- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels cut sharply, caught a short pass and sprinted 20 yards down the middle of an empty practice field.

The 6-foot-3 Daniels, who made the Pro Bowl after the 2008 season, said Thursday he hopes to be ready for the regular season opener against Indianapolis after getting medical clearance to play again.

Daniels tore his right anterior cruciate ligament midway through last season and underwent surgery last November. He visited Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, and the renowned orthopedist finally declared Daniels‘ knee fully healed.

Daniels is expected to practice with his team on Monday, ending an arduous 10-month recovery.

“It’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be strange, but I can’t wait,” Daniels said. “I don’t know if I’ll sleep Sunday night. It’ll be like my first day of football, back when I was like in third grade.”

Daniels was on schedule to be ready for the start of training camp until the spring. He started feeling soreness in the reconstructed knee in April and May, and doctors found a stress fracture in his right kneecap, a potentially career-threatening setback.

“We were blindsided by it, cause we were just going in and expecting to see a little inflammation or what have you,” Daniels said. “When the doctor said it was a stress fracture, we were all shocked.”

Doctors were puzzled how Daniels could’ve sustained such a rare injury during his rehab. Daniels said he continued to work as the soreness increased, but doesn’t think he was overdoing it.

“I think it was just something that was meant to happen, and the good thing was it could’ve broken all the way through and broken off,” Daniels said. “So we were playing with fire there for a while, really working hard and not knowing what the problem was.”

Daniels spent the next two months virtually immobilized, wondering when _ or if _ he’d ever play again.

He consulted with several doctors across the country, and some recommended inserting a screw in his knee, a procedure that might’ve forced him to miss the 2010 season. Andrews suggested the more conservative route, letting the injury heal on its own.

All Daniels could do was make monotonous visits to the Texans’ training room for treatment.

“It was a long time for me, after the stress fracture diagnosis, sitting around,” Daniels said. “I couldn’t lift any weights, I couldn’t jog, I couldn’t ride a bike. That really tested my patience. They were doing everything they could for me, though.”

Finally, after eight weeks, tests showed that the fracture was improving. Daniels resumed his rehab soon after.

He’s still a long way from playing condition, though, and plans to lobby coach Gary Kubiak to let him play in Houston’s last preseason game, against Tampa Bay next Thursday.

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