Practice report: Ready for Raiders

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Head coach Gary Kubiak and QB Matt Schaub got back to work on Wednesday

The Texans practiced outside on a bright Wednesday morning at the Methodist Training Center, Head coach Gary Kubiak and some of his players spoke with the media about the upcoming contest at home against Oakland.

Pollard to play?: He was signed to the ballclub last week and did not dress in Sunday's loss to the Jaguars, but strong safety Bernard Pollard took reps today with the first-team defense and will likely see time on the field this weekend versus the Raiders.

Pollard led Kansas City with 98 tackles in 2008 and has been reunited with defensive backs coach David Gibbs. The move to Houston has, in Pollard's words, been a positive one. He thinks his familiarity with Gibbs and the Texans' defensive scheme will speed up his arrival on the field.

"The playbook is pretty much like we had in Kansas City the first couple of years," Pollard said. "Gibbs was my coach there, so I know the bulk of it, and I feel like I can go out and help my teammates. We really want to win. We saw a game slip by last week that should not have, but it's a new week, a new team, and we've got to go out there and we've got to play ball."

Head coach Gary Kubiak wouldn't specify how much Pollard would play against Oakland, but he does expect to see the former Chief take the field this weekend.

"He took a great deal of the practice today," Kubiak said. "That's kind of one of the biggest reasons we added all these reps. So we'll go back and see how much progress he can make, but I expect him to be a contributor on Sunday."

Pollard was known for being a defender that relied a lot on emotion with the Chiefs. He hopes to use some of that to help the Texans' defense improve over the course of the season.

"I love the intensity, I love the contact," Pollard said. "I want to be able to go out and help this team in whatever way I can. I know my role. This is a good team, and there's no reason why we should be in a position like that for the rest of this year."

Revenge factor: In Week 16 of 2008, the Texans traveled to Oakland with a 7-7 record, hoping to win the last two games and finish above .500 for the first time in franchise history. They were riding a four-game winning streak and had knocked off the Titans at home a week earlier.

But a pair of Johnnie Lee Higgins touchdowns in the third quarter broke up what was a 13-13 ballgame and sent the Raiders on to a 27-16 victory. That outcome wasn't part of the plan when the Texans left on their road trip, and some would like to pay back the Raiders for playing spoiler.

"Oh, we definitely owe them one," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "We're excited to get after them."

{QUOTE}Walter also said he's miffed by the struggles the Raiders have experienced so far in 2009.

"I'm not sure what it is what they've got going on," Walter said. "They need to fix it. They're 1-2, just like us. They're going to go out there fighting, and we expect that big-time."

Oakland head coach Tom Cable was the offensive line coach that rainy day in the Bay Area. His explanation for the victory was quite simple when asked about it earlier today via a conference call.

"They were a good football team last year and we had some opportunities in that football game to get a lead and maintain the lead," Cable said. "Fortunately for us, it turned out that way. The weather was horrible, if you remember, and that probably helped us."

Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans isn't buying into the notion that the Raiders are a bad football team. He certainly isn't living by the old cliché of counting chickens before they hatch.

"We're not overlooking anything," Ryans said. "This is a big game for us. We're trying hard to get a win. We're definitely not overlooking Oakland. We respect them and understand they have a great team with great players that can make big plays."

Russell's struggles: Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell enters the contest with the Texans sporting a passer rating of just 39.8. The first overall pick in the 2007 draft has thrown four interceptions and only a single touchdown pass through the first three games.

It's been a tough start to the 2009 campaign for Russell, but cornerback Dunta Robinbson isn't getting lulled into thinking that Russell's incapable of great things.

"I remember last year when we were about to play this team and people were talking about how poorly he had been playing up until that point," Robinson said. "Then we went to Oakland and he had his best day of the season."

Russell completed 18 of his 25 pass attempts for 236 yards and a pair of scores against Houston last season. He also didn't throw an interception. Robinson says the Raiders' field marshall is an impressive specimen.

"The guy has all the physical tools," Robinson said. "Some things haven't been going right for him, but we can't let our guard down because like last year, he came out and had the best day of his career. So, we know what he can do, we just have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Russell's head coach agrees with Robinson's take. Cable wants to see his quarterback make the big plays happen on a regular basis.

"He's had some flashes and we need to be more consistent with him," Cable said. "That's a responsibility that I think he is embracing. Hopefully, we'll have a breakthrough here soon."

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