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Texans Pro Bowl returner Mathis returns to practice

11/15/2006 - NFL Jerome Mathis Houston Texans + more

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

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.