Practice report: Ryans hopes Pats play starters

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The Texans practiced inside the Methodist Training Center on Wednesday on the players' first day of preparations for the New England Patriots.

Three down: Three Texans players missed practice on Sunday – defensive tackle Shaun Cody (knee), left tackle Duane Brown (knee) and linebacker Brian Cushing (foot/ribs).

Cushing and Brown were hobbled by the same injuries last week, but both played well against the Dolphins in Week 16. Brown helped to limit Miami's potent pass rush to one sack. Cushing had nine tackles, a sack and an interception.

For the full injury report, click here.

Bring it on: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been coy about whether he'll play Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and other key players this week with the AFC East title already wrapped up.

Most Texans players said it doesn't matter since the decision is out of their control. But Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans emphatically said that he wants to see the Patriots' starters on the field.

"I want a team at their best," Ryans said. "I don't have a wish list that their starters wouldn't play. I want all their guys to play and play the entire game, because as a competitor, a true competitor, you want to go against the best and see how you match up against the best when it's crunch time and you have to get a win."

Cushing, Ryans' fellow Pro Bowl linebacker, echoed that sentiment.

"You want to play against their starters – there's no question about it," he said. "You want to play against the Patriots for who they are, and you don't want to play against a team that doesn't want to play their guys.

"But if it is, so be it. We're game-planning the same no matter what. We plan to play against whatever 11 they put out there."

Locked in: Texans coach Gary Kubiak liked his team's intensity at practice on Wednesday.

"It was good, very good," Kubiak said. "Really locked in to what we're doing. This team (Patriots) presents a lot of problems for you on both sides of the ball and special teams, and so we're off to a good start."

After the Texans' victory at Miami on Sunday, Kubiak said they had "had a great week" of practice. It was more of the same three days later.

"These guys know how important this football game is, and I really liked their attention to detail," Kubiak said. "They've picked up right where they left off last week."

Good day for Foster: Kubiak did not name running back Arian Foster a starter, but he did say that the undrafted rookie out of Tennessee is going to "play a great deal" in the season finale. Foster carried 19 times for 97 yards and his first-career touchdown last week at Miami.

"He practiced well (Wednesday)," Kubiak said. "I'm just trying to teach him the importance of what an everyday player is, not sometimes, and he's responding. He came back today, had a good day, and we need him to win. So hopefully, he'll have a good week."

Pro Bowl reaction: Ryans, Cushing, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams were named to the 2010 Pro Bowl on Tuesday, setting a Texans record with four players in the all-star game.

"That's pretty cool," Kubiak said. "It says a lot about the job that's happened on defense this year with this football team… and of course, Andre speaks for himself. So I'm happy for those guys. I think that's the biggest compliment you can be paid in this business."

Kubiak was asked if he thinks that quarterback Matt Schaub should be in the Pro Bowl. Schaub leads the league in passing yards but was voted an alternate for the game behind Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and the Patriots' Tom Brady.

"He had a Pro Bowl year, but you can't argue with the guys that are going," Kubiak said. "They're tremendous players with what they've done. I think Matt understands that this league usually makes you do that a couple of times, and he'll do it again. He's going to play well. He's going to play here for a long time. He's had a heck of a season, and it'll motivate him."

Russell returns:Veteran safety Brian Russell was back at practice on Wednesday, one week after being released by the team. He was re-signed this week when starting free safety Dominique Barber was placed on injured reserve.

"I expect him to play," Kubiak said of Russell. "He'll basically take Dominique's place. How much he plays on defense, we'll wait and see, but between he and (John) Busing, they'll play a great deal."

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/*.

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