Almost a full year since tearing the ACL in his right knee, tight end Owen Daniels is rounding into top form.
Daniels was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring issue, but it seemed to be of little concern. A day earlier, his name was absent from the injury report for the first time all season, and he's coming off a season-high 45 receiving yards against the New York Giants.
"It feels like more of my old self," Daniels said. "This past weekend is the best I've felt since I can remember. Hopefully, I can keep everything clean and keep feeling good."
Daniels said that in terms of getting in shape, the first month of the season was like his preseason. He wore down a bit around Week 3, four weeks after he returned to practice from offseason surgery, but now feels fresh.
"I finally got my legs back underneath me," he said. "I felt like I kind of got rid of my camp legs, so to speak, so I'm feeling a lot better."
A 2008 Pro Bowler, Daniels was on pace for his best season in 2009 before he was injured on Nov. 1. He had only 68 receiving yards this season before the Giants game.
"Last week was the best he's played," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's the fastest he looked as a player since he's come back. I said all along, about the time we get past the bye he would be back to his old self. I think he's very close to that. That'll be big as we work toward the back half of the season. He obviously has made a lot of progress."
Linebackers DeMeco Ryans (groin) and Brian Cushing (knee) were back on the practice field on Thursday after sitting out a day earlier. Defensive end Mario Williams (shoulder) and wide receiver Jacoby Jones (calf) did not practice for the second consecutive day.
"I couldn't tell you right now," Kubiak said of their status for Week 6. "It'll go down to the wire. I'll probably know more tomorrow, like I always do. Cushing and DeMeco look like they are going to be fine. The other ones, we'll know in the morning."
Joining Williams and Jones on the sidelines were linebackers Xavier Adibi (hamstring) and Kevin Bentley (knee), guard Mike Brisiel (knee), wide receiver Dorin Dickerson (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (hamstring).
"We're beat up as a team, just like everybody else in this league," Kubiak said. "We've got to find a way to push to gameday."
The Texans' bye week is after their upcoming game against the Chiefs.
Appreciation for troops
The Texans hosted more than 100 soldiers, including some who were wounded in combat, at their facility on Thursday.
The group was treated to lunch from Pitts and Spitts BBQ, hosted by the Lady Texans and USO Houston, before watching the Texans practice at the Methodist Training Center. Sunday is Salute to the Military Day at Reliant Stadium.
"They're the ones that are out there paying the supreme sacrifice, not us," Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair said. "It's the least we can do for them."
After practice, Kubiak and players signed autographs and took pictures with the soldiers. The Texans were presented with a Soldier's Cross statue from the USO and an honorary plaque from Col. Mark N. Campsey, Commander of the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team that recently returned from Iraq.
"I'm proud of our organization and players," Kubiak said. "We try to get everybody involved in support of our troops and their families... It means a lot (for players to see the troops). I think it kind of makes them stop and see how fortunate they are and what they get an opportunity to do in their life and the lives they get the opportunity to touch and support."