HOUSTON -- The whole thing took mere minutes.
To end the Houston Texans tenure of a man who carried the team so many times took almost no time at all. Arian Foster walked into NRG Stadium on Thursday morning, and before 9 a.m. his fate was sealed.
The whole episode highlights the cruelty that sometimes comes with being an NFL player. It's a reality that seemed to hover thickly around Foster four months ago, when he sat in his locker with a torn Achilles tendon. His expression that afternoon in Miami betrayed that he knew it was over -- at least here in Houston, maybe forever.
If Foster was healthy, if he was still the player who anchored the Texans' offense for half a decade, the Texans would gladly have spent nearly $9 million of their salary cap space to keep him. As he wasn't, as they couldn't count on more than a fraction of a season from him, it just wasn't worth it. The Texans did not offer Foster a pay cut before releasing him, they simply moved on.
Foster became the Texans' star running back in 2010, earning the role after they signed him as an undrafted free agent the year before. He rushed for 1,616 yards that seasons and won the league's rushing title while playing with a torn meniscus. He was the reason the Texans made the playoffs in 2011 despite losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub in Week 10. He was the reason they roared to an 11-1 start in 2012 on their way to a second consecutive playoff berth. Had he been healthy for more than eight games in 2013, the Texans might have been able to turn around the most disastrous season in franchise history.
Foster was special. He could see the field like few running backs ever could. He seemed to glide around it, and his style was deceiving. It didn't show the toll 1,454 career carries took on his body. Since 2010 Foster leads the league in carries per game.
His legacy in Houston will be all about that. It won't be about the petulance he showed publicly as soon as he didn't need the local media to help his career. It won't be about the initial dissidence between he and the current Texans coaching staff upon their arrival in Houston -- conflicts that eventually gave way to a mutual respect between the two parties.
And it shouldn't be.
For a while, Arian Foster was the Houston Texans. His place in the history of this young franchise is indisputable.