HOUSTON (AP) - For Brian Cushing, there's no substitute to being on the field.
The Houston Texans linebacker returned to practice on Wednesday, ''a very small step'' as he comes back from offseason surgery on his left knee and leg.
Cushing wasn't the only Texans' star back in pads as the team went through a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster were also back after being held out for most of training camp with hamstring injuries.
Cushing had been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp. He didn't participate in contact drills. Cushing says he needs more live repetitions to learn the new defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien says he hasn't ruled out any of the three players for Saturday's game.