Newly-signed wide receiver Devard Darling and running back Javarris Williams both practiced with the Texans on Friday.
Darling, a sixth-year veteran, and Williams, a second-year pro, are both from the Houston area. Darling went to Stephen F. Austin High School in Fort Bend County, Williams to Foster High School in Richmond.
"It feels great to be here, back at home, having a great time on this football field," Darling said. "Just to come out here and be a part of this team and to put this Texans helmet on, it means a lot to me."
Darling was a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2004 and spent four seasons in Baltimore before stops in Kansas City and Omaha (UFL) last year.
Williams, a seventh-round pick of Kansas City in 2009, spent last season with the Seahawks. He got reps right away on Friday with Texans running backs Arian Foster, Steve Slaton and Ben Tate all sidelined by hamstring injuries. Williams was the third running back behind Derrick Ward and Chris Ogbonnaya.
"I would say because of our situation he's going to get an opportunity, so we'll what happens," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.
Prized free agent cornerback Johnathan Joseph was held out of practice because of tightness in his groin. He got an injection but is expected to return to practice on Saturday.
Kubiak lamented the play of the secondary in Joseph's absence.
"We found out something interesting today, in my opinion," Kubiak said. "They're really counting on Danieal (Manning) and Johnathan to be leaders, and they have been. All of a sudden, Johnathan misses practice today and I thought we practiced very poorly on the back end. Nobody else took over, and that's why you're here. That's part of being a team. We're dragging this morning. Somebody's got to pick somebody up. We're looking for that leadership.
"We're trying to find a new identity in 2011, and we're going to find it through days like this."
From Foster to Tate to Slaton to Trindon Holliday, it's been hard to keep track of how many Texans players have been sidelined by hamstring injuries through two weeks of camp. Kubiak has kept a tally of how many players practice since he was a young coach, and he said that this year is different than most.
"The thing that's interesting to me is that all the things that normally happen in the first week of camp since I've been a part of football are now happening in the second," he said. "I think guys came in fresh, they were gone all offseason, they were excited to go, and then the new wore off. Now, we're in week two, and all those nicks and those things that are normally part of the first week of camp seem to be happening a little later."
The hamstring strain has been especially tough on the running back position, but none of the injuries have been serious.
"All these guys are grade one, nick-type hamstrings, so they should be back here in a week or so," Kubiak said. "It's not like we've had anything horrible happen. We've been lucky, so we'll keep our fingers crossed and keep going."
Fullback James Casey's knee buckled out from under him on a pass play over the middle at the end of practice, but he walked it off and was back on the field for special teams work in no time. He told reporters after practice that he was fine.
Wide receiver Kevin Walter appeared to leave practice early, but it wasn't because of injury.
"He's fine," Kubiak said. "He just got gassed at the end of practice. We're right now about as wore out as we can be, so it's time to start reeling them back in and get ready for Monday night."
"It definitely made a difference, I'll tell you that much, but it's hard to get used to this weather. It's kicked my butt every day. You look at me right now and I'm sweating from head to toe. It's definitely something you're not just going to get acclimated to. It's going to take time, but I definitely think it helped."
- Rookie S Shiloh Keo, on if coming to Houston early this offseason helped him acclimate to the weather