Notes from the Texans' practice and locker room on Wednesday at Reliant Stadium:
Wide receiver Andre Johnson didn't practice with his teammates Wednesday, but he was able to provide head coach Gary Kubiak with a bit of optimism.
"Andre did jog today," Kubiak said. "He came out and worked on the field, actually did more than jogged, actually looked pretty good over there running around."
Kubiak described Johnson's presence as a "step in the right direction", and hopes to have the Pro Bowler back as quickly as possible.
Johnson said he couldn't give a "definite" answer on whether or not he'd play Sunday, pointing out how odd the injury can be.
"I've learned that hamstrings are very tricky, so hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, I won't be sore or anything and everything will keep heading in the right direction," Johnson said. "I can't say if I'll be able to play or not on Sunday, I just have to wait day-by-day and see what happens."
The Panthers are led on offense by the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. With more than 3,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards, Newton presents a unique challenge for defenses.
"Quarterback jumps out at you," Kubiak said of Newton. "I just told the team, I said, 'Hey guys, I'd love to tell you we can give you a good look in practice of what you're going to face this week, but we can't.'"
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is happy that Newton is on his squad, and said so during a Wednesday conference call with the Houston media.
"It's been great," Rivera said. "It really has because the young man's everything we hoped he would be. He's been tremendous as far as that's concerned."
Linebacker Brian Cushing was very complimentary about Newton, and said the Texans will have their hands full.
"He's a special, special talent," Cushing said. "Great players around him and they run a different scheme that you really don't see at the pro level, but they've been able to do it."
The Texans return home, and they're excited to be back in what has lately been a louder Reliant Stadium atmosphere. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans didn't hesitate when asked whether or not the crowd two Sundays ago against Atlanta was the loudest he'd ever experienced as a Texan.
"Oh yeah, of course," Ryans said. "The Atlanta crowd was phenomenal. It was unbelievable. I just expect that it will continue to get better and better as we go along."
Running back Arian Foster agreed, and expects the Sunday contest against the Panthers to be loud as well.
"Ever since I've been here, the fans have been great in the stadium, and we're just looking forward to it," Foster said. "We're coming in 10-3 and they've never had a 10-3 team here, and we're excited."
"I was never in the Army, so I don't know." –Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, on whether or not he's having a GI (gastrointestinal) procedure.
"I can't describe it. When I have to run you over, I will. When I need to make you miss and go try to score a touchdown, I'll do that too." –Running back Ben Tate, when asked to describe his running style.