Practice report (8/1)

TAKING COVER:Head coach Dom Capers moved the team's only practice Sunday into "the bubble" at Reliant Park. It proved to be a good move, as thunder rumbled outside toward the end of practice.

"I thought our guys appreciated being inside," Capers said. "By the time you walk from the stadium over here they really appreciated it because I think the heat index was like 112 out there today. I thought we had outstanding tempo and we had a good practice."

As far as practice, the Texans continued installing plays on both offense and defense.

On defense, cornerback Demarcus Faggins came as close to a pick as any defender has come thus far in camp, cutting in front of a fly pattern but watching the ball slip through his hands.

He screamed in frustration and slammed his hands together.

FEELING LONELY:Starting center Steve McKinney was held out another practice Sunday, nursing a hamstring.

The seven-year veteran began noticing problems during conditioning tests Friday afternoon and had an MRI Sunday morning as a precaution.

The results were good. McKinney said there was some fluid around the hamstring and he should be back on the field in four to five days.

"It's killing me," McKinney said of his absence. "I'm starting to get depression. It sucks, but it's part of the deal. Sometimes you have little set backs and you're not able to go for a good time. But I think in the end it's not going to be a big deal. We'll get it taken care of and it'll be fine.

OLD HABITS:Receiver Jabar Gaffney has returned only seven punts in his NFL career, the last coming in a Nov. 16 win at Buffalo. But, the 23-year-old took reps at the position Sunday along with incumbent return man J.J. Moses and cornerback Rober' Freeman.

It wasn't a completely pleasant reunion.

On one fair catch attempt the ball slipped straight through Gaffney's arms. He stood motionless for several seconds as the ball twirled to a stop a few yards away. But for the most part, he welcomed the challenge and the opportunity to take his reps in training camp instead of the heat of a game.

"A lot better to get out here and catch it in practice than being in a game and going for my first one," Gaffney said. "I love it, the chance to run back a kick off or a punt return. It's exciting to get the chance to put your team in a good position, possibly get your team a touchdown. I love getting that opportunity."

The team has used several different players in punt return practice during the first two days of camp.

"Really the first two years we've done a nice job of punting the ball and covering," Capers said of the team's routine punt practice. "We're going to try to improve our return game and that comes with the blocking and the return. J.J. worked some today. He didn't work yesterday. We're trying to get a look at a number of people back there and take a look at the competition."

Moses returned 36 punts for 244 yards in 2003. Freeman returned kicks in NFL Europe this spring, averaging 23.8 yards per return with one touchdown.

QUOTABLE:Cornerback Dunta Robinson on life as an NFL defensive back: "You can return an interception for the game winner one week and next week you can come out and give up a touchdown for the game winner. It's one of those positions where you've got to have a straight head."

Capers on Robinson's progress: "I think he's done a good job. We had a chance to spend five weeks with him this spring. He's got an awful lot to learn, like any rookie. But you get on a fast course in terms of learning it. We'll get a lot of looks at Dunta during the preseason games. He's getting an awful lot of work here I think he'll do nothing but get better because he's got the right attitude, he's got the right work ethic and he's got ability."* *

WELCOME BACK:It was one sight for sore eyes. Seth Payne, the Texans starting nose tackle returned to practice Sunday, this time wearing pads, another step toward full recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Rookie safety Glenn Earl (knee) also hit the practice field in full pads for the first time.

INJURY REPORT:Offensive lineman Zach Wiegert (elbow) sat out the afternoon practice.

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