Just when Texans coach Gary Kubiak thought he had the whole gang back for practice, he found out Friday that he didn't. All contracts were signed and Kubiak looked forward to making up for lost time without key free agents watching from the sidelines.
--Tight end Owen Daniels missed the morning practice with "a bug", something that's been going around the Texans locker room.
--Wide receiver Andre Johnson is still recuperating from a dislocated finger.
--Running back Arian Foster left early after tweaking a hamstring.
The Texans roster blossomed from 71 to 85 for Friday's morning workout, moving the team closer to getting back on schedule. Still, Kubiak is eager for key players, especially on offense, to be at full speed.
"Offensively, we're missing some key people on the practice field which concerns me," Kubiak said. "When Andre isn't practicing and Owen's not practicing and Arian isn't practicing, that's tough. At the same time it gives you a chance to get better because all those other guys are getting the reps."
Foster, who led the NFL in rushing last season, didn't last an hour before leaving practice.
"Arian ran one time in the end zone 35-40 minutes into practice and didn't feel good so I just said get out," Kubiak said. "For 40 minutes he looked great."
Kubiak kept a close watch over the free agents going through their first practices after the new CBA was signed on Thursday.
"All those guys who have been out looked good but we shut them down at a certain period of practice," Kubiak said. "It's a good step forward and we'll come back in the pads tomorrow. We'll push them through Sunday morning and then give them a big break so these next two days are very important but I'm hoping as we get to past Sunday that we're pretty much on the same page physically."
SOLID AT RUNNING BACK: After Foster, the Texans have a solid corps of running backs seeking playing time. Derrick Ward, last year's backup, is signed and in camp. Ben Tate, last year's second round pick, is back after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. Steve Slaton is in the mix.
"That's a nice problem to have," Kubiak said. "We're going to end up with four good ones and we might be in a situation where we can keep five. We're strong at that position right now."
LEINART HAPPY TO BE BACK: Quarterback Matt Leinart returned to the Texans for 2011, despite an offseason in which it was reported that he was leaving. After Friday's practice, he talked about the last few months.
"This offseason I wasn't sure what was going to happen if I was going to be back or somewhere else," Leinart said. "But the way things kind of happened, I figured what was best for me was to be a Texan again and to keep learning and getting better as a quarterback,"
With five years in the league, and a sixth about to start, Leinart still considers himself to be a youthful player.
"I'm still young and obviously my goal is always to be a starter and play, but things happen. I'm here and I'm excited about it. I'm excited the coaches believe in me. They believe that if anything were to happen to No. 8 (Matt Schaub), I could come in there and run the offense."
KUBIAK ON MARIO: Kubiak had good things to say about the switch from defensive end to linebacker by Mario Williams.
"His scope as far as football has broadened a little bit," Kubiak said. "Now he's a linebacker and learning about coverages. To me, he's been very attentive, he's been more of a leader than in his first few years. I like what he's doing.
ANDRE THE TEACHER: Rookie cornerback Brandon Harris has had the chance to compete against the best in the business, facing wide receiver Andre Johnson this week.
"My work with him prepared me a lot: self confidence, competing against one of the best receivers in the NFL - the best, in my opinion. Just being able to go out there and stand toe to toe with him as a rookie. He's a good teacher. He tells you what you're doing good, tells you what you need to work on. Just hearing it from a guy like him who's sincere and he's doing it year in and year out."
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.