Houston Texans have signed free agent linebacker Barrett Ruud after leading tackler Brian Cushing was ruled out through injury for the rest of the season.
Cushing, who leads the NFL's third-ranked defence this season with 29 tackles, was placed on injured reserve by the Texans on Wednesday while eighth-year veteran Ruud was brought in and kick returner Trindon Holliday cut.
The 29-year-old Ruud had four consecutive 100-tackle seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2007 to 2010, ranked fifth in the league in 2008 and joint second in 2009.
He had 57 tackles and an interception for Tennessee last season before being placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Ruud signed with Seattle in April, was traded to New Orleans in August and released by the Saints two days ago.
"He's a veteran who's been in systems somewhat similar to what we do," Gary Kubiak, the Texans coach, said.
"It gives us a little bit of flexibility going into game day."
Cushing, the Texans' most valuable player in 2011, tore knee ligaments in Houston's 23-17 win over the New York Jets on Monday and will have surgery in two-to-three weeks.
Holliday had returned three kicks for touchdowns during the preseason but was averaging 9.2 yards on punt returns and 19.4 on kickoff returns this season. Houston rank last in the league with 17.6 yards per kickoff return.
"By no means is it a statement to what we thought of Trindon," Kubiak said. "We have not been playing up to par on special teams, giving returners the opportunity."
Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown will be sidelined for at least two weeks after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee, the team said on Wednesday.
Brown, the Colts' leading rusher this season with 60 carries for 239 yards and one touchdown, had surgery on Tuesday after injuring his knee on his final play in Sunday's 30-27 upset win at home against the Green Bay Packers.
Interim Indianapolis coach Bruce Arians told reporters on Wednesday the initial timetable on the 25-year-old's return was two to three weeks.
Rookie running back Vick Ballard will make his first National Football League start on Sunday when he replaces Brown in the Colts line-up against the New York Jets.