His right ankle might be more tightly wrapped than an Egyptian mummy, but Houston Texans officials confirmed Saturday afternoon that quarterback David Carr will be back in the starting lineup Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Carr missed the first game of his career last week.
The first player selected in the 2002 draft, Carr had started the first 23 contests of his NFL tenure until being sidelined last week by a high ankle sprain. His return is actually sooner than anticipated for such an injury but, even though Carr isn't quite 100 percent recovered, he was sufficiently recovered to practice most of the week.
Carr worked about half of the snaps with the first-unit offense on Wednesday, and then took over full-time with the starters for the rest of the week, increasing his workload on a daily basis. On Friday, he took all the snaps with the starting offense, then got through a Saturday walk-through without incident.
"There's still a little 'pull' in there, but it's nothing like a week ago, when there was some pain just throwing on the sidelines," Carr said. "The ankle has made a lot of progress. I'm sure we'll take some precautions but, if it keeps improving, there might not really have to be any kind of special [protection]."
During practices, trainers taped Carr's ankle on the outside of his shoe to provide support and keep the joint from rolling over. The hope is that by Sunday the tape job won't have to be nearly so extensive, and Carr hinted he might try to play against the Bengals with just the normal amount of protection.
The irony is that Carr, sacked 76 times in 2002, didn't miss a snap because of injury in his rookie campaign. This season, the Houston offensive line has been much improved, and Carr has absorbed only 11 sacks. As a result, until last week, Carr has spent much less time in the trainer's room this season.
A tough competitor who doesn't even like sitting out for a single snap in practice, Carr wanted to try to play last week, but much common sense prevailed. The former Fresno State star is impatient to get back into the lineup, he acknowledged, but he insisted that he wouldn't play if he didn't feel he could keep himself out of harm's way.
"The last thing I want to do," Carr said, "is hurt the team by being in there. If the ankle was so sore that I couldn't function normally, I wouldn't play."
In seven games this year, Carr has completed 122 of 204 passes for 1,483 yards, with six touchdown passes, eight interceptions and a 75.7 passer rating. He needs 1,017 yards in the second half of the year to become the first quarterback to throw for 2,500 yards in each of the first two seasons of an expansion franchise.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.