Texans running back Dameon Pierce returns to practice, but not slated to play Sunday as well as Noah Brown, Jimmie Ward

Texans running back returns to practice

Dameon Pierce (KPRC 2 Aaron Wilson)

HOUSTON – Texans running back Dameon Pierce, a Pro Bowl alternate last season, returned to practice Friday after being out for the past two games with an ankle injury.

Pierce is not slated to return Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, per a league source. Pierce is trending toward being back next week for a key AFC South division showdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Texans officially ruled out Pierce as well as safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring), linebacker Henry To’oTo’o (concussion), safety Grayland Arnold (calf), linebacker Jake Hansen (hand surgery).

PIerce has rushed for 327 yards and one touchdown while averaging 3.0 yards per carry and 4.6.7 yards per game one season after rushing for 939 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie when he averaged 72.2 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry.

Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik said when Pierce is back playing time will be split up with him and Devin “Motor” Singletary, who rushed for a career-high 150 yards on 30 carries last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

“Yeah, nothing has changed,” Slowik said. “I’ve kind of been saying this for a while. I really believe in having guys that can distribute carries. I think that keeps you fresh as the game keeps going, especially through the course of a season. I know ‘Motor’ had 30 carries last game.

“You have 30 carries in multiple games, that adds up fast, and we don’t want to put that on any one player, so it really won’t be any different than it was before. I know DP is working his tail off to try to get back as soon as he can. When that happens, we’ll roll.”

Brown, on a torrid two-game tear, remains sidelined with a knee injury that has prevented him from practicing. He is listed as questionable.

The Texans don’t have him slated to play Sunday, per sources, but the injury isn’t regarded as long-term recovery and he could be back within the next week or two.

They also signed wide receiver Jared Wayne to the practice squad as the replacement for cornerback Jason Verrett, who was released because he doesn’t play on special teams. Verrett was nearly elevated last week against the Bengals.

Brown caught a career-high seven passes for 172 yards on eight targets against the Cincinnati Bengals during a 30-27 last-second win. His 22-yard reception helped set up kicker Matt Ammendola’s game-winning 39-yard field goal.

He caught all four of his deep targets for 121 yards, fourth-most in a game this season. He has 227 yards on six deep targets and a touchdown over the past two weeks, according to NextGen Stats.

And now Brown will miss a game.

“We’ll see,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said when asked about Brown’s availability this week.

Brown caught six passes for 153 yards in a comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He has combined for 13 receptions, 325 yards and one touchdown over the past two weeks.

For the season , he has 21 receptions for 439 yards with a 75-yard touchdown catch that tied for the longest touchdown reception of the season. And he has averaged 20.9 yards per reception. Since being activated from injured reserve with a groin injury, he has caught 18 passes for 419 yards and averaged 23.3 yards per catch with 15 first downs.

“Noah’s been outstanding,” Ryans said Monday. “He always seems to be open. Noah’s been a very reliable guy. He finds a way to make big-time plays for us week after week.”

Against the Bengals, Brown caught passes for seven first downs.

Against the Bengals, six of his receptions were for 20 yards or more.

“It’s been great having him back,” Ryans said. “He’s showing up big time for us and helped us to win these games over the past couple weeks.”

“The thing that sticks out to me about Noah is his consistency in OTAs and training camp,” Ryans said. “I could highlight Noah every day for running a route to the exact precision, exactly how it’s supposed to be ran. He’s been able to have career days in back-to-back weeks, just because he just goes out, he puts the work in, doesn’t say much. But he shows up in the crunch time and makes big plays for us.”

Wide receiver Nico Collins practiced for the third consecutive day. He is set to go for Sunday’s game after missing the Bengals game with a strained calf.

Collins declared that he feels good and he will play Sunday.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Collins said when asked if he will play. “I felt great. It felt good to be back out there and get my groove back. It’s a long season, got to maintain for all 17 weeks and continue to grow and stay healthy.”

To’oTo’o remains in the concussion protocol and didn’t practice.

He’s expected to be replaced Sunday by Blake Cashman at Mike linebacker with Christian Harris at Will linebacker and Cory Littleton at Sam linebacker, per sources.

Tight end Brevin Jordan (foot, plantar fasciitis) has returned to practice on a limited basis.

Starting fullback Andrew Beck practiced for the third day in a row after missing one game with ankle, elbow and shoulder injuries.

Wide receiver Robert Woods (foot) returned to practice Thursday and participated fully.

Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil participated fully Thursday and Friday and has no injury designation. He is rested on Wednesdays due to a knee injury.

Defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (knee) is questionable. He didn’t practice Friday.

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com

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