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Texans hit the field for conditioning


When the Texans gathered as a team for only the second time since the end of the 2008 season, player attendance was nearly perfect. The two who missed drew plenty of interest from the media observing the Texans' 9 a.m. team run at the Methodist Training Center, across the street from Reliant Stadium.

Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans – who earlier this offseason was in negotiations with the Texans for a new contract – and cornerback Dunta Robinson – who was designated as the team's franchise player on Feb. 19 – continued to sit out the Texans' non-mandatory offseason workout program.

"Those are some of the things that happen and those situations go on," wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "I think those guys, they'll be fine. Those are some of the things that happen this time of the season. I'm pretty sure they'll be here with us during the regular season."

Defensive end Mario Williams also expressed optimism that the two players would join the team eventually, although he didn't downplay the significance of their absence.

"It's very hard, especially because they're captains of the team," Williams said. "But I still look at them as that. It's nothing different. They've just got to take care of some things, and it'll be alright."

Ryans and Robinson aside, there was a jocular mood at the outdoor practice fields on Tuesday as players jogged through drills and listened to music blaring over loudspeakers.

"It felt real good to come back out and run around with the guys, just to see their faces back in action," Williams said. "We're out here trying to get in shape and hopefully start off the season right."

{QUOTE}One of the players the Texans will be counting on to step up this season is left tackle Duane Brown, who started 16 games as a rookie last season. Brown reported for workouts lean; he looks about 20 pounds lighter than when he showed up overweight for training camp last year as a rookie.

"I think he's lighter than I am now," left guard Chester Pitts (6-4, 310) said. "I think he's about 310, something like that. I think he played last season closer to 320. I think he's taking it a little more seriously and he has learned the way of becoming a professional. I think he'll take huge strides and steps this year and really hold that left side down."

Brown's former backup, veteran Ephraim Salaam, was released by the team on Feb. 25. The Texans' No. 1 pick of a year ago knows that much is expected out of him in his second season.

"Everybody told me the biggest step you take in your career is from your rookie season to your second year," he said. "I got a chance to experience everything, and now it's just all about preparation mentally and physically going into next season. I'm very focused."

Defensive end Antonio Smith completed only his second workout with the Texans on Tuesday. But the former Arizona Cardinal, who signed with the Texans this offseason, said he already feels right at home with his new teammates.

"I think I am going to enjoy it (here)," Smith said. "They work hard out there. One thing that I did see is that they are a team. Everybody is together; everybody is coaching each other on.

"One thing I was nervous about was how we were going to kick it and how we were going to meet each other and things like that. But as soon as I got here, they just started interacting with me as though I had been here the whole time."

New head strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright, who oversaw Tuesday's outdoor workout with assistant Matt Schiotz, continued to draw positive remarks from players.

"Ray learned from Dan (Riley), and Dan had been doing what he had been doing for 40 years," Pitts said. "Ray basically took the best stuff that program had and added a little flavor to it.

"Ray has done a great job. I'm excited for him. He's having a lot of fun out there. We are just getting ready, getting ready and preparing for the next one."

The Texans' offseason workout program will continue for the next six weeks. Organized team activities (OTAs) begin on May 18, and the Texans' minicamp will be from June 15-17.

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