PHOENIX -- When Houston Texans running back Arian Foster entered his offseason workouts, coach Gary Kubiak marveled at the shape he was in. He said Foster was in the best shape he'd ever seen him. Teammates agreed.
Six months and three injured body parts later, Foster's season is over. He's going to have back surgery after seeing three specialists on the matter.
When I approached Foster in the locker room last Sunday and asked him if this back injury was the same as the back injury he suffered during training camp, he declined to acknowledge the question.
That training camp back injury came on the heels of a calf injury that caused him to start training camp on the physically unable to perform list, and Foster insisted they weren't related. When it comes to lower-body injuries, one often leads to another, even if it doesn't seem that way at first.
More than Foster's health, the Texans' propensity to play from behind has been a problem for their running game. The Texans have had a capable backup available in Ben Tate, who is gutting out his contract year through slowly healing cracked ribs.
Still, losing Foster will hurt.
When healthy, he was a boon for the Texans. He scored one of their two rushing touchdowns, not to mention the one that mattered most this season. He rushed for a 1-yard score, then earned the two-point conversion (despite some relatively poor blocking on the play) that helped the Texans tie the Tennessee Titans late in the fourth quarter in an eventual 30-24 overtime win.
He had a stretch of three games in which he averaged 113.67 yards per game. And though his yards-per-carry average was low early, that stretch of games elevated it to 4.5 overall this season.
Most importantly, losing Foster hurts the Texans' depth. While in the past they had two running backs capable of being starters and spelling each other, they now have one, along with two unproven players. That's not to say Dennis Johnson won't fill Tate's old role nicely -- he did so last weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. But having Foster and Tate on the same roster was a rare luxury for the Texans. It might be gone forever.