HOUSTON (AP) Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden wondered if David Boston was serious about making a comeback.
The former Pro Bowl receiver showed just how much he wants to play in the NFL.
Boston saw his first extended action of the preseason and had 6 receptions for 77 yards in the Buccaneers' 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
One of the catches included an impressive 33 yarder that helped set up a Buccaneers field goal in the 2nd period. He missed all of the 2004 season and all but 5 games last season in Miami recovering from the knee injury that occurred in training camp practice, also against the Texans.
"It was good to go out and compete again,'' Boston said. "It was fun. I'm just working on the little things.''
Boston, signed as a free agent in May, is considered as a possible #3 receiver behind Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton.
"He's real committed and serious on making a comeback,'' Gruden said. "I'm talking about getting it all back and being the David Boston who was a fierce, reckless and great football player.''
The game was also a homecoming for Boston, who starred at Ohio State after a standout high school career in Humble, just north of Houston. Picked 8th in the 1999 draft, Boston had his best season in 2001 with 98 receptions for 1,598 yards and 8 touchdowns for Arizona.
Before Thursday he had just 1 reception for 3 yards this preseason.
"He has been in my heart and prayers every night,'' Gruden said. "I like David Boston. I want to see him when he's playing great again.''
None of the passes came from starter Chris Simms. The former University of Texas quarterback played just the opening series. He was 1 of 2 for 6 yards and badly overthrew a receiver downfield on 3rd and 3.
Simms watched Boston from the sideline and is excited about throwing to him this season.
"He is one of those rare guys you can call a true freak,'' Simms said. "He is physically gifted. He will do some great things for our team.''
The Texans (3-1) got out to an early lead after backup Sage Rosenfels found tight end Bennie Joppru for a 2 yard touchdown.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week that this game was "big'' for Antowain Smith, and the 34 year old running back responded. On the first play of Houston's second series, Smith slipped through a hole, stiff armed one defender and outran a couple more before being pulled down from behind after a 46-yard gain. The run was the longest in Texans' preseason history.
"I'm no spring chicken, so I have to show them something for them to keep me around,'' Smith said. "I want to be around to help this team.''
He finished with 8 carries for 69 yards. Rookie Chris Taylor, vying with Smith for a roster spot, had 17 carries for 68 yards.
"Antowain is a veteran guy who pounds the ball,'' Kubiak said. "Taylor, I thought had exceptional speed, but he needs more vision and needs to grow as a runner.''
Tampa Bay rookie Bruce Gradkowski rebounded from a tough outing against Jacksonville where he was intercepted twice and lost a fumble, to make a push to be the #2 quarterback. He led the Bucs (1-3) to their only touchdown on a 13 play, 79 yard drive that ended with a 5 yard pass to Tim Massaquoi in the 3rd quarter.
He was 13 of 17 for 90 yards and was Tampa Bay's leading rusher with 3 carries for 47 yards.
"For a young guy to complete 75% of his passes was very impressive,'' Gruden said. "I'm very pleased with what he did.''
Houston got 3 field goals from Kris Brown, including a 30 yarder that broke a 13-13 tie in the 4th quarter.
As with most of Houston's starters, #1 draft pick Mario Williams did not play, instead watching from the sideline in a uniform but no helmet. Travis Johnson, the Texans' top pick last year, saw extended action. He's likely to be a starter, but has had to work to get on the Kubiak's good side and had Houston's only sack of the game.