News and notes from practice

D-line not healthy:The Texans practiced today with a makeshift defensive line. Several players, including starters such as Mario Williams, Anthony Maddox and Travis Johnson, stayed home for the day to recuperate from a stomach flu. Wide receiver Edell Shepherd also felt slightly ill at practice.

The illness might be traced to this past weekend in New York. Several members of the Giants also are dealing with similar health concerns this week.

"Kevin (Bastin) talked to the Giants today and they've got seven or eight players that have this virus," head coach Gary Kubiak said after Wednesday's workout. "We had a couple guys get sick at practice. So we have a little thing going around. Hopefully, we get through that this week. But we're missing a few players today."

Asked how worried he was about the virus affecting the team's preparations for Jacksonville, Kubiak said it's something he and the Texans' medical staff will monitor closely as the week progresses.

"It concerns you because you have to keep going," he said. "We had a tough time practicing today, because we only had six defensive linemen for practice, and that's unheard of in this league. We have to do everything we can this week to get those guys feeling well and ready to go."

Talk is cheap:By now, most people probably have heard of Jaguars running back Fred Taylor's comments after Jacksonville beat Tennessee on Sunday (click here if you haven't).

Taylor guaranteed a win over the Texans this weekend. Talk about bulletin board material. In fact, the Texans actually have Taylor's quotes taped to a bulletin board in their training room.

Reaction to Taylor's quotes has been mixed (


click here to watch). The defensive line certainly reacted strongly, though.

"I'm not big on guarantees, but I can guarantee he'll get hit," defensive end Antwan Peek said of Taylor. "That's the only thing I'll guarantee.

"I'm pretty sure he knows we're going to come down there with our 'A' game on, and it's going to be a physical ball game. We're going to do what we can to win. That's what's important to our ball team."

Defensive end Anthony Weaver believes Taylor's guarantee is an attempt to inspire the Jaguars.

"If they need that motivation," Weaver said, "then we're obviously in their heads."

Cornerback Dunta Robinson didn't seem to care one way or the other.

"We heard about it, but it hasn't been a big factor to us," Robinson said. "We still have to come out and play. We're a team that has only two wins. They're the team that's been playing so good, so all the pressure is on them."

Quarterback David Carr also downplayed the remarks.

"I expect nothing less from (Taylor)," Carr said. "That's fine. Do you think that they don't want to win? He's going to say stuff like that. We've played them so many times. Every guy in this locker room thinks we're going to win, too. It's not like he said something that shocked.

"I just like playing the Jaguars in general. I enjoy it. I have fun. Trash talking has already started, and I expect nothing less from them. We'll probably have some things for them on Sunday. It's always fun."

A former Jaguar, tackle Ephraim Salaam joked about Taylor's bravado.

"It's so hard to (win) working as hard as you can…I don't need the added pressure of guaranteeing anything," Salaam said.

Mathis coming along: It's been so long since wide receiver/kick returner Jerome Mathis suited up that it's easy to forget about his presence. But the special teams Pro Bowler is working hard to recuperate from a broken foot that has sidelined him for the entire season.

There's no denying Mathis' impact on the kicking game and on the Texans' field position in general. The guy is a playmaker. I know Kubiak really was looking forward to seeing Mathis develop as a wide receiver this year, in addition to performing on special teams.

Since Mathis' time on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list expired, the Texans now have three weeks to decide whether to activate Mathis or place him on the reserve/injured list, which means he'll mist the rest of the season.

"So you're talking about Week 11 before you have to make an ultimate decision on him," Kubiak said Monday in his weekly press conference. "He is behind (Kailee Wong and Petey Faggins). He's not ready to go this week. Jerome has got to take a couple big steps before you all are going to see him on the field. So I would say it's 50-50 with Jerome with whether he comes back and plays this year. Hopefully, we'll make some big strides here in the next few weeks."

Mathis was in open locker room today, and was walking without a limp. He doesn't even have a brace or boot on his foot. But he still isn't entirely confident that he will be able to return by Week 11.

"Right now it's kind of a toss up," Mathis said. "Like (Kubiak) said, it's 50-50. Certain days you feel good. Certain days you don't. Right now it's all about being prepared mentally more than physically.

"Right now I'm probably at 75-80 percent, speed-wise. It's just working on a few more things over these next three weeks and hopefully I can get it done faster than what (the doctors) are projecting.

"It's a whole lot easier to run straight ahead. Side-to-side (running) is just giving me a hard time right now." **


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