Arian Foster hopes to make his 2011 debut Sunday at Miami. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Arian Foster returned to Houston Texans practice and took the normal repetitions for a starter during his workout.

It was a promising sign for the NFL’s 2010 rushing leader who missed Sunday’s 34-7 rout of Indianapolis with a hamstring injury that his bothered him for the last month.

How Foster feels following Thursday’s practice will likely determine his status for Sunday’s game at Miami. But if he’s able to return to the lineup, Texans coach Gary Kubiak says he won’t limit his top running back’s role.

“If he can play, you play. There won’t be being careful with him. You may say this is how many times he’s going to touch it, but you can’t do something half speed out there. We’d have to see, but if he’s ready to go, he puts us at our best and he’ll be out there.”

Houston’s running game did just fine without Foster in Week 1, ripping through Indy’s porous defense for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 41 carries. Veteran Derrick Ward got the start and scored the game’s first touchdown, but later left with an injury that opened the door for second-year back Ben Tate, who piled up 116 yards and a short touchdown on 24 carries. Ward was in a walking boot at practice Wednesday nursing his sprained right ankle, so if Foster is forced to sit again, count on Tate getting the lion’s share of the carries once again.

Hamstring injuries can be tricky and often nag players long-term if they don’t allow the muscle sufficient time to heal. Foster and the Texans both know how vital he is to their quest for their first division title, meaning they won’t rush him back if he’s not ready to go.

“It felt good,” Foster said Wednesday after practice. “It was pretty fluid, but you’ve got to ease along hamstring injuries, so I’m just going to take it day by day and see how I feel.”

Two weeks ago Foster downplayed the severity of his injury by tweeting an image of his MRI along with his “anti-awesomeness” diagnosis. He later lashed out at fantasy owners for their selfish interests regarding their top draft pick.