(Eds: Adds details, quotes. With AP Photos.) By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer The Houston Texans are trying not to put too much pressure on first-round pick Whitney Mercilus as the rookie adjusts to the NFL.
But the outside linebacker may have made things harder on himself: He is wearing the jersey number of Houston's former star middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was traded to Philadelphia this offseason.
He is aware of what Ryans did in that jersey and likes the high expectations that come with wearing it.
''The challenge is stepping up to expectations, especially fans throwing it out there,'' he said. (They say) `You know, you've got big shoes to fill.' I don't mind it at all. I'm just out here just trying to get better and make a name for myself.''
Ryans was a second-round draft pick who was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 before making two Pro Bowls and leaving Houston as the franchise leader in career tackles with 636 in his six-year career.