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Dunta only looking ahead

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Dunta Robinson has a simple goal for Sunday's game at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum. He'd like for both feet to be pointing in the same direction when the game ends.

"Hopefully, this time, I'll get to finish the football game," Robinson said.

It's a modest request considering what happened on the same field last Nov. 4. Robinson went down in a pile of heavy bodies and then saw his right leg twisted into a gruesome angle that caused major knee and hamstring injuries that threatened his illustrious career.

It was the first major injury in Robinson's career. Robinson spent the next 11 months in rehab. There were whispers that his career could be over. Instead, Robinson attacked his recovery with the same demonic intensity he shows on the field.
His real moment of truth won't be in Oakland on Sunday. That came Oct. 19 in Reliant Stadium when he played for the first time since the injury against Detroit. That's where he faced his doubts.

"When I stepped out on the field at Detroit, I had three days of practice in nine to 10 months and I was playing football again,'' Robinson said. "You're not sure what's going to happen. You're not sure if your leg or the knee will hold up. You're not sure if you're as fast as you were.

"All those things go through your mind. Then you start playing, people come at you and you do good competing against those routes and plays and you do good. So that's what I needed, playing time."

Few call it a coincidence that the Texans defense started playing better when Robinson rejoined them on the field. He has provided both physical and psychological lifts in the club's record four-game winning streak.

"He's a guy we've been missing," linebacker Demeco Ryans said. "Not having Dunta out there was difficult. Having one of your big-time playmakers on the sidelines is rough. You want to have your top guys out there playing and Dunta is a guy who brings big-time plays. He's a leader on the back end that we've been missing."

Robinson was tormented during early-season workouts, wanting desperately to be playing again. Players saw him working so hard and when he returned, players noticed a change in team attitude.

"Everybody has seen how he's bounced back from the injury,'' Ryans said. "A lot of people were speculating that it could be career-ending. To see his fight and work ethic and his attitude about being back out there, for me, it was uplifting to see that fight."

Coach Gary Kubiak noticed the team's pulse beating a little quicker when Robinson returned to the lineup.

{QUOTE}"No doubt, yeah, because they have so much confidence in him and what he's doing,'' Kubiak said. "You know, he's an aggressive kid, too. He may be small, but he brings some aggression to all our players, the way he tackles as a corner. There are corners in this league that can cover. Then, there's some that can tackle. He'll do both."

Robinson doesn't think he'll be bothered by his return to the scene of the accident. He still gives a detailed description of the pileup. He was trying to pull the ball from a receiver's grasp when it happened. Defensive end Earl Cochran fell on him.

"The next thing I know, I had about 285 pounds on my back," Robinson said. "The receiver was trying to fall down because he didn't want me to get the ball out. He was actually, his back to my knees and I was stuck over him. It was one of those situations where I couldn't get my leg out and I just had to go for the ride.

"I screamed. Earl kind of slid off my back a little. I laid on my back and I looked at it and I'd never seen my leg pointed in that direction, so I knew it was pretty bad. I rehabbed eight, nine months, almost a year and now here I am talking to you guys about going back to Oakland."

Although Robinson gets much credit for the added aggression of the defense, he remains modest.

"I try not to say, 'OK, the defense is playing better just because I'm back on the field,"' Robinson said. "I just go out and try to do my job. I think we're jelling as a defense because all the pieces are there, Mario (Williams), DeMeco, Eugene (Wilson), our free safety, I'm back out on the corner. So the guys that were here for a while, we knew that one day, this was the defense that we could turn into. We're still trying to get better, but we're playing good football."

The chemistry on defense right now is exploding on opponents.

"Winning becomes fun, you want to get used to it," Robinson said. "We're playing to finish the season and have our first winning season ever. Guys understand that we're a lot better than we showed at the beginning of the season. We're trying to finish strong and hopefully move into 2009 and get things going in the right direction."

Robinson doesn't have Cochran to worry about falling on him. The big defensive end is on injured reserve with a foot injury.

"I got a few other guys like Nick (Ferguson) and (Tim) Bulman," Robinson said. "Those guys are just like Earl. You've got to watch out for those guys, too."

And don't forget the Raiders.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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