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Mankins holds court on status, Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Four-time Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins would like nothing more than to play in Monday night's clash against the Texans, and things are trending in that direction.

"I got out there this week, tried to move around, and we'll see where it goes today," Mankins said Saturday after the team's final practice of the week, which was held on the Gillette Stadium game field.

Mankins, who has been sidelined since the second half of the team's Nov. 11 win over the Bills, isn't yet a full participant in practice. But he was on the field with his teammates all week "doing as much as we can."

The likelihood of Mankins' return, which is the subject of a larger piece on ESPNBoston.com, couldn't be more timely given the challenge of the Texans' solid defense.

A few soundbites from Mankins:

Summing up his season (6 games played): "It's been a couple games here, miss a couple, then a couple here, and miss a few. It's just one of those years where I can't get on track [because of injuries]. ... It's been tough, but it is what it is. You learn to deal with it. I've been pretty fortunate most of my career, so I guess it happens to everyone sooner or later."

On the Texans' run defense and opponents averaging a league-low 21 carries per game against them. "That's because they are ahead most of the time and teams have to start throwing it to catch up. That plays right into their strength -- they are a great pass-rushing team, and they are good against the run too. They have a lot of tackles for losses, so they do a good job of getting teams into third-and-long and they have to throw it."

On his replacement, Donald Thomas: "Donald has done a great job. We knew he would. We got to see Donald last year and then he's been here since training camp this year. He's taken a lot of reps, played a lot of games now, and done a very good job."

On J.J. Watt mostly lining up on the defensive left side: "The majority of the time he's over there but he goes back and forth. They do a good job of moving him around and scheming things up for him to get an edge on someone or free him up. He's a good player and they utilize him very well."

On fellow defensive lineman Antonio Smith: "He's a guy that is getting overlooked down there. J.J. Watt is getting a lot of attention, deservedly, but Antonio Smith is a very good player. He's a slippery guy inside who has good quickness and good power, and he really understands how to work blockers. He does a very good job."

On Andre Johnson calling this the biggest game in Texans history: "I didn't know they said that. I know they were in the playoffs last year; I would have thought that was a pretty big game. It's 'Monday Night Football,' I'm sure everyone is going to be juiced up -- two of the top teams in the AFC, so it's going to be a good game."