Practice report: Texans make roster moves

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The Texans signed tight end Clark Harris to the active roster Wednesday to replace Bryan Pittman at long snapper. And fullback Vonta "The Hammer" Leach got credit for paving the way for running back Steve Slaton.

Harris to long snap: The Texans signed tight end Clark Harris to the active roster Wednesday to replace Bryan Pittman, who was suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's steroid policy.

The Texans had been preparing for the suspension since Pittman tested positive for Bumetanide, a diuretic sometimes used as a masking agent for steroids, and appealed his case last month. The Texans signed Harris to the practice squad on Nov. 4.

"He's been preparing as if he was going to be the snapper every week," coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's how we've been working with him, so he's way ahead of the game from that standpoint.

"Naturally, he's a young player and this is a tough environment for him to go do his job, but he's way ahead of the game. It's not like we're starting fresh today."

Harris will make his Texans' debut in Green Bay, the team that selected him in the seventh round of the 2007 draft. His stay there was brief and he spent most of last season with the Detroit Lions.

"I'm just going to go out there and do what I've been doing," Harris said. "I'm not going to think too much about it. The snapping position is a big mental position. You've just got to know that you can do it and go out there and do what you've been coached and do what you've been programmed to do."

Pittman will spend the rest of this season on the injured reserve/non-football injury list.

Schaub under center: Quarterback Matt Schaub practiced with the first team and should start Sunday at Green Bay. It will be the first time he has played since tearing his MCL on Nov. 2 at Minnesota.

"He did everything," Kubiak said. "We're pretty much not in a full-speed mode today. We'll pick it up tomorrow. I would say he was in a full-speed mode. He's very excited about playing."

Kubiak said Schaub, who has been wearing a big knee brace, wouldn't be limited in any way.

"I wouldn't put him out there if I thought, 'Hey, you can't call this. You can't call that,'" Kubiak said. "If he's ready to play, he's ready to play. And all indications are, as of today, he's going to be fine."

It didn't take Schaub long to regain his rhythm with the receivers, who said they were excited to have the quarterback in the starting lineup.

"Matt's our leader," Kevin Walter said. "He's our quarterback. He's looking good. He looked good last week. He's looking good this week. He doesn't even look like he got hurt. So, he's going to go back there and lead our offense, lead our team, and we're excited for him to be back."

Vonta "The Hammer" Leach: Running back Steve Slaton is coming off a 130-yards rushing, two-touchdown performance on Monday Night Football, earning him earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for Week 13. The rookie has 904 yards rushing this season to go a long with nine touchdowns.

{QUOTE}The secret to his success: fullback Vonta Leach.

Leach has been putting up huge blocks and paving the way for Slaton all season. Against the Jags, he sealed off a linebacker to help Slaton score on a 40-yard run.

"He's not going to take an edge on a linebacker," Kubiak said. "He'll take them right down the middle. He's a very smart player. He understands protections. We can get away with him blocking big players like 3-4 linebackers, those types of things that give you a chance game-plan wise against 3-4 football teams."

Leach, who was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2004, spent three years in Green Bay before former Texans assistant head coach Mike Sherman helped bring Leach to Houston in 2007.

"He's our hammer," Schaub said about Leach. "He goes out there and he neutralizes the line of scrimmage. Guys are in there, he's going to open up the hole. He goes in there and sticks his head in there and knocks himself around for the good of the team.

"He's one of the most unsung heroes in this locker room. He goes unnoticed and under the radar every week, but he's one of the guys that's really making this thing go."

Leach, who has been nicknamed Hammer by the team, takes pride in his blue collar role.

"That's my job," he said. "When you come back on the sideline and the guys say, 'Well, I saw you make that great block,' and when Slaton gets some yards and stuff, that's where I get my excitement from."

However, Leach wouldn't mind drawing some attention with a Pro Bowl campaign of his own. The fullback sported a handmade T-shirt, urging people to send him to Hawaii.

"Everybody has shirts for the Pro Bowl and stuff, and I decided to make my own today," he said. "'Vote for Me, Pro Bowl '09.' You know the fullbacks don't get a lot of props, but I made my own shirt."

Injury notes: Three Texans did not participate in practice: defensive end Anthony Weaver (knee); safety Nick Ferguson (knee) and safety Eugene Wilson (ankle).

Kubiak expects Ferguson and Wilson to be starting on Sunday.

"I would expect them to all be ready, Anthony probably being the biggest question mark," Kubiak said. "But he told me today that he feels like he'll be there, so we'll see."

For the official injury report, click here.

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