HOUSTON -- Houston Texans veteran starting linebacker Christian Kirksey returned to practice Thursday after fracturing his thumb against the Arizona Cardinals.
He's expected to try to work through the injury, which required a protective club and return to play, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Kirksey didn't practice Wednesday.
The Texans' defensive signal caller finished second on the defense with eight tackles during a 31-5 defeat to the undefeated Cardinals. Houston plays the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Since signing a one-year, $4.5 million contract this offseason to join the Texans after previous stints with the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns, Kirksey has started every game this season and has 51 tackles and one interception.
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If Kirksey is sidelined, the Texans (1-6) would likely go with a combination of Kamu Grugier-Hill, Zach Cunningham and Kevin Pierre-Louis.
It's one of the deeper positions on the Texans, a rebuilding team on a six-game losing streak. Neville Hewitt is another possibility at Mike linebacker, with Cunningham and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith both pointing to him as a potential replacement for Kirksey if he can't go.
"We have guys stepping up to the role," Cunningham said. "Neville, we have stepping up as that Mike linebacker, stepping up in that role. I think he’s going to do a good job in there.”
Meanwhile, veteran center Justin Britt (knee) and offensive guard Justin McCray (ankle) returned to practice after being sidelined Wednesday. Texans defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson returned to practice from a back injury after aggravating a herniated disc.
Grugier-Hill, who leads the Texans with five tackles for losses, was praised for his play Wednesday by Houston coach David Culley.
“He’s done very well," Culley said. "He’s been one of the leaders on this team. He plays probably more snaps than anybody we have on defense because of how valuable he is on special teams. He’s playing very well for us.”