Manning would be out a minimum of four weeks after he was hurt in Houston's 41-7 win in Tennessee on Oct. 23. ''If he doesn't have any setbacks throughout the week,'' Kubiak said, ''he should have a great opportunity to be available this weekend.'' ... LT Duane Brown used the bye week to fly to Los Angeles and propose to his fiancee, Devon Anthony. ''I just wanted to get it over with.,'' Brown said. ''It's something I've been planning for a few weeks now. It was very exciting. I'm very happy right now.''

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