General manager Rick Smith was part of a large contingent of Texans at the 2012 Pro Bowl. Smith joined the team's coaching, training, equipment, video and operations staffs as they led the AFC all-star team in Honolulu for the week.
The 2011 season was Smith's sixth with the Texans. He made a bevy of moves last offseason to help propel the Texans into the playoffs for the first time, drafting defensive end J.J. Watt, outside linebacker Brooks Reed and quarterback T.J. Yates and signing cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning in the lockout-abbreviated free agency period.
Texans TV's Drew Dougherty interviewed Smith at the Pro Bowl resort in Ko'olina on Saturday of Pro Bowl week. The following is a transcript of the interview.
What a way to finish what was an amazing 2011, isn't it?
"It is. And it's certainly an honor and a pleasure to be out here with all these great football players. But the season, while it ended in a way that we didn't want, it certainly when you look back and reflect on it and some of the accomplishments that we were able to get, I think everybody feels good about where we are and where we're going."
Let's talk about the three players who are here, starting with Johnathan Joseph. Obviously, that was probably a pretty frenzied late July for you getting him and Danieal Manning. What has he meant to this ballclub, and how nice is it to see him here?
"Well, it's really nice for him. He's a heck of a football player. Has been a heck of a football player for many years, and that was obviously one of the reasons why we felt like we wanted to add him to our group. And he has just come in and been everything that we wanted him to be and more. His leadership on the field, I think everybody sees, but what you don't see is his leadership off the field and what he does in that room with the rest of his teammates, how he leads on the practice field and then obviously how that translates on to the field during Sunday afternoons. That's what he's really done a great job for us (with), and I'm just pleased with his addition. And Danieal, you mentioned Danieal Manning. Same thing. High-character guy who works every day in practice and has been a real good addition to our football team."
Those guys are both defensive leaders that you just mentioned. Antonio Smith, certainly a defensive leader. He's a captain. Has he become what you thought, you envisioned he would become a couple years ago when you signed him?
"Absolutely. And a lot of people, he has really flown under the radar in a lot of respects because hse hasn't had the big productive numbers, but he has been a cog in our defense since we brought him in here and he has evolved as a leader in the locker room. And it was good to see him be named as a captain this year and good to see him start to have some production, and it's great to see him here in Hawaii and get the recognition that I think he so truly deserves."
It's no coincidence that leaders tend to make it out here. Chris Myers certainly falls in that category. What a trade a few years ago (a sixth-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos in 2008) for a guy who's wound up being an anchor on the line, right?
"Yeah, it really was. And again, you talk about somebody who you had an idea what you wanted him to be for your football team, and certainly we had that idea. Knowing Chris from our Denver days and knowing that he had sat and watched Tom Nalen play the position and be a leader on the line, thinking that he was made of that same kind of deal, and he has really been a great teammate for our football team, a great leader on that line. People talk about our offensive line and how good it is, and it starts with him."
Fun in Hawaii, but when you get back, the frenzied period begins. What's next?
"Obviously, we're in this beautiful environment now, but I did actually go to Mobile last week and worked a few days at the Senior Bowl. And so obviously, that's going on right now. The Combine is not far away. We've got to come back and get together as a group and talk about the free agents that are gonna be available in March, and so it continues. So we've got the free agent process and that period to think and talk about, and then we've obviously got some players on our football team that are unrestricted free agents that we've got to address their contract situations and then continue to prepare for the draft."
Last thing: Pretty special father-son trip out here, isn't it?
"It is. I've got my son Robert with me. We just brought him. It's just a boys' trip, and it's been fantastic for him to be around these players and to enjoy a little bit of father-son time. Especially now, because as we just talked about, I'm on the road a lot this time of year, so it's good to have some time with him."