Quarterback Matt Schaub took reps with the scout team in practice Wednesday as the Texans prepare to travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts. Schaub is hoping to backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels in the game on Sunday.
Williams talks Pro Bowl: The ticket to Hawaii was within reach. In fact, it was so close that defensive end Mario Williams broke into the hula after sacking Denver quarterback Jay Cutler for the third time on Thursday.
But on Tuesday, Williams learned he finished as the second alternate in voting on AFC defensive ends for the Pro Bowl. Despite ranking second in the league in sacks with 13, Williams will not join Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans in the NFL all-star game.
"It's another one of those things that I can't control, so I can't be disappointed about something I can't handle," Williams said. "I can't do anything about it.
"It's just great to see somebody going. He (Ryans) really deserves it. Last year, he went through pretty much the same thing, and just for somebody to represent us is big."
Williams should not be ashamed about losing to Jared Allen, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jason Taylor. Allen was leading the league in sacks until Williams surpassed him. Vanden Bosch is making his second trip to Honolulu in three years, and this is Taylor's fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance.
Still, Williams belong there. The 2006 No. 1 overall draft pick proved so much against the Broncos when he set a franchise record with 3.5 sacks and notched seven tackles in the Texans' 31-13 win.
"Do I think he deserves to go? No doubt," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "I mean, he's had a tremendous year and I think he could still go. There are some ways he could still possibly go. My challenge is for him to finish up playing the way he's been playing all year, and I think he'll get plenty of credit."
The second-year defensive end could still make the game if he is chosen by the AFC coach as a special needs player, but Williams isn't letting Hawaiian hopes distract him. He is focused on finishing the season with a winning record.
"I would say the most satisfying for us is to have a winning season and for my teammates just being there for me, which they are," Williams said. "So that's all that really matters, is the family that's in this locker room."
Team Mario: Williams may not have spoken out about being overlooked for the Pro Bowl, but his teammates certainly had something to say.
"The fact that he's a second alternate, that's a slap in the face, because he had a great season," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "He has a chance to lead the NFL in sacks, and that's what everybody was hounding him about last year, his sack total. Now that he got it up, he still doesn't have a chance to go.
"He had a great season before the Denver game. People get too caught up in just sacks. I mean, the guy plays the run well. Like when he's on the right side, we know the ball's not running there. When he's on the left side, we know it's not going to get an inch to the left side. And now he added 13 sacks to that, there's no way – to me he's one of the top three ends in the whole league, and for him not to go to the Pro Bowl, it's a shame."
The upside for Williams is that he has earned the respect of his peers and coaches. The 6-6, 286-pound end has been playing various positions across the line and dropping back to rush the passer as a linebacker.
"He's made so much progress on what he's doing," Kubiak said. "If you can remember, there was a time when we felt like moving him around hurt him. Now, we don't feel that way at all. He wants to move around. He wants to play various spots. He can handle it mentally."
Williams has also been working overtime at practice, asking coaches to get reps on the scout team.
"He asked to do it," Kubiak said. "He loves to do it. It makes out offensive line guys mad, but that's a good thing.
"It just tells you that a guy is getting really comfortable with who he is as a pro and where he's headed with his career. It's not hard for him out here anymore. He loves practice. That's the key to being a great player."
Two-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, who has seen Williams grow tremendously as player since his rookie season, offered the second-year lineman some sage advice.
"I told him sometimes guys who deserve to go don't go, and that happens every year," Johnson said. "I was just explaining that to him, and it's nothing you can get down about because it's out of your control. So he just has to come back and do what he did and a little bit more. Hopefully, he'll be in the same situation next year, but he'll be going."
Demps an alternate: Safety Will Demps was also was chosen as an alternate for the Pro Bowl. Getting the mention was a surprise for the six-year veteran, who was signed this year to the Texans as a free agent after being cut by the Giants.
"It's an honor just that your peers and the fans see what you've been through," Demps said.
"I'm happy to be where I'm at right now, excited to be a Houston Texan. Whatever happened in the past was in the past and is history. I'm just happy to be here."
Kubiak is also happy to have Demps starting in the secondary. The Texans signed Demps, who played in Baltimore for four years, after losing handful of players in the defensive backfield to injuries.
"For us to go through what we went through and then all of a sudden pick him up, and he's back there," Kubiak said. "Will is very smart. He comes from that Baltimore defense where you have to read those great players and really study the game.
"It shows you that first off, guys know who he is because he's played well before in this league and played well with a good defense. They've acknowledged that they know he's here and they know he's done some good things."
Late in the season, Demps has been doing his best work. In Week 13 against Tennessee, Demps racked up a season-high 12 tackles. In Week 14 against the Buccaneers, he recorded eight tackles and one forced fumble, which he recovered to set up a Texans touchdown. Against Denver, Demps recorded one quarterback hurry and three passes defensed.
"Right now, it's about Indianapolis," Demps said. "DeMeco's the one with the big honor because he is the guy actually going to the Pro Bowl. It's a good honor for me, but I'm definitely just getting ready for Indianapolis."
Injury report: For the Texans' official injury report, **click here**.