Will Fuller's injury history has the Houston Texans taking precautions with the wideout this summer. Coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him for the final eight games of the 2018 season, Fuller is participating in practice but has not played in any preseason contests.
The 25-year-old would prefer he see some exhibition action before the regular season begins.
"Definitely. ... I think I need to play in a preseason because I haven't played a football game in a long time," Fuller said Thursday, per the team transcript. "Just getting back out there and feeling the game speed again, getting hit again -- I haven't gotten tackled yet, so just getting all of those things behind me."
Fuller tore his ACL in Houston's Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 25, right in the middle of what looked to be a breakout season. Fuller racked up 503 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 32 receptions in seven games played. His 15.7 yards per reception led all Texans receivers with at least six receptions.
Since he underwent surgery in October, the Texans have said Fuller will be ready to play in Houston's season opener against the New Orleans Saints. That timeline has not changed, and neither has the franchise's confidence in the downfield threat; the Texans exercised Fuller's fifth-year option this offseason.
"Made a lot of progress," O'Brien said of Fuller on Saturday. "Really good route runner, good guy, connection with (Deshaun) Watson -- getting back on the same page with him, haven't played together in a while before training camp, was out during the spring. I think he's the type of guy that tries to get better every day."
Fuller's availability, or lack thereof in recent years, underscores the lack of depth on Houston's offense. That was threatened last week when Houston gave up on D'Onta Foreman and then when slot receiver Keke Coutee suffered an ankle injury scare in the Texans' preseason opener.
Watson and the Texans need a fully stacked deck of pass-catching options to threaten the cream of the AFC (and the AFC South) in 2019. Fuller's health is paramount to their success, but the receiver refuses to linger on that.
"I mean, it's the NFL, so I know injuries happen," Fuller said. "My goal is to be out there all 16 games and I feel like it's going to happen."
A few preseason snaps wouldn't hurt either. Fuller and Houston take on the Detroit Lions on Saturday.