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Texans coach, GM shower Ryan Mallett with praise

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Mallett is headed toward free agency, but it sure sounds like the Houston Texans want to keep him around.

Both general manager Rick Smith and coach Bill O'Brien showered Mallett with praise when the quarterback's name came up on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"He worked hard and obviously played pretty good that game he had an opportunity to play, somewhere along the line there suffered that injury," Smith said. "So it was disappointing for him but we're hopeful that we'll get him back as well and he'll have another opportunity to continue to help us."

O'Brien worked with Mallett when he came into the league with the Patriots, and general manager Rick Smith said that Mallett was a changed player when he arrived in Houston following last year's trade. The Texans believed Mallett had clearly progressed, both as a quarterback and as a player who "picked up several leadership traits" from Tom Brady.

Around The NFL asked O'Brien what he saw from Mallett before his season-ending pectoral injury that makes the coach believe he can be a quality NFL starter.

"I think he's smart, I think he's a hard worker. He understands our system," he said. "I liked how he went into the Cleveland game on the road and I'm sure he was nervous, but you couldn't tell. I thought he had good poise in the game. I liked the fact that when he wasn't playing, he was really into the game. ... So there's a lot of things that I look at so far with him that make me believe he can be a starter in this league."

How disappointed would O'Brien be if the Texans didn't find a way to re-sign Mallett?

"If somebody came in and got him?" he said. "I'd like to have him back."

O'Brien was asked by the Houston Chronicle's John McClain if it made sense for Mallett to stay in an offense he's learned over four years rather than start over with a different team.

"You have to ask him that. I agree with you," O'Brien said. "I would say that he definitely has a comfort with our system and us coaching it. So hopefully that goes a long way with him."

Consider it a significant upset if the Texans don't find a way to keep Mallett in their building. He is a very realistic possibility as the team's Week 1 starter.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down RGIII's appointment as starter and Larry Fitzgerald's new deal with the Cardinals. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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