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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Texans Pro Bowl returner Mathis returns to practice

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Texans Pro Bowl kick returner Jerome Mathis returned to practice Wednesday for the first time this season.

Jerome Mathis

But coach Gary Kubiak said Mathis, who has been recovering from a fractured left foot, isn't ready to play yet.

Mathis is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and the Texans must decide by the end of next week if he can play this season or if he should be placed on the injured reserve.

After practice he sat at his locker and gently rubbed his bare injured foot and talked about the frustration of missing the last nine games.

"There were times when I wanted to just give up and I was feeling down and starting to think I wasn't going to be able to bounce back from it," he said. "But I just had to believe in myself. I feel good right now."

Mathis had a great rookie season last year for Houston by returning 54 kickoffs for 1,542 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. He averaged an NFL-best 28.6 yards a return and was the first player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in franchise history.

The former track star, who ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and once participated in the U.S. Olympic Trials, proclaimed that he was the league's fastest man last season.

He's hoping to get the chance to show that speed again this year.

"I'm very confident that I'll be able to come back this year, I've just got to prove that to the coaches," he said.

The Texans haven't found a steady replacement for him this season and have had nine players return a kick.

Mathis said his foot was a bit sore after the limited practice, but he was encouraged to be out there again. He kept in shape during his recovery by swimming and biking, but only started running this week.

"For someone who hasn't been in a situation like that before, you're used to being around and competing and being out there each and every day," he said. "And being sidelined for as long as I've been it's been real tough, real frustrating emotionally and physically."

Kubiak said he definitely wouldn't play this week and that the trainers would be monitoring his progress closely. Both Mathis and Kubiak said they'll know more about his progress on Thursday morning when they see how sore his foot is a day after the practice.

"He looked pretty good," Kubiak said. "We didn't get a lot of reps but he looked fine."

The Texans had an abbreviated practice on Wednesday because of extremely high winds in the area. They were unable to practice inside because the winds knocked out power to their indoor practice facility.