Convinced that his left knee would preclude him from being ready for the start of the season, and that he probably would not be a factor this year because of his continuing physical problems, the Houston Texans on Saturday placed tailback Domanick Davis on injured reserve.
By definition, the move ends Davis' 2006 season before it even began and means that coach Gary Kubiak will go into his debut campaign without the leading rusher in franchise history. The decision to place Davis on injured reserve, and allow him to rehabilitate for 2007, came after considerable deliberation and after much input from the team's medical staff.
Houston is now perilously inexperienced at tailback and the loss of Davis will lend further scrutiny to the Texans' decision to bypass Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and instead choose defensive end Mario Williams with the top overall selection in the 2006 draft. In defense of the Texans, team officials could not have envisioned at draft time that the seemingly innocuous injury that Davis suffered in the final month of last season would have sidelined him for such a prolonged period.
The starter for the Sept. 10 season opener will be rookie Wali Lundy, a sixth-round draft choice from the University of Virginia. The backup is second-year veteran Vernand Morency, a third-round pick in 2005 who logged only 46 carries in his rookie season.
Houston released veteran running back Antowain Smith on Friday and the Texans might be forced to scour the waiver wire this weekend in an attempt to add depth at the position.
There were rumors earlier this week, which Kubiak was forced to debunk, that the Texans were prepared to release Davis if his knee did not quickly respond to treatment. But because of the injury, Houston essentially could not have cut Davis and, had the team attempted to, it would almost certainly have faced a grievance.
After the reports, Kubiak acknowledged that Davis was likely destined for injured reserve. At the same time, Houston owner Bob McNair conceded that medical reports on Davis' knee were "not very positive."
Davis, 25, missed five games in 2005 and underwent December arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus cartilage in his left knee. Since early in camp, Davis had been sidelined by a bruised left knee, but that condition was not related to the surgery of eight months ago.
Houston could not have placed Davis on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would have sidelined him for at least the first six weeks of the season but also but some time for him to recover, because he passed the team physical at the outset of camp and actually participated in the first two days of practices. That left the Texans with two options: Keep Davis on the active roster and hope that he showed marked improvement, or place him on injured reserve, ending his 2006 season.
A fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft, Davis was projected mostly as a kickoff return specialist when the Texans selected him, but the former LSU standout claimed the starting tailback job near the middle of his rookie season and rushed for 1,031 yards in his debut campaign.
In three seasons, he has 3,195 yards and 23 touchdowns on 770 carries, and only the knee injury in 2005 kept him from a third straight 1,000-yard season. Davis, who has made himself into a dependable receiver, also has 154 catches for 1,276 yards and five touchdowns.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.