While the often-injured Michael Bennett is still nursing a sore knee, Onterrio Smith will miss the next four games serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The league told Smith this summer he tested positive for marijuana, and he already was in the league’s substance-abuse program for at least one previous positive test. His suspension had been on hold pending an appeal, but the league notified Smith on Tuesday he must begin serving the suspension.
Smith has run for 198 yards and has a team-high 223 yards receiving. He’s been especially valuable while the Vikings’ No. 1 back, Bennett, continues to recover.
The Vikings said Monday that Bennett reinjured his right knee, and will miss at least two more games after undergoing arthroscropic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Veteran Moe Williams is iffy with a calf problem, leaving rookie Mewelde Moore and first-year man Larry Ned as the only healthy backs.
“We were not willing to trade any running backs for obvious reasons,” Tice said Wednesday. “You’re only one injury away from being short.”
The lack of running backs will put more pressure on quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who has been NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice already. He’s been stellar so far, completing 73 percent of his passes, throwing eight touchdowns with just one interception and one lost fumble.
Also, Randy Moss left practice Thursday afternoon with a sore right ankle, but the All-Pro wide receiver isn’t expected to miss any action against the Texans.
Moss, who has a team-high 19 catches for 215 yards and five touchdowns in three games, originally tweaked the ankle during player introductions before Minnesota’s opener Sept. 12 against Dallas. The injury has slowed him periodically for nearly a month.
“We pulled him out from the last period, so by league rules I have to add him (to the injury report),” Tice said. “There’s absolutely no chance that he won’t play (against Houston).”
Minnesota will try and stop a surging Houston squad that has won consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
At 36 games, the Texans needed longer than any expansion team to win consecutive games. They were 0-for-9 in games after a win until they followed up a last-second victory against the Kansas City Chiefs with a 30-17 rout of Oakland.
“A lot of people said we couldn’t do it,” Texans wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said. “So it feels real good to get that monkey off of our backs.”
The Texans had one of the best showings of their young existence against the veteran Raiders.
Houston scored its most points, created its most turnovers and responded well to a loud, disruptive crowd of 70,741 that was its second largest.
Quarterback David Carr led the way, throwing a 15-yard touchdown to Andre Johnson that gave Houston a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and committing no turnovers. This season, he’s completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,003 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions. His quarterback rating of 91.8 ranks 10th in the league, ahead of established veterans Steve McNair, Jake Plummer and Drew Bledsoe.
“The last two weeks, David has matured in terms of understanding game situations and what he has to do in those situations,” Texans coach Dom Capers said.