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Friday, February 28, 2014

Is Arian Foster's career in jeopardy?

By on 2/28/2014 05:30:00 AM

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has been the subject of heavy debate recently, with his tender back and recovery process front and center for the local media. After watching from the sidelines as his team lost 14 straight games to finish a monumentally sad 2-14 last season, Foster is motivated to return healthy this year and spearhead a resurgence for his team. As its bell cow and most important offensive piece, there will be ample pressure on his broad shoulders in 2014.

Foster had season-ending surgery to remove a bulging disc in the Lumbar region of his back in November last year, but from all reports, will "be fine" for the upcoming NFL season. During a guest appearance on In the Loop with Nick and Lopez, a famed Houston-based MD -- Dr. Kenneth First -- had an interesting take on what to expect from Foster in 2014.

Will Foster's back ever be the same?
AJ Guel, Wikimedia Commons

First compared Foster's injury to Houston Rockets' center Dwight Howard's, as the two had similar operations within the last two years. Not to muddle the aspirations of the Texans fan base, but First divulged that Howard is just now feeling 100%. Howard's surgery was over a year and a half ago, and much of his sub-par 2013 campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers can be attributed to a back injury that drastically limited his production.

During his appearance, First stated that Foster has the ability to be at full health this season, but that he must put an end to the lingering hamstring issues that have stained his otherwise remarkable career. If the hamstring fails to heal properly, Foster's body will compensate for the lack of strength, leading to discomfort in his back. Foster's back was likened to the classic board game, Operation, in that all areas of the body are connected to the back.

Foster is already working out, and is expected to be ready for training camp. The question was never about his availability, but for his effectiveness when he does play. Foster's injuries tend to be of the chronic variety, and if his hamstring fails to fully mend, don't expect his back issues to simply disappear.

The Texans have a rough off-season ahead of them. They are not expected to re-sign running back Ben Tate, putting all their eggs in the "Foster basket." Should Arian suffer a setback, the Texans will be left to fend with Dennis Johnson, Johnathan Grimes, and Ray Graham at running back in 2014. Those three combined for only 264 rushing yards last season.

With what could possibly be a rookie quarterback and/or Case Keenum under center next year, the offense would struggle without a healthy Foster, severely hampering their hopes of digging out from the bottom of the AFC South. The Texans will prudently target a running back in May's NFL Draft, hopefully selecting a gem that will carry the load should Foster's injuries flare up.

Think positive, Houston. But before you do, make sure Matt Schaub's average salary of $15 million is off the books first.


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