Riley Reiff, a rookie offensive lineman with the Lions, could have quite a task on his hands this week — without a lot of time to prepare.
Reiff may well start for the Lions at left tackle Thursday against the Houston Texans. Jeff Backus, a mainstay on the offensive line for over a decade, is recovering from a hamstring injury, his streak of 186 starts in serious jeopardy. Reiff, a first-round draft pick this year, is preparing for whatever role awaits him on Thanksgiving.
Backus was hurt in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, leaving Reiff to fill in.
‘‘I’m ready to go,’’ Reiff said. ‘‘Any time you get on the field, you gain a little bit more knowledge, a little more experience.’’
Backus did not participate in practice Tuesday or Wednesday, and he is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game. He’s started every game so far in his 12-year NFL career. His streak is the longest among active linemen.
‘‘I don’t know if there’s a player in this league I have more respect for,’’ Detroit defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch said. ‘‘Jeff Backus has played through tons of injuries. . . . He’s been a true pro.’’
Backus, 35, has started showing the wear and tear of playing 12 seasons in the NFL. He tore a chest muscle working out last summer after suffering torn biceps in the playoff loss to the Saints last season that required surgery a few days later.
Coach Jim Schwartz didn’t rule Backus out, but his streak may soon be spoken of in the past tense.
‘‘Any athlete takes pride in their performance, their abilities. Their availability is extremely important,’’ Schwartz said. ‘‘But every athlete also has what’s in the best interest of the team ahead of themselves and Jeff is that kind of guy also.’’
Gabbert put on IR
Blaine Gabbert’s season came to an abrupt end Wednesday, two days after his tenure as a starting quarterback did the same, and there are signs the team is ready to move on from the first-round pick who has failed to show much progress in 24 NFL starts.
The Jaguars placed Gabbert on injured reserve because of a significant forearm injury. Even before coach Mike Mularkey knew the severity of Gabbert’s injury, he named Chad Henne the starter for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. The coach said his decision was based on Henne’s performance and added that Henne could secure the starting job next season by playing well the final six games.
Gabbert has completed 53.7 percent of his passes for 3,876 yards, with 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He has been sacked 62 times while winning just five starts.
Bears wait on Cutler
The struggling Bears are weighing changes on the offensive line while awaiting final word on quarterback Jay Cutler’s return from a concussion. Cutler was cleared to practice Thursday on a limited basis but needs to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can be deemed fit for a return against the Vikings Sunday. The Bears need to decide who should start at left guard between Chris Spencer and Edwin Williams after starting left guard Chilo Rachal was placed on the reserve/left team list due to personal reasons . . . 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh gave no indication when he would select his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game at New Orleans. With Alex Smith sidelined because of a concussion, backup Colin Kaepernick led the team to a 32-7 rout of the Bears Monday night. Smith has yet to be medically cleared and Harbaugh suggested that even when Smith is available, the starting job could change week to week, and even during the course of a game . . . Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley will get his chance to revive the dormant Arizona offense, making his first NFL start when the Cardinals are home against the Rams Sunday. John Skelton was benched in favor of Lindley early in last Sunday’s 23-19 loss at Atlanta . . . Brady Quinn is getting another shot on the Chiefs’ quarterback merry-go-round. Quinn will start Sunday against the Broncos, regaining the job he lost when he sustained a concussion against Oakland. Quinn was cleared to play last week against Cincinnati and came on at halftime for ineffective Matt Cassel, who started the season before sustaining his own concussion against Baltimore.
McGahee may return
Willis McGahee was placed on recallable injured reserve by the AFC West-leading Broncos. McGahee can return to practice after missing the final six regular-season games and play in a game after missing two more. That would bring Denver up to the AFC title game. McGahee tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee last Sunday against the Chargers . . . Greg Jennings, the Packers’ top receiver, said he felt great after practicing for the first time since having surgery Nov. 1 to repair a torn abdominal muscle. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it would be ‘‘a stretch’’ for Jennings to play Sunday night against the Giants . . . Bills running back Fred Jackson has been cleared to play at Indianapolis this weekend after passing a series of NFL-mandated concussion tests.
Ward appeals fine
Browns safety T.J. Ward is appealing a $25,000 fine for a hit on Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree that he maintains was legal under the NFL’s rules on helmet-to-helmet contact . . . Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy aren’t practicing because of concussions and their status for Philadelphia’s game against Carolina on Monday night is uncertain . . . Browns cornerback Joe Haden returned to practice and may play against Pittsburgh Sunday after missing last week’s game with an oblique injury . . . Former Baylor basketball player Richard Hurd was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for trying to get $1 million from Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III through extortion. Hurd, 26, also was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for threatening to release damaging information about Griffin last June.