Texans standout safety Justin Reid is expected to missThursday night's game against the Carolina Panthers due to a sprained knee that has sidelined him for the past two practices, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
The Texans are expected to replace Reid in the starting lineup with Lonnie Johnson working in tandem with Eric Murray and Terrence Brooks backing them up.
Reid's injury isn't regarded as a long-term setback. The short week was a large obstacle to overcome in order to avoid potentially aggravating the injury suffered against the Cleveland Browns.
And linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, dealing with a knee injury after recording nine tackles, three for losses, one sack and a forced fumble against the Browns, is also not expected to play, according to sources. Zach Cunningham and Christian Kirksey are slated to be the top two linebackers with Joe Thomas backing them up.
The Texans officially ruled out wide receiver Danny Amendola, who's out for up to three weeks with a strained hamstring, according to a league source, in addition to starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell with a concussion. They also ruled out quarterback Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons-personal matter) for the third week in a row.
Reid is off to a fast start to the season, intercepting two passes with one forced fumble in the first two games.
In the final year of his rookie contract, Reid is playing some of the best football of his career. The former third-round draft pick from Stanford is tied for the NFL lead with two interceptions along with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyrann Mathieu, the New England Patriots’ J.C. Jackson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Edwards and the Dallas Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs.
Reid has three total takeaways for an aggressive Texans defense that has created five turnovers heading into the Carolina game.
“Coming in, what I notice about Justin is that he played hard every down," Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith saidTuesday morning. "I think one of the first calls I made to him, I was watching video of him just running a guy down, playing hard. That's a good starting spot. What Justin has not been able to do an awful lot in the past that I saw were splash plays, big plays. If you're talking about one of the better DB's in the league, it's about them being able to go and get the ball.
"And that interception he had the other day, we were in a typical zone, one of our signature Cover 2 defense, safety is reading the quarterback, excellent break. He's capable of those type of plays. If you just look at skill set, he's got great speed. He'll hit you, he's a smart player. He's got a lot going for him. But maybe my favorite play that he made Sunday against the Browns was our safeties also have to be able to tackle. To take the ball away, those are based on a big hit. He can do a lot of things well.”
Reid has maintained discipline in his instinctive reactions to take away the football. He hasn’t been allowing long touchdown passes while gambling to create turnovers. Reid left the game Sunday with a knee injury, returned and then was held out as a precautionary measure. He was limited in practice Monday.
“Well I’ll tell you what, it’s been really really good,” Texans coach David Culley said. “And I told him, I say this to him all the time in practice, ‘Look, I don’t mind you being a ball hawk, as long as you are being a ball hawk in the framework of the defense,’ which means it’s OK to go get that ball as long as no balls are going over the top of you.
“And right now, he hasn’t had any balls go over the top of him, but people are starting to see that he can get a nosey in there sometimes when he sees things, because he has good football instincts. But he’s done a good job of playing what our scheme has allowed us to play and he’s been able to make some plays whether is getting interceptions or creating fumbles. That’s the kind of football player he is.”
Reid posted a video on social media of his interception against the Browns following a 31-21 road loss.
It was accompanied by a caption: ‘We win if we stay healthy. These ‘experts’ gone stop sleeping on us.’
The Texans are 1-1 and Reid’s contributions are a reason for hope about a resurgent defense that was one of the worst outfits in the league last year. Under new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, an overhauled defense is making an impact.
“I think that Justin is a fiery, fiery person,” Texans running back Phillip Lindsay said. “He wants to win. He understands what we have in this team and he understands what it takes to win.”
These are the moments Reid lives for. He’s delivering a strong message about himself in a pivotal contract year. Early in the season, Reid looks as good as he ever has. He’s fully back after undergoing thumb surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament injury that ended an extremely disappointing season prematurely last year as he was forced onto injured reserve and missed the final three games.
Reid has unfinished business on and off the field. He compartmentalizes any future contract negotiations with the Texans or other NFL teams as he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022 after his four-year, $4.063 million rookie contract expires.
Reid is due a $2.433 million base salary this year, but a blockbuster payday is ahead of him if he continues to manufacture a bounce-back season. Reid leaves the business in the capable hands of veteran NFL agent Joel Segal. So, Reid concentrates and places his full attention on intercepting passes and hard hits.
Should Reid have the kind of season he’s hoping for, the Texans could retain him on a new deal that would likely be expensive or he could cash in as a free agent.
The highest paid safeties in terms of average per year are the Denver Broncos’ Justin Simmons ($15.25 million), the Arizona Cardinals’ Budda Baker ($14.75 million), the Chicago Bears’ Eddie Jackson ($14.6 million), the Tennessee Titans’ Kevin Byard ($14.1 million), the Washington Football Team’s Landon Collins ($14 million), Mathieu ($14 million), the New England Patriots’ Devin McCourty ($11.5 million) and the Browns’ John Johnson ($11.25 million). To join that elite category in terms of pay, Reid knows he can only control what he can control: his performance.
Is it tough to concentrate with so much at stake? For Reid, the answer is very simple: Not at all.
“Honestly, no,” Reid said during training camp. “ For me, it's always been very clear. Like I'm focused on this right now. I'm going to compartmentalize everything else and I kind of tackle things as they come. When it comes to football and want to put my best ball on the field, that's always been kind of No. 1 in my head.
“Like everyone around me, I have a great support team around me and they understand how I operate and how important this is to me. They know when I'm locked into this mode I'm locked in and once I step off the field then I have time to go do everything else.”
For Reid, that means continuing to make big plays and intercept passes.
“He’s a great leader,” defensive tackle Maliek Collins said. “Obviously, he’s going to get the ball, and he’s off to a great start.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.