The Houston Texans released cornerback Fred Bennett, receiver London Crawford and defensive end Pannel Egboh on Sunday, trimming their roster to 77 players.
Coach Gary Kubiak announced the moves on the day after the Texans' 23-7 preseason win over Dallas. Teams must reduce their rosters to 75 by Tuesday, and Houston is expected to place rookies Trindon Holliday (thumb) and Ben Tate (ankle) on injured reserve.
The 6-foot-1 Bennett was drafted by Houston in the fourth round in 2007. He played in 40 games and intercepted five passes in three seasons.
The Texans have taken four cornerbacks in the past two drafts, so the team saw little need to keep the 26-year-old Bennett, who started only three games last year. This year's top pick, Kareem Jackson, is taking the starting role left when Dunta Robinson signed with Atlanta in the offseason, second-year pro Glover Quin is handling the other side and fifth-round pick Sherrick McManis has impressed coaches at training camp.
"Obviously, we're going young at that position," Kubiak said. "It's part of the process in this league. There's no doubt in my mind, and Fred's mind, that he can play in this league and I think he will continue to do that."
Kubiak also said running back Steve Slaton strained a toe in Saturday's game and will probably sit out Thursday's preseason finale against Tampa Bay. He's expected to recover in time for the regular-season opener against Indianapolis on Sept. 12.
Slaton, a third-round pick in 2008, has struggled to regain his first-year form, when he led all rookie running backs with 1,282 yards. He coughed up seven fumbles in 2009, missed the last five games with a neck injury and has now lost his starting job to Foster, who rushed for 110 yards in Saturday's victory.
Kubiak said veteran Chris Henry and second-year pro Jeremiah Johnson will get the bulk of the carries in Thursday's game.
"Those two guys will have to step up and make this team this week," Kubiak said. "I know we've only got four (running backs), but that doesn't mean that's our four. So this is a big, big game for Jeremiah and for Chris as we head into the season."
Linebacker Xavier Adibi is expected to return to practice on Monday after missing most of training camp with a groin injury.
When camp began, Adibi was the front runner to fill in for Brian Cushing early in the season. Cushing, the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year, is suspended for the first four games for testing positive for a fertility drug on the NFL's list of banned substances.
Kubiak is hoping Adibi can work into playing shape for the opener. Veteran Kevin Bentley and versatile rookie Darryl Sharpton played Cushing's position at practice last week. Another option is starting Sharpton on the weak side, and moving Zac Diles to Cushing's spot.
"I think the biggest thing right now is that we see how far Adibi is going to come and start to get Sharpton acclimated with that position," Kubiak said.
Tight end Owen Daniels will also return to practice this week, after an arduous recovery from knee surgery. Kubiak said Daniels will not play on Thursday, but in the best-case scenario, could play 15-20 snaps in the season opener.
"We're close," Kubiak said. "It's just a matter of pulling the trigger, and we will pull it when we know, for sure, that he's ready to get back on the field with his teammates. I'm hoping we're talking about that here in the next couple days."
Teams must trim their rosters to 53 players by Saturday, and Kubiak seems no closer to choosing between kickers Kris Brown and Neil Rackers. Neither has missed a field-goal try in the preseason, and both kicked off well in Saturday's game, Kubiak said.
Brown is the last original Texan, but missed 11 field-goal attempts last season, prompting the team to sign the free-agent Rackers. Kubiak said picking one of them may be the "toughest cut of all" this preseason.
"It's been an impressive battle," Kubiak said. "Two great guys and they both have handled it very professionally. But obviously, we can only have one, so it will be a very difficult decision."
Kubiak said he's also watching a close competition at right guard between Mike Brisiel and Antoine Caldwell. Brisiel missed the last 11 games of last season with a broken left foot. Caldwell played in 11 games as a rookie last season.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press