Justin Houston moves closer to returning to action for Chiefs

Outside linebacker Justin Houston appears closer to returning to the Chiefs lineup.

Houston lined up with the starters during positional drills in practice on Thursday. He was first in line to hit the blocking sled, which was an indication Houston has confidence in his right elbow that was dislocated against San Diego on Nov. 24.

All Houston needs is a green light from the team doctors and coach Andy Reid to play on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Chiefs listed Houston’s participation in practice on Thursday as “limited.”

“He’s practicing and he’s in a lot of the drills and has worked with the first group,” said defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. “It’s just day to day and drill to-drill, but it’s great to see him out there.

“The thing I really appreciate about Justin is he’s practicing like he’s trying to play. Hopefully we can get him in. He would be a great boost for us.”

Houston was tied for third in the NFL with 11 sacks when he was injured. In the three games he has missed, the Chiefs had no sacks against Denver, six sacks at Washington and no sacks last week at Oakland.

Injury report

Besides Houston, the Chiefs said offensive tackle Branden Albert (knee) and wide receiver Dexter McCluster (ankle) were limited. All other players fully participated.

The Colts said three starters, including wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, did not practice. Hilton, the club’s leading receiver with 66 catches for 876 yards and five touchdowns was listed with a shoulder injury. He was not on the injury report on Wednesday.

The Colts said starting defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin (non-injury rest) and Ricky Jean-Francois (foot) did not practice and starting cornerback Greg Toler (groin) was limited.

Charles, three teammates lead Pro Bowl voting

Running back Jamaal Charles heads six Chiefs players who are among the leading vote getters at their positions for the 2014 Pro Bowl game.

Charles ranks third among all NFL players with 825,345 votes, trailing only Denver quarterback Peyton Manning (1,227,068) and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (1,049,811).

The other Chiefs who lead their positions are outside linebacker Tamba Hali (293,303); offensive tackle Branden Albert (209,068), and punter Dustin Colquitt (156,655). Guard Jeff Allen (171,074) and strong safety Eric Berry (149,759) rank second at their positions.

Balloting will conclude on Dec. 26 and the players will be announced on Dec. 27. The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 26 in Honolulu.

Unlocking Bowe

Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has caught 52 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns in what statistically is a down season. In the four seasons in which Bowe has played all 16 games, he has averaged 74 receptions with at least 995 yards; and 32 total touchdowns.

But offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said that shouldn’t diminish the kind of season Bowe is having.

“He’s had great games this year,” Pederson said. “He may not have been the leading target coming out of a ball game, but that doesn’t mean he takes plays off. He’s very effective in the run game, he’s also very effective in the screen game when we need blocks down the field.

“We may not dial up a play for him each time, but he’s going to be a big part of what we do going forward.”

Roster moves

Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe and wide receiver/punt returner Chad Hall changed places again.

The Chiefs re-signed Powe on Thursday and released Hall, one week after the club had released Powe to make room for Hall. The move on Thursday was the third time this season Hall has been waived by the club.

Powe, who spent 2011-12 with the Chiefs and was released at the end of preseason, was brought back two weeks ago and dressed but did not play at Washington on Dec. 8. But he was released last week when the Chiefs re-signed Hall to fill the role of Dexter McCluster, who was out with an ankle injury.

Blocking Mathis

Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis, a leading candidate for AFC defensive player of the year, figures to be a handful for the Chiefs on Sunday. Mathis, a five-time Pro Bowler, leads the NFL with 16 1/2 sacks, a Colts franchise record.

“He’s playing at a high, MVP level,” said Pederson. “He’s a relentless guy he’ll play on the left, he’ll play on the right. Teams have tried to use the back and tight ends to chip, but he’ll find ways to split those double teams and sack the quarterback ir create havoc for the quarterback.

“You’re going to have to put four hands on him and know where he’s going to line up every snap.”

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