After missing his fourth consecutive game because of a hamstring injury, All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson worked out on Monday at the Methodist Training Center.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak left open the possibility that Johnson could return to face the Cleveland Browns in Week 9 at Reliant Stadium.
"I think the key right here for us is to keep Andre positive," Kubiak said at his weekly Monday afternoon press conference. "It has only been four weeks. We knew that's what we were dealing with. You've got to understand how Andre works; he wanted to be back out there two weeks ago. He had a good week of work last week. He did work today.
"There's still some tightness, some stiffness and that type of thing, but we're very encouraged by the progress that he has made, and we'll see where he's at this week. We will not force the issue. We will put Andre back out there when he's totally ready to go and he feels comfortable doing that, and hopefully that's this week. But I think that's still a day at a time."
Johnson's return would be a boon to a Texans team that has been hit hard by injuries in recent weeks. Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton tore a quadriceps tendon on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He will have season-ending surgery later this week.
Kubiak said the Texans will sign another inside linebacker to contribute on defense and special teams. The loss of Sharpton also elevates Tim Dobbins on the depth chart.
A sixth-year pro who signed with the Texans in August, Dobbins has five special teams tackles this season. He previously played under Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with the San Diego Chargers in 2006.
"Tim can basically kind of be our backup at both inside spots," Kubiak said. "Tim's a veteran player. We went and got Tim because he knows Wade's defense, has been with Wade before. So he'll give us the ability to come in and play two spots, but yet we've got to fill that spot, and we will do that probably tomorrow at some point."
Kubiak said fullback James Casey, who returned from a chest injury on Sunday, did not suffer any setbacks against the Jaguars. Casey split time with Lawrence Vickers in the game, his first since he was hurt in Week 5.
"I was a little concerned," Kubiak said. "We brought James back this week. We needed him. He really helped us in special teams before the day was over, but I think it was important that we got through this game with him clean because he was still playing a little nicked up.
"I've got to be smart with James as I bring him along, but he will continue to be a big part of what we're doing. He is overcoming a tough injury himself but fought through for the team yesterday, so I think you should only see him get better."