For the third time this season, the Houston Texans have lost a starting offensive lineman to injury. This time, it's veteran center Mike Flanagan, who suffered two fractured ribs in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets.
Flanagan will miss the remainder of the season.
The Texans did have some good news Tuesday: Pro Bowl kick returner Jerome Mathis, who missed the first 11 games recovering from a fractured foot, was moved to the active roster. The team had to decide by Tuesday whether to activate him or place him on injured reserve.
Flanagan wasn't so fortunate. He, along with backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, was placed on IR. Rosenfels suffered a broken right thumb in Sunday's game. He will be replaced on the roster by free agent Bradlee Van Pelt, a former Denver Broncos seventh-round draft choice who is familiar with the offense of head coach Gary Kubiak.
The loss of Flanagan is a tough one, since the former Pro Bowl performer provided stability to a line unit that has been reshuffled because of injuries. In his first season in Houston, which signed Flanagan as an unrestricted free agent this summer after he played the first 10 years of his career in Green Bay, he started in nine games.
Second-year veteran Drew Hodgdon, who has started two games this season, will likely replace Flanagan in the lineup. The Texans could also turn to nine-year veteran Steve McKinney, who played center much of his career before moving to guard.
Flanagan, 33, who was injured in the first half of Sunday's game, received a painkiller injection at halftime and finished the game. A subsequent examination revealed the fractured ribs. There was some chance that Flanagan might have been recovered in time to play in the final game or two of the season, but that was a long shot, and Texans officials opted to place him on injured reserve.
The 11-year veteran has appeared in 173 games.
Rosenfels 28, has played well this season as the backup to David Carr, completing 27-of-39 passes for 265 yards, with three touchdown passes, one interception and a 103.0 passer rating. The Rosenfels injury was a freak occurrence, which came as he was holding for a Kris Brown 59-yard field-goal attempt.
The kick was short and Jets cornerback Justin Miller returned it, with Rosenfels making the tackle. On the tackle, however, he broke his thumb.
With only two quarterbacks on the active roster, signing Van Pelt was an easy call for the Texans, because he had worked in Denver with Kubiak the previous two seasons. Van Pelt, who appeared in three games with the Broncos, had several workouts for NFL teams in recent weeks.
As a rookie in 2005, Mathis returned 54 kickoffs for 1,542 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. He averaged an NFL-best 28.6 yards a return and was the first player in franchise history to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
In his absence, the Texans have used 10 players to return kicks.
The former track star ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and once participated in track's U.S. Olympic Trials. Kubiak said his foot is healed, but he's not sure if he's back to his old self.
"Does Mathis have all his speed? I wouldn't say that he has every bit of it back, but I would say that he's pretty close," Kubiak said. "I would hope that just through repetition and playing that hopefully it does all come back here before the season's out."
Kubiak said Monday that Mathis, who is also a receiver, would have to play offense in addition to special teams if he's active Sunday.
He had five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown in 2005.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.