Walker's prognosis a relief for Texans
HOUSTON -- Gary Walker wasn't the only one thinking "Uh oh" when his groin forced him out of practice earlier this week.
"I have been through a lot in my three years here, more so than anywhere else," the veteran defensive lineman said. "It just makes you stronger as a person."
Walker had offseason groin and hernia surgeries before the Texans' inaugural 2002 season, then never was healthy last year with shoulder and toe problems. So it was a relief to both Walker and the team when his groin problem Monday turned out to be a mild strain.
The muscle tightness Walker felt was disconcerting enough that he needed help to get off the Texans' indoor practice field and have an immediate MRI exam to determine the extent of the injury.
"It's not serious. It's just a little mild deal, and it will heal quickly," Walker said. "I'm not going to let it be a disappointment. It kind of frustrated me a little bit. I got good news from the doctor, so I'm just going to follow the course and get back as quick as possible."
Walker won't travel to Denver for Friday's exhibition game and isn't a sure bet to play in the preseason finale at home against Tampa Bay. However, coach Dom Capers believes Walker should be ready for the season opener against San Diego and star tailback LaDainian Tomlinson.
As for Walker, he hopes his 2004 bout with injuries begins and ends with the groin.
"I can guarantee you this: When I leave football, there won't be anything I face in life that will give me as much as I've gone through with this," said Walker, one of Houston's oldest players at 31. "It's just preparing me for down the road."
^ACHES AND PAYNES:@ Six active Houston Texans players will not travel to Denver for the game Friday night against the Broncos, with injuries old and new keeping them home to train.
Most notable among the homebound Texans was nose tackle Seth Payne, who has been practicing for two weeks and was hoping to get his first game action since last September, when he tore a ligament in his left knee at New Orleans.
While agreeing Payne could play if it were a regular season game, coach Dom Capers said Wednesday he felt more comfortable sitting him out and playing him Sept. 2 against Tampa Bay.
"The most important thing is this will give him a good chance to get two days of work while we're gone, and he'll get the specified amount of (playing) time next week," Capers said of Payne, who has endured three knee operations in the past 12 months.
Staying home with Payne this week be another player recovering from knee surgery from last fall, rookie safety Glenn Earl.
Injuries aren't the reason another active player, WR Andre Johnson, will not travel. Houston's leading receiver last year has been excused because of a death in his family.
^BUS STOP: Like just about all of his teammates, Texans rookie cornerback Dunta Robinson had a tough night last weekend in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers rolled Houston 38-3.
He did earn one badge of honor, though. The 174-pound defensive back had to take on 255-pound running back Jerome Bettis three times, downing him in each instance.
"I made sure I kept up with that stat," said Robinson, drafted No. 10 overall more for his ability to shut down receivers than take down bruising rushers like "The Bus."
It wasn't without cost. Robinson had a stiff shoulder earlier this week.
"It was like running into a brick wall at full speed," Robinson said of the experience. "I saw two of him when I got up. It's rough, but that's the game."
^REPEAT MEETING: For the third straight year, the Texans will play a regular season opponent in the preseason.
Asked about it Wednesday, coach Dom Capers said it would bother him more if the regular season rematch occurred in the first month of the season. In each case -- the New York Giants in 2002, Tampa Bay last year and Denver this season -- the game that counted came in November or December.
"I don't think it's much of a concern," Capers said. "Both teams are getting to know each other's personnel but beyond that -- X's and O's wise -- there's not too much to it."
For the record, the Texans have a 1-1 regular season record in such games, having beaten the Giants 16-14 in 2002 after losing to them in the Hall of Fame game that summer.
^EXTRA POINTS: RB Tony Hollings is feeling better after hurting his ribs at Pittsburgh last weekend. "We've kept him out of contact all week, but he's gotten better every day," coach Dom Capers said. With starting RB Domanick Davis set to play only two or three series, Hollings can expect plenty of work Friday at Denver. ... TE Matt Murphy, who has a chance to make the final roster because of Bennie Joppru's groin injury, made a spectacular one-handed catch in the end zone during Wednesday's practice session. ... SS Eric Brown, who spent four seasons with the Broncos, said the mile-high altitude can be a "difference-maker" for teams not used to it. "Hopefully I still have a little bit of that Colorado air in me to last," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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