Flanagan likely to step in for injured Texan McKinney

Updated: September 24, 2007, 5:12 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Starting center Steve McKinney, who has played in every game in Houston Texans franchise history, will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

The injury occurred as McKinney was attempting to block on a third-quarter screen pass and his knee buckled. Team officials suspected the injury was potentially season-ending, and an MRI exam on Monday confirmed the tear. It has not yet been determined when McKinney will undergo surgery.

"It's just bad luck and at a bad time," McKinney said. "Even with [the Sunday loss], I feel like this team definitely has something going, so this is hard to handle. I'm not accustomed to not being out there."

McKinney, 31, has started at both guard and center during his career and had been a durable player throughout, never missing more than two games in a season. He has appeared in 143 games and started in 133 of them, including all three games this season.

The former Texas A&M standout was the first prominent unrestricted free agent to sign with the Texans as an expansion franchise in 2002. He was originally chosen by Indianapolis in the fourth round of the 1998 draft and played four seasons for the Colts before departing as a free agent.

The loss of the 10-year veteran figures to be a significant one for the young Houston offensive line.

Fortunately, the Texans have a seasoned veteran, in former Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan, who is likely to take over as the starter.

A 12-year veteran, Flanagan spent his first 10 seasons in Green Bay, where he earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2003. He signed with Houston as an unrestricted free agent in 2006 so that he could be reunited with former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, who had moved on to the Texans as assistant head coach.

Flanagan, 33, started nine games at center for the Texans in 2006 before suffering a cracked rib that forced him onto injured reserve for the rest of the year. The former UCLA star, taken by the Packers in the third round of the 1996 draft, has appeared in 108 games for his career, and has started in 73 of them.