HOUSTON -- Thousands of Houston Texans season-ticket holders attended a Reliant Stadium dress rehearsal Tuesday as the team held its last evening practice of training camp inside its new $449 million home.
That fans -- 38,729 by the team's count -- braved rush-hour traffic and scattered showers to watch the Texans conduct a routine practice. The retractable roof, the only one in the NFL, opened midway through the practice to reveal a cloudless moonlit sky.
Receiver Corey Bradford appeared to respond to the semi-realistic setting, making several athletic catches of David Carr's passes.
''It felt great,'' Bradford said. ''I love it in here. I love the surface.''
The practice was the first battle test for the stadium's natural grass playing surface installed on large individual pallets that are easily removable when the stadium hosts non-football events, such as tractor pulls and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Bradford, who had to make several hard cuts in the normal course of practice, gave his seal of approval. So did center Steve McKinney, who was pleasantly surprised that it was softer than he expected.
''I've never really liked the dome atmosphere,'' said McKinney, a veteran of the indoor Indianapolis Colts. ''And if it's raining or nasty, we'll close it up and pretend we're outside.''
Coach Dom Capers noticed that even the fans scattered around the stadium caused a ruckus during the few exciting moments of practice, such as when Jermaine Lewis returned a kickoff for a touchdown in special teams drills.
''This place is going to hold the noise,'' Capers said, smiling.
And the heat, one fan said.
''I want it open. I want it hot,'' said LaPorte veterinarian Willard Jones, who brought his twin sons Trent and Travis to sit in their front-row seats on the west side, shaded from the afternoon sun. Jones added that east-side fans will have it tougher as game days wear on.
Other fans were looking well beyond the Miami game to Sept. 8, when the Texans make their official NFL debut against Dallas.
''Bring on the Cowgirls!'' a horde of young boys screamed into a television camera microphone.
Ismail likely to miss season with neck injury
SAN ANTONIO -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Raghib Ismail will undergo neck surgery Wednesday to repair damage from a collision with a teammate last week in practice.
Although he's likely to be out for the season, doctors said he should be able to continue his career.
Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday he wasn't planning on immediately putting Ismail on injured reserve, which would end his season, because he hadn't yet talked to the receiver. But Jones made it clear ''we're not planning on him playing this year.''
Dr. Dan Cooper described the injury as a huge herniated disk. The problem is made worse by the fact Ismail has a relatively small spinal canal, although Cooper said it's not the same chronic narrowing that contributed to the end of Michael Irvin's career.
Ismail will have the disk removed and the two vertebra around it fused together. It will be done by Dr. Drew Dossett, who has performed the same procedure on many pro athletes, including former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston.
Johnston's career continued after his operation and Cooper expects Ismail to play again, too. ''As long as the surgery is successful and he heals, he could return to football,'' Cooper said.
The 32-year-old Ismail would have been playing his 10th season, fourth in Dallas. His last two seasons were also marred by injury, including a torn knee ligament in 2000.
''We haven't seen anybody work harder to rehab and come back from his knee surgery, so it's quite a disappointment for him and his wife,'' Jones said.
The Cowboys were counting on Ismail and Joey Galloway to provide speedy targets in the West Coast-style offense being implemented by new coordinator Bruce Coslet. Rookie Antonio Bryant is likely to replace Ismail in the starting lineup.
Out for season, Davis hopes for miracle to prolong career
DENVER -- Hold those obituaries about Terrell Davis' playing career.
Because of chronic knee injuries, the Denver Broncos running back was placed on the injured-reserve list Tuesday, which ends his season and more than likely signals the end of his career.
But Davis insisted he was not retiring -- not yet, anyway.
Both Davis and Denver owner Pat Bowlen said the festivities of the past few days -- including Davis' introduction in uniform prior to Monday night's San Francisco-Denver game and his mile-high salute to the fans -- should not be construed as a retirement announcement.
''As Mr. Bowlen said, this is not a retirement party,'' Davis said Tuesday. ''I'm going to do everything I can possibly do to see if I can return to the field again.''
He admitted, however, that ''barring a miracle, from what I'm hearing, this is it.''
Since rushing for 2,008 yards and winning the league's MVP award in 1998, Davis has played in only 17 games the last three seasons. A succession of knee operations -- along with a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis in both knees -- clouded his future.
After the latest flareup in his left knee -- which he calls his ''good'' knee -- Davis asked the Broncos to put him on injured reserve.
He kept the door open to a possible return, however.
''Unfortunately I'm in the situation that I'm in right now, but I'm at peace with it,'' he said. ''I've had time to think about it. I've had time to think about what my options are. This didn't come as a total surprise to me because of the situation I was going through for the past three years.
''I have pretty much been a bystander and watching the games. And so it's sort of crept into my mind about the possibilities of never playing this game again. You don't want to think about it, you never think it's going to come true, but it's always a possibility. You have to prepare yourself for that in life, and I think I have.
''Obviously I would love to play, and I think I still have a lot of football in me, not just regular football but great football. So if there is a miracle out there, I am here, so please find me.''
Davis, who helped lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, has rushed for 7,607 yards and 60 TDs in his career, adding 1,140 and 12 TDs in the postseason. He had seven straight 100-yard rushing performances in the playoffs, an NFL record, and his 142.5-yard average in the postseason also is a league mark. He holds or shares 56 franchise records.
Now the debate has begun over whether Davis, 29, belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which he will be eligible in five years after his retirement. Critics say he didn't play long enough -- only four full seasons, seven in all.
''I've always said that if it happens, I would be excited about it,'' he said. ''But I don't put that high an emphasis on it. I have no control over it.''
If his career is indeed over, Davis said he was most proud of the fact that he was an unselfish player who ''tried to do the small things that people don't look at. To me, it was never about the stats. When I left the field, I wanted to know if I did everything right -- running, blocking, catching the ball, moving the chains.''
Asked if any one run was his greatest moment, he said, ''It wouldn't be a run. It would probably be the entire San Diego Super Bowl. It was my first time playing in a game of that magnitude. And then playing as well as I played and having a little drama in between (a migraine headache in the first half), that really capped it for me.''
With time on his hands, Davis said he will ponder other pursuits, including broadcasting and acting.
Bowlen was sensitive to remarks from some Broncos that Monday night's events were not appropriate for a player of Davis' caliber.
''I would like to remind everyone that Terrell is on injured reserve,'' Bowlen said, ''and I am No. 1 on the list in praying for a miracle that he will come back and play. I think we all understand that's a remote possibility.
''When he retires, we will treat him in a first-class manner.''
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