Daniels eyes extensive playing time vs. Colts

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When Owen Daniels returned to practice last week with a healthy right knee, Texans coach Gary Kubiak estimated that he might play 15-20 snaps against the Indianapolis Colts in the regular season opener.

Kubiak upped the projection to 20-25 snaps after watching his Pro Bowl tight end practice on Wednesday.

"I'm feeling good about that right now," Kubiak said. "I'll listen to him is what I'll do. He's going to play a quarter of the snaps I would say, or a third of the snaps. If he tells me he feels good, then I may let him go. I'll see how he'll respond to this week's work."

Daniels, who tore his right ACL at Buffalo on Nov. 1, was feeling just fine on Wednesday. He said he'd like to play around 40 snaps on Sunday if possible.

"I'm just going to play as much as I can play; whatever they'll let me do," he said. "I'm feeling better out there every day. My knee feels really good, actually – really, really good. I just want to get my conditioning better, but I feel more comfortable just thinking about stuff and just getting back in the swing of things."

Kubiak will monitor Daniels closely on Thursday, when the Texans practice in pads, and Friday, when the Texans finish the week with a light practice.

"I would like to (start)," Daniels said. "Joel (Dreessen) definitely deserves to be playing a bunch, so hopefully maybe we can start with a two-tight end set and make both of us happy.

"I feel like I'm ready to be out there. Whether it's the first or the second play I don't think really matters, honestly. It'd be nice, I guess, to have another start on the record, but I just want to be out there playing as much as possible."

Daniels got his feet wet in practice last week and participated in pregame warm-ups against the Bucs on Sept. 2. He's at the point where he's focused much more on the Texans' game plan than his surgically-repaired knee, for which he's now receiving minimal treatment from team trainers.

"It feels like he's been practicing the whole camp," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "He's not missing a beat. He's out there running great routes. He's in shape, and he's going to help us out big-time on Sunday." 

Daniels will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2009, when he was on pace for 89 catches, 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns through seven games before his injury intervened in Week 8.

"Owen is a heck of a player," said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who played with Daniels in the 2009 Pro Bowl. "I hated to see what happened to him last year. I'm really happy to hear that he has rehabbed. I'm sure our defense isn't all that happy he'll be out there playing because of what a weapon he is, but it's a credit to him for rehabbing and getting back.

"There are a lot of similarities to (Colts tight end) Dallas Clark in the fact that he's very versatile. He's a guy that you have matchup problems with. Do you put a linebacker or a defensive back on him? He's got great speed. He's a heck of a guy, too, and I'm glad to see him back healthy."                 

After 10 months of rehab and with three days until Sunday, Daniels is happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "Being out there for Week 1 was always the main goal. I would've liked to have been out there way before that, but I'm here now. I'm excited to play the Colts. I haven't played against them in a couple of years – I missed both games against them last year – so it'll be fun to get back out there."

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