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Tardy but talented, Tate finally shows skills


Watch Texans TV at 3:30 p.m. CT on Sunday to see head coach Gary Kubiak's press conference live.

The Ben Tate wait is over. He showed up a year late, but his return to the Texans lineup' was worth the wait.

After spending his rookie season on injured reserve and missing the 2011 preseason opener wi th a hamstring injury, Tate showed why the Texans picked him in the second round with a breakout performance Saturday night in the Texans' 27-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

"I guess practice is overrated," coach Gary Kubiak said.  "I was excited; we all are. It's been a rough go for him and he's missed a lot of time. He came in and saw me last week and said, 'Coach, I'm going to play against New Orleans. I've just got to get this thing right."

Tate healed a lot of frustration on Saturday. He was on the field for only part of the second quarter and gained 95 yards on nine carries and scored his first pro touchdown on a four-yard run.

"It just felt great," Tate said. "My adrenaline was through the roof. My adrenaline was so high for so long. It just felt good just to be out there in front of the fans, just a chance to be out on the field again. It was an awesome feeling.

"I was excited, to be honest. I wasn't thinking about anything. I just wanted to keep going, keep going. I didn't want to come out of the game for nothing."

Owner Bob McNair breathed easier after the game. He predicted a bright future for Tate.

"It's amazing he played as well as he did because he hasn't played that much," McNair said. "His conditioning isn't what it will be, and he has more speed than you saw tonight. I think that's pretty exciting."

The former Auburn running back was expect to be a strong contributor to the Texans' running game after being selected in the second round of last year's draft. Instead, he broke his ankle in the first preseason game and spent the entire season on injured reserve.

"He worked hard at it and he came out and practiced Thursday morning and said he was ready to go, and he was," Kubiak said. "He played extremely well. That's a big step forward in his career, because let's
remember he hasn't played a lot of football, so if we get that out of him behind Arian (Foster), that's going to be a nice thing to have."

Tate sat out the NFL lockout with the rest of the players. When training camp finally started, he was slowed by a hamstring injury, leading to more frustration for himself and Kubiak, who said last week "he needs to play."

"I've been through a lot of stuff with this last year, so it felt good just to finally be able to get out there and come out of the game with not being hurt," Tate said. "It's just a blessing."

Tate's return finally happened in the second quarter. His first carry was for one yard.  Then he ran 13 yards on the next play and 23 yards on the next. After a completed pass, Tate got six more yards in a drive that ended with a 49-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

Tate got help from big holes from his offensive line, but he also showed good agility and moved without problems. He was still romping on the next Texans drive and scored on a four-yard run.

The Texans traded up in the 2010 draft to get Tate. The only running back ever taken by the Texans higher than the third round, he finished his career at Auburn with 1,362 yards on 263 carries and 10 touchdowns his senior year.

Tate is battling his way up the running back depth chart that also includes veterans Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton and young hopefuls Chris Ogbonnaya and Javarris Williams. Ogbonnaya opened eyes with an outstanding performance in Monday night's victory over the New York Jets.

Of his touchdown, Tate said, "the line did a great job and I just went in. It was an easy run. The line made it easy for me."

The kid has learned quickly to put praise in the right place. He still has work to do in the end zone however, according to NFL rushing leader Arian Foster, who also had a good first game.

"He had the worst touchdown dance in the history of pro football," Foster said. "Aside from that, he did good. I'm proud of him. Hopefully, we can build on this."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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