Practice report: Kubiak names new free safety

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Dominique Barber will see more action this Sunday versus Seattle.

With temperatures in the 40s and a brisk wind, the Texans practiced outside at the Methodist Training Center on Thursday.

Barber to start: Head coach Gary Kubiak said that Dominique Barber will start Sunday at free safety. Nick Ferguson, Eugene Wilson and most recently John Busing also have started at the position this season. Barber was the starter at strong safety twice in the opening month of the season, and he started the Week 4 Oakland game at free safety.

"He had an excellent half (in) the second half of the Jacksonville game," Kubiak said. "He's healthy, his ankle's good, it's time for him to go."

Barber, who scored the only defensive touchdown this season for the Texans when he returned a fumble for a score against the Jets, is excited about his return to the starting lineup.

"It feels good," Barber said. "It's been a long process. I just go back to what my dad (former Jets running back Marion Barber, Jr.) always tells me, 'Don't be surprised. Be ready.' I just have to go out there and compete."

The second-year defender out of the University of Minnesota said he has benefitted from the presence of the veteran Ferguson, explaining how often he asked the elder safety for advice.

"Every day," Barber said. "Nick is in my ear, and I'm in his. I look at him as a big brother. Anything I have, any question, I can either call him, text him or just wait until the next day at practice."

Rookie wall?: A 16-week NFL season, on top of four preseason games, is always an adjustment for rookies in the NFL. According to Kubiak, linebacker Brian Cushing is just one of a few first-year Texans who are transitioning well from the college ranks.

"Our guys have worked good through it," Kubiak said. "Cush has been good, (Connor) Barwin's been good, (Glover) Quin's been good. Our kids have played a great deal and have done a hell of a job."

Cushing has been limited in practice since the month of October because of a foot injury. Kubiak cited that as a possible reason for the former USC Trojan's success.

"He may be cheating a little bit, though, because he hadn't practiced a whole lot here in the last four weeks, to be honest with you," Kubiak joked. "So he needs to throw that part into his equation. But no, he's been good. He's done a good job, and obviously he can play without all the reps and you normally don't find rookies that can do that."

Injury update: After missing practice on Wednesday, several Texans returned to action on Thursday. Defensive end Mario Williams is back from a groin injury, while left tackle Duane Brown was on the field again despite his knee sprain.

Cushing practiced, and so did defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina, who was held out on Wednesday simply for rest. Defensive end Tim Bulman, who has a hamstring injury, was the lone Texan to miss practice.

To view the complete injury report, click here.

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