Texans TE Daniels antsy to get back

HOUSTON Even if he's just watching practice.

Daniels led the team with five touchdowns and was a favorite target of Matt Schaub last season before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the eighth game. The Texans look for him to return to form this year, but first he has to finish recovering from surgery.

He expects to be ready for training camp. Until then the most football work he's done is catch passes thrown by a machine instead of Schaub.

"The whole thing is getting ready for the season and making sure I'm ready for Week 1," Daniels said. "So we're working on that. I've got to do what I can since I'm not practicing, at least be around the guys and help out during practice and get some work in catching the balls."

Coach Gary Kubiak said he'll limit Daniels' work in training camp to make sure he doesn't suffer any setbacks before the season.

"He's way ahead of schedule and he's doing very well," Kubiak said. "It's been thought of all the time that if we get to camp that he would do some possible work like seven on seven, non-contact type stuff, but not throw him right back into full bang."

Daniels had 40 receptions for 519 yards last season, including a 123-yard performance and a touchdown in the game before his injury. He averaged 13 yards a catch and his five TDs equaled his total from the previous two seasons combined.

He became such a big part of Houston's offense that the unit took some time to adjust after he went out. The Texans lost four consecutive games following his injury.

"I was playing well individually and we were playing really well as a team and knowing that I wasn't going to be able to be a part of that for the rest of the season was tough to deal with," he said. "Then even tougher was watching and seeing us struggle in those four games after I got hurt. I just wanted to be out there helping. It was tough to watch, so hopefully no more of that."

Daniels has been Houston's top tight end since his second season and started each game in 2007 and 2008. He finished with more than 750 yards receiving in each of those seasons, but was on pace to finish with more than 1,000 yards last season before the injury.

He credits that success to better preparation and some extra conditioning and drill work last offseason.

"I think it comes with experience," he said. "It was my fourth year in the league and I had gotten comfortable with this offense and was getting more confident in my abilities. I think I'll even be more prepared this year mentally. Since I can't do all the physical stuff right now, I'm looking at the game a little bit differently and hopefully it will help out."

For now, he's helping Houston's younger tight ends in their adjustment to the NFL. Houston picked up Garrett Graham in the fourth round of this year's draft and have a pair of second-year tight ends in James Casey and Anthony Hill.

"I'm getting to know the young guys and their personalities and have them know me and hopefully see me as somebody they can come to if they have questions," Daniels said. "I'm just trying to be a leader and be out here like that."

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