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If you were cringing in front of your television Saturday night, you weren't alone.

Back home in Houston, running back Domanick Davis watched the Texans' game at Pittsburgh and cringed along with you.

"I couldn't even watch the game, just knowing that I wasn't there to help in a situation like that," Davis said. "I was upset."


But unlike the rest of us, Davis can provide immediate help. And he took his first step towards resuming that role Monday, returning to practice after missing the first two preseason games with an ankle injury.

"The ankle is a lot better," Davis said. "I'm ready to get back now. I want to be out there with my team. I don't like watching from the sidelines. I want to get out there and do what I can do."

And that's giving the Texans a major presence in the backfield. Houston gained just 54 yards on 21 carries at Pittsburgh. One week after gaining 57 yards, Tony Hollings could manage just eight yards on 10 carries.

"If you can't run the ball well it becomes awful hard to manage the game," head coach Dom Capers said.

So Capers was awful glad to see Davis scampering around inside the bubble, showing the bursts that helped him gain 1,031 yards as a rookie.

"I thought he looked good," Capers said. "If he's totally healthy, he'll go (Friday). We'd like to get him in and get him a little action."

The Texans are treating this week's game at Denver as a regular season dress rehearsal. It's a normal game preparation week of practice and the starters will see their most action of the preseason.

But preseason can be a slippery slope when you're trying to work in starters. On the one hand, Davis wants some game action. On the other hand, he doesn't want to rush back for games that don't count in the standings before he's truly ready.

"I think I am, but I don't want to make any crazy decision," Davis said. "I'm just going to ease into it, take my time and let it happen."

Davis has only been through two training camps and he's been injured in both of them. Last year a broken hand caused Davis to miss the first three preseason games. It's just that not as many people noticed in 2003. Back then Davis was a relatively unknown fourth-round pick. Now he's the team's leading rusher.

"You have to respect it, that's part of football," Davis said. "You get hurt, but you get back up and keep rolling again."

As long as Davis is rolling by Sept. 12, the Texans will be happy.

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