Practice report (8/5)

MAKING SOME NOISE:Wide receivers Andre Johnson and Jabar Gaffney may be heavier hitters in the statistics, but they are seldom heard on the practice field.

They go about their business quietly, with little explanation or exuberance.

Their teammate Corey Bradford is their antithesis. He chats it up.

"My thing is, you've got to have some type of chatter, even if it's false chatter, you've got to have something to make it through practice," Bradford said. "They're quiet, but they're going to eventually come around.

"I'd like to see them talking a little too. Especially (Andre) because he's big and intimidating, if he starts talking, they're really going to be scared. But some guys show action rather than speaking."

Bradford was a standout in Wednesday night's practice as well, wearing red and white cleats accented in heavy red tape.

He said he always does something special for night practice, "for the fans."

BIG FAN:A new face has started to appear around Reliant Park. A face that is sometimes tired, but always smiling.

Graden Gaines, 13, lives in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., but has been in Houston since February undergoing treatments for brain and spinal cord cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Gaines has become a bit of a celebrity here and back home. A golf tournament to help Graden was held in Nashville recently, raising more than $20,000.

But it was his love of sports that brought the teenager to Texans camp.

"It pumps him up and gives him something to look forward to," said Lisa Woodard, Graden's mother. "This is his dream, to play football."

Gaines was a sports standout before being diagnosed with cancer in March 2003. He played running back and cornerback as well as baseball.

His uncles Chris, Brad and Greg have athletic backgrounds. Chris and Brad played football at Vanderbilt. Greg played some professionally and at Tennessee.

Gaines watched practice Wednesday night with a Texans cap and a big smile. It was his first time out of bed in a week, so he was busy catching up with the city's sports scene.

He has met Rockets center Yao Ming and Astros pitcher Roger Clemens while in Houston as well as several Texans coaches and players. His favorite? Linebacker Kailee Wong.

EXCUSED ABSENCE:Wong was missing from practice Thursday afternoon. His wife, Marissa is expecting the couple's first child.

"I told Kailee the last three days that Marissa takes preference," head coach Dom Capers said. "When she called, go and don't even think twice about it."

WORKING OVERTIME:Tight end Mark Bruener has been getting plenty of reps because injuries to fellow tight ends Billy Miller and Jabari Holloway.

Bruener, normally thought of as a run blocker, has been seen regularly in the passing game because of the injuries.

The Texans signed Deitan Dubuc to ease the pain, but the group is still thin. The team now has four available linebackers – Dubuc, Bruener, John Frieser and Matt Murphy.

"We're very thin, but you know what? We're going to be even thinner if we keep sweating and working this much, I'll promise you that," Bruener said laughing. "Every year there's always nicks and bruises. That's part of the game. The unfortunate thing about our position, if one or two guys go down that's a big portion of our group.

"That's the nature of this beast. You just have to overcome it. The only positive thing from it I can say is it's going to get us in better shape. And I think you can never be in good enough shape."

PRACTICE HIGHLIGHT: Chalk one up for the defense.

Johnson has made plenty of highlight catches thus far in camp. So one of the first balls his way that actually hit the ground was because of a great defensive play.

Johnson destroyed the defense in red-zone drills Wednesday, catching two touchdowns. Thursday, defensive back Jason Bell punched the ball from Johnson's hands in the end zone.

QUOTABLE:Capers on wide receiver Derick Armstrong "Last year during the season when he ran a lot of the scout team for us the guy would make outstanding catches. Most of the time when he had people around him he had really good eye hand coordination … those are the kind of things he can do. I think he's making good progress. He'll be interesting to follow."

INJURY REPORT:Offensive lineman Steve McKinney (hamstring), Holloway (groin), Offensive lineman Zach Wiegert (elbow), Miller (back spasms) and linebacker Troy Evans (groin) sat out Thursday's practice.

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