Running back Arian Foster and outside linebacker Brooks Reed will be game-time decisions on Sunday before the Texans face the Miami Dolphins. Both players are listed as questionable for the game.
Foster did not practice on Friday after leaving practice early on Thursday with soreness in his knee area. Reed also did not practice after leaving early on Thursday because of a sore hip.
"I'm optimistic that they'll be ready to go, but we'll have to see," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We'll look at tomorrow and probably end up having to work them out before the game and see."
Foster, a two-time Pro Bowler who leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage since 2010, said Friday that he expects to play. He had an MRI on Thursday that came back negative.
"It's not my knee," Foster said. "It's around the knee area, so there is no problem with my knee.
"It just gradually happened over time. It wasn't a particular play or anything like that. I work extremely hard, and sometimes things just need a little bit of rest."
The Texans will likely work Foster out on Saturday and Reed on Sunday to gauge their availability for Week 1. Kubiak said Foster felt better on Friday than he did on Thursday.
"I think if we pushed him to practice today, he would have went out there and practiced," Kubiak said. "We're going to be smart with him, but we'll have to show us that he's ready to go. I think Brooks is a probably a little bit more sore than Arian as far as going out on the field today. He is also optimistic that he'll be ready to go. We'll have to test them both."
Ben Tate would start against the Dolphins if Foster cannot play. Tate had 942 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per carry in 2011, including 103 yards on 23 carries (4.5 average) at Miami in Week 2.
"I told Ben in front of the team yesterday, he's done it all the time," Kubiak said. "Ben has had a great camp. He's been working really hard, so if Arian is unable to go, this team knows that Ben will go in there and play well. Justin (Forsett) will play well."
Whitney Mercilus, the Texans' first-round draft pick out of Illinois, would start at strongside linebacker in place of Reed, who set a team rookie record last season with 6.5 sacks. Mercilus led the NCAA in 2011 with 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
"If Brooks is unable to go for some reason, that's what Whitney is here for," Kubiak said. "Probably a bigger load gets on Jesse Nading's shoulders if something like that happens, but that's why you're a team. Guys got to be ready at a moment's notice. You never know what's going to happen. I'm going to sit here and hope that we're pretty close to full strength, so we'll see what happens."
Outside linebacker Bryan Braman is also questionable for the game because of a hamstring injury. Braman has not practiced since the Texans' third preseason game against New Orleans.
"He's got a chance (to play on Sunday)," Kubiak said. "I would've not said that yesterday, but watching him work with the trainers today, he's close. We'll give him tomorrow off. We'll work him out Sunday morning and see."