Practice speeds up on Wednesday

The tempo at Texans practice was noticeably faster on Wednesday, Day 10 of OTAs. Head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had shifts of seven offensive players hustling up and down the field at a frenetic pace in the early goings of the 9 a.m. practice. Later, the team ran a vigorous team 11-on-11 situation with artificial crowd noise pumped in for the first time this offseason.

"You just try to do things to let them know what it's all about," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We pretty much got our systems in and we've got a few more days here to work. I know they are tired and I know they are worn out. We tried to tax them a little bit mentally to see who can keep up without the coaches in there all day. You find out a lot about players in those situations, so it's good. We need that kind of work."

The crowd noise also served to test out the defensive earpieces worn for the first time by Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The small orange devices are fastened to the base of the helmet's interior and relay signals from a defensive coach (for the time being, linebackers coach Johnny Holland) to Ryans to the defensive huddle. We'll have an in-depth feature on the communication devices tomorrow on HoustonTexans.com.

Rookie wideout Ryan Grice-Mullen returned for his second practice after being hobbled for several days last week, although during his tenure on the sidelines he did gain valuable time in the ear of injured Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson. Running back Darius Walker also was back on the field, and guard Chester Pitts worked more extensively than he did yesterday after missing practices last week.

Cornerback Demarcus Faggins was held out of practice and Kubiak excused guard Scott Jackson to tend to his son, who had minor surgery this morning. Kubiak said yesterday that he plans to keep defensive tackle Travis Johnson out until training camp as a precaution, but that he is happy with Johnson's conditioning level after expressing concern over the defensive tackle's conditioning two weeks ago.

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