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Practice insider - Thursday


Texans Cheerleader Crystal will sing the National Anthem before Saturday's battle for the Governor's Cup.

Cuts around the corner: Having more talent almost always makes a coach's job easier. Almost. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has some difficult days ahead as he must trim the roster to 75 by Aug. 28 despite several positions deep with quality players.

"I'll start with receiver on offense," Kubiak said. "There's no doubt that's a very, very difficult decision for us to make right there. I think on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker, we've got a couple of tough, tough decisions to make. And I think we're deeper right now at corner than we've ever been since I've been here. With adding (Tyrone) Poole, and the way Dexter Wynn has played, that's a very tough decision."

Big 'D', big test: Kubiak will limit the starters to two and-a-half quarters of playing time against the Cowboys to allow the Texans coaching staff a good look at reserves before roster cuts. But he expects that to be more than enough time for his first-stringers to check their offseason progress.

"We're going to get a good feel for our whole team because (the Cowboys) have been smokin'," Kubiak said. "They've been something. From all my years in the league, watching a team play two preseason games the way they're playing, it's going to be a big-time test for us. So we're going to find out a lot. It's going to be a great atmosphere and we're looking forward to it."

His players agreed.

"I'm anxious to see exactly how far the offensive line has come," starting left tackle Ephraim Salaam said. "I have full confidence in the guys I'm playing next to, and the offense as a whole. I'm very excited and looking forward to this test."

"The Cowboys are stacked," linebacker Charlie Anderson said. "They've got all kind of Pro Bowlers on their team, so it's going to be a real tough challenge for us."

The Phillips connection: Former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips has been a familiar face around Reliant Stadium recently with his new affiliation with Bum's Smokehouse, which will sell Bum's favorite foods at Texans home games, and a visit to Houston's last open practice of training camp. On Saturday, another Phillips will be in town – Bum's son Wade, head coach of the Cowboys.

Despite the hostilities that are sure to be running wild throughout Reliant Stadium during Saturday night's Texas showdown, Kubiak expressed nothing but admiration for his counterpart.

"Wade's a very good friend of mine, and he deserved that opportunity he got right there," Kubiak said. "He's been exceptional in this league. I've gone against him for many years as a coordinator. He's a great football coach and even better person. I'm happy for him and his family – he's got a hell of a football team."

Punters' duel:It's not easy for a punter to impress his coach with one kick. Or zero. But that's what Matt Turk (one punt) and Chad Stanley (zero) were relegated to in last weekend's game at Arizona when Houston's offense scored six times, stymieing the competition between the anxious punters.

"It's a little frustrating when you both come in and you want to get your reps in and work on a couple things and you only punt once," Turk said Tuesday. "I suppose that's a good thing when we're not working, but when you want to get ready for a football season, it's not the most optimum thing."

Depending on how any injuries against the Cowboys affect roster cut considerations, the punting competition could possibly end prior to the Tampa Bay game.

"We feel like we've taken a good honest look at both of them throughout camp," Kubiak said. "We'll see what happens this weekend and see if we make that decision after this game or if we continue it through Tampa Bay. We'll wait and see. But they've both done some positive things."

Stars & Stripes:Texans Cheerleader Crystal will sing the National Anthem prior to kickoff on Saturday and stopped by practice for a brief conference.

"I am honored to be doing the National Anthem at this game," Crystal said. "It's something I've been wanting to do for a really long time, so I feel very privileged."

Crystal has been a music performer since age seven, when she was the lead vocalist of a female singing group with her sisters. More recently, she has opened on stage for renowned artists ranging from "The Temptations" to rapper "Mystikal." That, combined with her two years of experience cheering before sellout crowds, is keeping Crystal calm before this experience of a lifetime. At least she hopes so.

"I'm praying now – I started early," she said. "I hope not to be nervous. (The Texans Cheerleaders) usually do a little ritual in the locker room to get ourselves prepared, so maybe that will help."

Injury roundup: Center Chris White, who sprained his ankle in the Cardinals game, will likely play on Saturday…fullbacks Patrick Pass (hamstring) and Jon Abbate (ankle) probably will sit out as they continue to heal…defensive end Anthony Weaver will not play against the Cowboys and will try to get back on the field by the Texans' preaseason finale against Tampa Bay.

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