Notes and Quotes: Sick days and sicker cleats

“I would feel comfortable with him being able to go in there and play four out of the five spots. Just because I haven’t seen him snap the ball is the only reason why we wouldn’t want him inside.” OC Tim Kelly on Tytus Howard

The Houston Texans will host the Indianapolis Colts for their second and final matchup of the 2021 regular season. The first time the two teams played in Week 6, Tyrod Taylor was on the Reserve/Injured list and the Texans defense hadn't quite begun to come together.

Here are the top stories and quotes from the week:

The Texans defense has given up fewer big plays in recent weeks. Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith said the expectation is on the secondary to keep the ball in front of them. Eric Murray also moved into the nickel position and has played well.

"We are not the same team we were back then," Smith said. "We've grown a lot, the discipline of the defense, we've seen a lot more, but it's easy to say that when someone beats you up the way they did us the first time, you want another shot. We get our shot at home, so we are excited about it."

The Texans did not practice on Wednesday after deciding to cancel all in-person team activities and work virtually. The move was made out of an abundance of caution and players returned to the facility on Thursday for a normal day of practice and meetings. Although on Thursday, four players did not practice due to illness, including WR Brandin Cooks, RB David Johnson, WR Chris Conley and DB Terrance Mitchell.

OL Justin Britt practiced for a second week after being designated to return off the Reserve/Injured list. Britt went on IR after the Week 7 game at Arizona.

"He did a good job last week again in progressing, and we will see where he is at, at the end of this week," Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly said.

LB Christian Kirksey returned to practice this week after also being designated to return this week. Kirksey posted four tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, one interception, five passes defensed and one fumble recovery in his eight starts this season.

DB Justin Reid also returned to practice after being inactive in Week 12.

"We just said we're back business as usual, we're ready to go," Head Coach David Culley said. "He served his time and we're moving on."

Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross, who served three seasons (2018-20) as the assistant special teams coordinator for Indianapolis, knows the Colts' strengths when it comes to directional punting.

"I think they had a punt that went out of bounds and then a punt that was basically caught on the tick marks on the side of out of bound," Ross said of the Week 6 matchup. "So, there is zero chance for a return when you do that, and it eliminates any return plan that may have had, I guess you say. They've been great with that. (Rigoberto) Sanchez has directionally punted really well this year, and it has reflected in their limiting returns as well."

Lonnie Johnson Jr. took snaps at cornerback in last week's game against the Jets and could see more time against the Colts this week.

"He has the size to play the run well," Lovie Smith said. "If guys do well in practice and feel like they deserve time, we give it to them. You do a decent job, we give you more time."

Players also got a first look at their customized cleats that they will be wearing in Week 13 warmups. The NFL's My Cause My Cleats campaign has 34 Texans players participating. Roy Lopez will be representing the Latino Peace Officers Association and four family members with his cleats. Desmond King II had his younger brother, who is autistic, design his cleats in honor of Autism Awareness.

WR Davion Davis had an emotional reaction after unboxing his cleats in memory of his childhood friend who committed suicide.

Click HERE to see a list of all the causes Texans players will be supporting during Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Catch the game on December 5 at NRG Stadium.Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets.

On Sunday, the Houston Texans will be joining players around the league to raise awareness about a cause close to their hearts by wearing it on their feet. This year, 35 Texans players, along with TORO, Houston Texans Cheerleaders and Deep Steel Thunder, will all be participating in My Cause My Cleats.

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