For the first time in organized team activities (OTAs), rookie running back Ben Tate participated in individual and 7-on-7 drills with his Texans teammates on Thursday.
The second-round draft pick out of Auburn sat out the first 10 OTA practices because of a hamstring injury.
"It's about time," Tate said afterward. "It felt pretty good. I'm just getting back into the mix, trying to stay on top of everything. My main thing is just to not make mistakes… You might know the plays, but it's always going to be different once you go out there and hit the field."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak was encouraged by Tate's participation and said that he expects Tate to be "full-go" on Tuesday when the Texans begin their final week of OTAs. That would give Tate three full OTA practices and three days of mini-camp (June 14-16) before the Texans break for training camp, which starts on July 30.
"We've put him through all of the walkthroughs (before Thursday) just to check his hole cards, so to speak, seeing if he's keeping up with what we're doing," Kubiak said. "I think he's been doing that. Now we'll find out physically, but players know he's here to help them. He's got some ability. We've just got to get him up to speed with everybody else."
The 58th overall pick in this year's draft, Tate is the highest-drafted running back in Texans history. With that distinction comes high expectations that he can help improve a running game that ranked 30th in the NFL last season.
"It's tough, because you definitely want to come out and prove yourself to these guys," Tate said of what it was like to miss so many practices. "You're a high-round pick, so you definitely want to come out and show that you deserve to be here. It's just (about) showing them that I'm going to work hard and I'm going to earn everything."
Quin, Nolan stand out
As he did on Wednesday, Kubiak pulled the Texans' coaches off the field for much of Thursday's practice to let the players work by themselves in competitive goal-line, two-minute and other team situations.
"We had some pretty good days this week," Kubiak said. "Once again covering some situational football, and (we) had some guys doing some really great things. Guys that stood out today: (Cornerback) Glover Quin and (free safety) Troy Nolan are really standing out and doing some really good stuff."
Nolan, a seventh-round draft pick last year out of Arizona State, missed his entire rookie season with a hand injury. He has been getting reps with the second-team defense during OTAs.
Quin was one of the Texans' top rookie performers last season as a fourth-round pick out of New Mexico.
Practicing like a pro
Kubiak has been impressed with the way Quin has practiced on a daily basis, and he emphasized that to the team during a lengthy discussion after practice.
"I said, 'Last year at this time, we had a fourth-round draft choice who was just trying to figure out what we were doing, and he started 12 games,'" Kubiak said. "'That's what the game's about: If you step up and do it, you're going to play.' I told them there are examples all around you; he's a great one, so pay attention."
Kubiak singled out first-round pick Kareem Jackson and third-round pick Earl Mitchell as rookies who could be early contributors in 2010.
"We've got a long, long way to go," Kubiak said. "Obviously, our number one (Jackson) has been very impressive. Our three (Mitchell) has been very impressive, too. He's going to help us and push some people up front."
That's what he said
"Golly, it's nice. It's like December in Houston."
- Texans coach Gary Kubiak, on the uncharacteristically cool weather at practice on Thursday
"No, I think it's great to have it here because it's great for our fans locally. For a player to go and sleep in his own bed if he's responsible enough and then come in the morning for two-a-days, I think that's a big plus, too. I like being here. Obviously, we battle the heat, but our guys have done a good job with that. I think it's good for the city that we're close. I've enjoyed it; I think it's been really good."
- Kubiak, a Houston native, on if he would ever push for moving training camp to another site
"You definitely want to come in and uphold that tradition, so I definitely think about it. It's something that's on my mind. Everything in my mind is that I'm going to uphold that tradition and just keep working hard."
- RB Ben Tate, on the tradition of running backs at Auburn, which has produced NFL players including Bo Jackson, Stephen Davis, Rudi Johnson, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown