(SportsRadio 610) - Texans rookie linebacker Christian Harris returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since injuring his hamstring in training camp.
The 21-year old standout from Alabama hasn’t played a down since recording three sacks and a forced fumble in the national championship game loss to Georgia this past January.
However, Harris may have to wait a little longer before he plays in a game.
The Texans have a 21-day window to add Harris to the 53-man roster. With veteran defensive end Mario Addison returning from a thigh injury suffered in the preseason and defensive back Tavierre Thomas getting close to a return as well, the Texans will soon have some decisions to make.
As far as Harris’ return and when he could contribute to a defense that desperately needs help in the linebacker core, head coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday it’s a little too early to tell.
"Right now, he came off the injury list and we’ve had one practice. I haven’t even had a chance to evaluate the video," Smith said. “Give us a little time to see exactly where he is. As soon as he’s ready to go and he can function and have an opportunity to have success, he’ll be out there."
Texans linebacker coach Miles Smith said before the season began that while it’s not ideal, the fact Harris had an opportunity to watch from the sidelines could be beneficial for him to learn the defense and get to know the NFL.
Harris and Smith can routinely be seen and heard together on the practice field talking ball as the rookie has tried to learn as much as possible while rehabbing his hamstring.
The Texans head coach reiterated the benefit of the mental reps Wednesday, but said getting him on the field takes a bit more than just watching film.
“On exactly when a rookie is ready to play, we’ll see that. There’s nothing else really to say besides that," Smith said. "Remembering back on what he did at Alabama or what he did in OTAs, just doesn’t have an awful lot. He’s healthy now, in the best shape he can be. Mentally, he knows a lot more because of being able to observe but it’s a little bit more than that. I’m excited about him eventually getting out there."
Working Addison into the mix will be a little easier since there’s currently a roster spot available, and quite simply because the ramping up process for a veteran is different than a rookie playing in a new system for the first time.
“Mario (Addison) has played in the league for a long period of time, so he’s a little bit more advanced with being able to play quicker,” Smith said. “We can always use help with a good pass rusher, a good defensive end to play. He’s healthy now. Again, the process has started. Hopefully sooner than later he’ll be out there."
Shaun Bijani has spent the last 16 years covering the Houston sports scene for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @ShaunBijani.