Second-year tackle Chris Hairston could wind up being on the hottest spot on the field Sunday when the Buffalo Bills face the Houston Texans.
Hairston will start at right tackle if Erik Pears can’t play, and Pears missed Thursday’s practice to get soreness in his hip and groin area checked. The Bills’ right tackle will be charged with blocking Houston left defensive end J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks.
“Erik Pears has been struggling with that hip that he had a procedure on this past offseason,” coach Chan Gailey said, referring to spring surgery Pears underwent. “He went to see a specialist today. He’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll know more.”
Pears missed much of summer practice due to his rehabilitation and rotated a bit at right tackle the first two games. But he has played 87 percent of the snaps. Hairston has started the past three games in place of left tackle Cordy Glenn. Hairston has played 61 percent of the snaps overall.
Hairston practiced fully the past two days but was added to the injury report with soreness in his knee.
“He plays hard every down,” Hairston said of Watt. “He plays with great technique and intensity, and he’s always getting after the ball. Even when he’s not getting to the quarterback he’s getting his hands up, deflecting passes.”
Glenn, meanwhile, participated almost fully, Gailey said, and appears ready to return at left tackle.
Right defensive end Mark Anderson worked on his own on the side during positional drills. Gailey said he’s out for Sunday. Cornerback Terrence McGee (knee) was limited. So was defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who has played on a sore ankle the past two games.
Texans star receiver Andre Johnson returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday due to personal reasons. Houston starters who were limited included tight end Owen Daniels (hamstring), nose tackle Shaun Cody (back), cornerback Jonathan Joseph (groin), defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) and receiver Kevin Walter (illness).
Bills cornerback Ron Brooks said he’s fully healthy and ready to play Sunday if needed. Brooks has been on the injured reserve recall list since the end of preseason and is eligible to return to the active roster this week. He has been recovered from foot surgery for several weeks. Guard Chad Rinehart is expected to go on injured reserve.
“I’ve been ready to go since I’ve been cleared, just waiting for my opportunity,” Brooks said.
Brooks’ initial playing time likely is to come on special teams, a unit on which he excelled at Louisiana State.
“I’ve always loved special teams,” he said. “I always played hard on them and been good at it. So it’s like second nature to me. I’m excited about that portion of it.”
Brooks showed promise as a gunner (outside coverage man) in preseason.
“It’s a little harder because you double the gunners (in the NFL) versus in college you’re singled up,” he said.
Brooks also is eager to watch Saturday’s showdown between fifth-ranked LSU and No. 1 Alabama.
“I’ve been telling (Alabama product) Marcell (Dareus) since we got here we’re gonna win the game,” Brooks said. “We’re two dominant teams, two teams that are alike. ... It’s just bragging rights really. I told Marcell he better be ready to get trash-talked to when I come in on Monday.”
Bills guard Andy Levitre is sporting a moustache and goatee, something he has done this time of year for several seasons.
“One of my buddies works for Berkeley fire (department) out in California,” Levitre said. “One of the guys that works with him does a charity for burn victim children. ... So a lot of guys in fire departments grow their moustache out for six weeks or so, and you get people to sponsor you.”
The charitable effort can be found at growyourstache.com.