For the first time since the end of the 2009 season, the Texans were on the practice field together when organized team activities (OTAs) began on Monday.
The Texans practiced outside in 92-degree weather at the Methodist Training Center across the street from Reliant Stadium. Wide receiver Andre Johnson was not at practice (full story), but it was the first chance for the team's 2010 rookies and veteran free agent signings to join their new teammates.
"We installed some things and were just doing some 7-on-7s," quarterback Matt Schaub said. "It's a chance to just get back into football after just being in the weight room and conditioning; a chance for us to get together and start putting our team together."
Back to football
Ten days after being suspended for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs and facing the scrutiny that came along with it, linebacker Brian Cushing was back to business as usual on the football field.
Cushing will miss the first four games of the 2010 season, but he practiced with the first-team defense in 7-on-7 drills on Monday.
"This is what I do," Cushing said. "This is what I'm going to be doing for a long time. Just to be out here running around with the guys, there's nothing better than this… My mind's just back on football, and it's a really good feeling."
Jackson and the rookies
First-round pick Kareem Jackson, who started as a freshman at Alabama, took the first-team reps at right cornerback for the Texans during Monday's 7-on-7s.
"He looked good," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He went right to work with the first group from day one. We have very high expectations for him. He'll have to earn his keep, and I don't have any doubt he'll do that."
Lining up opposite second-year cornerback Glover Quin, Jackson matched up primarily against wide receivers Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones.
"He's aggressive," Jones said. "I like that. He's good. He can run, he's very athletic, and he's smart. He doesn't mess up twice."
Before practice on Monday, Jackson and the rest of the Texans' rookies had been in Houston for less than 24 hours. They all arrived on Sunday to take their physicals and get acquainted with the team's facilities.
"They're 100 miles an hour today and they've got to through the Houston heat right off the get-go, so we just (try to) calm them down," Kubiak said. "We'll work with them and just try to watch them improve."
Several Texans players were back on the practice field for the first time since being placed on injured reserve last season. Among them was running back Steve Slaton, who's coming off of neck surgery and has slimmed down to about 200 pounds this offseason.
"He's looked good," Kubiak said. "He's had a good offseason. He's dropped a little weight. Obviously, if we were hitting today, he would not be hitting. He hasn't been turned loose for that yet. But we should be able to get the whole offseason out of him. Steve will come back. This team needs him to come back big-time."
Tight end Owen Daniels was on the field but did not practice. Daniels is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered on Nov. 1 at Buffalo. He has previously said he doesn't expect to practice until training camp.
"He's doing a great job in his rehab, and I'm impressed the way he's worked this offseason," general manager Rick Smith said. "I think he's looking great."
Other players who ended the season on injured reserve but practiced Monday were: safeties Eugene Wilson (foot), Dominique Barber (hamstring) and Troy Nolan (hand), cornerback Antwaun Molden (quadriceps), running back Jeremiah Johnson (shoulder) and guard Mike Brisiel (foot).
Tight end Anthony Hill is still recovering from an ACL injury. Tight end Joel Dreessen, who had shoulder surgery after the season, practiced with the first-team offense in 7-on-7s. He said after practice that he will not be participating in the team portion of 11-on-11 drills tomorrow.
Rookie running back Ben Tate, the second-round draft pick out of Auburn, was limited by a hamstring injury. It's uncertain when he'll be ready to go full-speed.
"He had a problem with his hamstring Friday back home," Kubiak said. "We're not comfortable with just turning him loose, so we'll evaluate him for a couple of days and go from there. He's going to miss a little time."
Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans also was sidelined by a hamstring injury. Kubiak said Ryans' hamstring has been bothering him since last Thursday, but that the defensive captain could have practiced if necessary. Ryans' backup, Kevin Bentley, missed practice with back spasms.
"I remember my rookie year, I couldn't catch a cold butt naked in Alaska in OTAs. It's true. So I told them, I said, 'Man, just play football. You're going to mess up, you're going to drop balls, you're going to struggle. Just play football like you've been doing, that's all.'"
- WR Jacoby Jones, on his advice to rookies during OTAs
"I know he's in school, so I hope he gets that degree. He's taking after me now. I'm the big brother. I already got my degree, so I told him, 'Catch up, mustard.'"
- Jones, who graduated from Lane College in 2009, after being asked if he plans to call Johnson to ask him where he is
"Yeah, that's the story of my life. At the end of the day, they have a time limit of four games, but I've got a longer stretch in mind. I plan on helping this team all year long and all the way to the playoffs, hopefully a Super Bowl."
- LB Danny Clark, on if he's looking at the bigger picture amid talk that he can start for Brian Cushing in the first four games of the season