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Brown healthy, ready to compete


Running back Chris Brown is ready to contribute after missing the entire 2008 season with a back injury.

A back injury kept running back Chris Brown off the field in 2008. Now, with a clean bill of health, he's working hard to put himself in position to bolster the Texans' backfield next season.

Brown (6-3, 220) signed a two-year contract with the Texans last year as a free agent from the Tennessee Titans. He then spent the season on the injured reserve list, rehabbing a back injury suffered during the preseason.

After the season, he was cleared by doctors to resume all physical activities. Brown expects to be back in playing shape by the time organized team activities (OTAs) roll around in a couple of months.

"I should be going out there with no issues," he said in a phone interview from his hometown of Chicago. "I've been doing pretty well. I just got cleared at the end of the season, so I started working out. I've been back and forth between Houston and Chicago working out, just trying to get everything back moving again, get used to running around and stuff."

Brown is one of only three running backs currently on the Texans' roster along with starter Steve Slaton (5-8, 201) and backup Ryan Moats (5-9, 210).

"He can provide a big back for us," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "Steve's a smaller guy. We need somebody who can do a little more pounding, red zone, short yardage, those types of things. That's easier said than done, but we have that guy here with him if he's healthy. So the key is whether or not he can stay healthy."

In five seasons in Tennessee, Brown averaged 4.3 yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns. He also battled a litany of injuries and missed at least four games in every season but one (2005).

His best season was in 2004, when he had 1,057 yards (4.9 avg.) and six touchdowns in only 11 games. Brown ran for 462 yards (4.5 avg.) and five touchdowns in 12 games in 2007, his last season with the Titans.

{QUOTE}"When he's had his opportunities in this league and he's been healthy, he's been productive," Kubiak said. "For us, it was a little bit of a risk (to sign him), knowing that he had struggled physically, but he's doing everything he can do and we're going to give him an opportunity to come back and help us.

"He fits what we do, and he's very smart. He can help us in pass protection, too."

Texans assistant head coach Alex Gibbs' zone blocking scheme is an ideal fit for Brown's one-cut style. A physical runner with breakaway speed, Brown thrived in a similar running system at the University of Colorado and in Tennessee.

"I love that kind of blocking scheme," he said. "Everybody here picked it up without a problem last year. They did a great job opening up big holes – I mean, you saw the year Steve had – so hopefully we can just keep building on that and keep it going."

A little more than a year ago, Brown arrived in Houston with high expectations. He didn't miss a day of OTAs or team workouts and was heavily in the mix for playing time with Ahman Green and Slaton, then a rookie expected to compete for third-down duties.

But Brown's back injury prevented him from suiting up for a single regular-season game. The 2008 season, as he said, was "the hardest season I've ever had to go through."

He's bent on making it up to his coaches and teammates in 2009.

"You've always got something to prove, especially coming off of not doing anything last year, coming in to a new team and just getting hurt," Brown said. "You've got to go out there and earn your keep. You've got to go out there and show that you deserve to be on this team this next year."

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