HOUSTON (AP) -Dunta Robinson was one of the NFL's top young cornerbacks when a collision with a Texans teammate left his right leg a mangled mess.
His hamstring was ripped off the bone and his anterior cruciate ligament was torn.
The journey that began in that moment more than 11 months ago will culminate with Robinson returning to practice on Wednesday. If things go well this week, the 26-year-old could play on Sunday when Houston hosts Detroit.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak knows his team is looking forward to the return of one of its defensive leaders.
``It's been a long, long haul for him and he's worked extremely hard,'' Kubiak said. ``He's had this day earmarked and his teammates think a lot of him, so I know they are excited for him to get back on that field.''
Robinson never lost his upbeat demeanor in the grueling months of rehabilitation that followed his injury, but he did allow himself to reflect on his difficult year this week as he prepares for his return.
the pain was severe for a short time after 281-pound defensive tackle Earl Cochran fell on a pile and twisted Robinson's leg grotesquely. Soon though, that pain subsided and he was numb.
``The trainers asked me how it felt and I said, 'I don't feel anything' and they said, 'That's usually a sign that you tore everything completely,''' Robinson recalled.
The pain would return with a vengeance after acclaimed surgeon Dr. James Andrews reconstructed his hamstring and ACL not long after the injury.
``Man, it was terrible,'' Robinson said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. ``That's probably the best word I can use to describe it. After my surgery I probably didn't get a good night's rest for about three months. I had to sleep one way and that was on my back with my leg propped up on pillows. I had to have my medicine because I was in so much pain at nighttime that it was hard to sleep.''
Robinson's injury was so severe he had to learn to walk again after surgery. Getting back to football seemed miles away as he slowly gained strength by focusing on small tasks and little victories.
That early work was done in Birmingham, Ala., where Andrews is based. Robinson's rehabilitation was done with a cadre of fellow players facing similar paths. Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams, Washington's Carlos Rogers and New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister were among the group.
During the five months they worked together in Alabama, Robinson said they became like a family, sharing meals, rehabbing together and sometimes simply hanging out.
``We leaned on each other and pushed each other,'' Robinson said. ``I think that was the best move for me, to go and be there every day. I don't think I would have made it if I had just been by myself. I needed to see guys going through the same thing that I was going through in order for me to get better.''
He eventually returned to Houston to be with the Texans and continue his comeback. Being close to the team made him even more eager to return to action. After starting every game in his first three seasons, Robinson is itching to return.
He says his knee feels great and it's ``pretty likely'' he'll play this weekend. If he is able to play, Kubiak insisted the Texans will put a limit on how much action he sees.
t it will happen.
He won't feel his injury is behind him until he's tested in a game.
``I've got to do something to make sure I can still play this game,'' he said. ``I have to make a play. So that's what I'm going to be waiting on. Can I still come out the way I used to? Can I still hit the way I used to? Hopefully you'll see flashes of the old Dunta Robinson from the start.''

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