New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead carted off with knee injury

Veteran running back Rex Burkhead, a valuable chess piece for the New England Patriots' offense, was carted to the locker room early in the third quarter of Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Houston Texans with a knee injury.

Burkhead took a direct hit on his right knee on a third-down run in which he was stopped short and remained down for an extended period of time.

His absence left the Patriots with just two running backs for the remainder of their game against the Houston Texans -- Damien Harris and James White.

"I'm hurt for him. I'm still hurting for him. A good friend of mine, not just a teammate," White said. "To see him go down like that is never good. He was having a great year as well, making huge plays for us. It's just tough, man."

Sony Michel was activated off injured reserve Saturday but was inactive for Sunday's game. Undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor was also inactive.

Entering Sunday, Burkhead had 63 rushes for 267 yards and three touchdowns to go with 23 receptions for 187 yards and three touchdowns.

White said that Burkhead will undergo more tests and hopes "he can come back better than ever."

"I think Rex has always played well for us," coach Bill Belichick said Friday. "He plays in the kicking game, has been productive offensively, blocking, picking up the blitz, running, catching, whatever we ask him to do. He's been very, very good and very productive for us. I'm glad we have him. He's a very versatile player."