Rookie RB Tate healthy and practicing with Texans

HOUSTON So on Tuesday, in his first full practice since being drafted, the rookie running back could barely contain his excitement. The second-round pick from Auburn dashed on and off the field with a smile as he ran plays with the offense, including a few snaps with the first team.

"It felt good," Tate said. "This game is fun to me. I love it and it's really good to get back out there and go live with everyone else."

The Texans were hoping he wouldn't be too far behind after missing most of their offseason practices. He seemed to fit in well Tuesday and said he was able to keep up because he spent his time out studying the playbook.

"You've got to stay in the playbook, even when you're not playing," he said. "That's an important part of the game, stay in my playbook and making sure I know what's going on so I can start playing the game fast."

Tate spent much of his time between plays standing and talking with running backs coach Chick Harris and kept discussing plays with the coach as the team left the field.

"I know what's going on. I know the plays," Tate said. "It's just the matter of getting out there is different. You can look at the paper and know exactly what to do on paper, but when you get out there and things start moving it's a little different."

Coach Gary Kubiak joked that Tate was the fastest player at practice on Tuesday because he had fresh legs from sitting out while the rest of the team is a bit worn out from working for several weeks. He also liked the rookie's effort.

"The thing I was impressed with is that he's obviously been paying attention and knew what he was doing," Kubiak said. "We were actually doing some tough stuff on them today as far as no scripting, just calling stuff and seeing how guys react and turning the noise on. So it was good to see him come out here and get going."

The Texans hope to use Tate as a complement to the 5-foot-9, 199-pound Steve Slaton as they try to improve a running game that ranked 30th in the NFL last season.

Houston's running game has been a weakness for years except for in 2008 when Slaton set a franchise record with 1,282 yards. He struggled last year because of a nerve issue in his neck that required surgery and he still hasn't been cleared for contact.

The Texans struggled overall running the ball in 2009, but had the most trouble in short yardage situations. Tate, who is 5-11 and 220 pounds should contribute in that area. Kubiak said they like Tate because he can be a power runner, but with a 4.4, 40-yard-dash he's also a threat to break big runs.

Tate was coy when asked if he prefers running around or at people.

"I like to do whatever it takes to get yards," he said. "As long as the ball is in my hands and I'm running it doesn't matter what I'm doing."

Tate had the ball plenty in his four-year career at Auburn where he ran for 3,321 career yards. He had 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

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