Outside linebacker Brooks Reed practiced on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a groin injury on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit.
It was a light practice, but Reed is expected to play against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 if he fares well on Thursday and Friday.
"I think he's got a good shot," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's going to depend on how he comes out (of the week). He probably actually worked a little harder than anybody today just to kind of test it a little bit. Tomorrow is our work day, so we'll see how he comes out of that. We're working toward him being available and being a part of this game. That's kind of been our goal ever since this happened. Hopefully, we're at the end of the week feeling good about it and he's ready to play."
Reed started the first 11 games of the season at strongside linebacker, tallying 15 tackles 2.5 sacks. After he was injured at Detroit, Connor Barwin moved to his position from the weakside. Rookie Whitney Mercilus replaced Barwin as the starting weakside linebacker. A first-round draft pick from Illinois, Mercilus has 6.0 sacks this season, tying Reed's 2011 team rookie record.
Reed's return will allow the Texans to revert to a rotation with all three players.
"First off, (Reed's) got to get his confidence back going into January, so that's extremely important," Kubiak said. "It gives us a three-man rotation again that we feel comfortable about. Brooks comes back and Whitney's able to rotate in there, I think we get more fresh once again and we just play better."
Kubiak said Reed won't play 70 snaps in his first game back, so Barwin will continue to play some on the strongside. He has started the last two games there and has 3.0 sacks this season after leading the Texans with 11.5 in 2011. Most of Barwin's sacks last season came from the weakside, the primary pass-rushing position in Wade Phillips' defense.
"That's a hell of a change in scheme and what you're doing," Kubiak said. "All of a sudden, you become much more of a dropper than a pass rusher in a lot of situations. But he's very unselfish, did his job, I know it's been an adjustment and he's played very hard. We get Brooks back, he can go back to his comfort zone of coming off the edge. Hopefully, we all hold up and that does happen."
Cornerback Alan Ball was the only Texans player to sit out of practice on Wednesday. Ball has missed the last three games with a sore foot.