The first weekend of Texans training camp has wrapped up and fans were treated to 2½ practices that they were able to witness live and in person.
Two-and-a-half practices due to the Saturday afternoon practice being moved inside the bubble about an hour early because of lightning in the area, and the Sunday afternoon outdoor practice being cancelled altogether because of (guess what?) rain.
The Saturday morning practice was the best from a weather perspective. It was a little muggy of course (this is Houston) but it was overcast which helped keep the "feels like" index about 15-20 degrees lower than it could have been.
Saturday afternoon was hot (what do you expect - it's Houston and it's July) and Sunday morning was extremely oppressive (ditto) with temps in the 80's, zero breeze, not a cloud in the sky, and humidity of about 1000%.
Aside from the weather, how was it you ask? It was great. It was football for the first time in more than seven months.
Note to Mom's and Dad's, you might want to leave the infants at home with the babysitter.
Note deux to the fashion conscious, this is two hours of your life when stylin' doesn't matter. Dress for comfort. I thought some of our cheerleaders were going to melt out there. I have a feeling those shiny skin-tights are not 100% cotton. Light and loose should be the order of the day.
It looked like the players were handling the heat better than some the fans, although I heard someone on the field mention survival of the fittest. I guess that's true when you consider the heat, the playbook, the physical exertion, the mano-a-mano nature of it all, and the minor detail that a lot of guys are fighting for their livelihoods out there.
Despite the heat, practices have been spirited and crisp. Players were obviously feeling it but the trainers make sure that they all hydrate frequently during the two-hour sessions.
The tradeoff for a couple weeks in the heat is that the Texans have one of the most desirable training camp arrangements in the league. No bus trips to San Angelo or River Falls or Tuckahoe. It's all right here (thanks to Bob). And it's here for us to enjoy.
When first arriving at practice, I always feel like a kid in a candy store wanting to watch everything all at once, and it makes me mad when I'm watching the beauty of o-line drills (for example) and the crowd lets out a roar from behind me. Oh well.
But after a while, you learn to focus on a unit or a player and everything settles down. That's when you start noticing things. The 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's are always a favorite of the fans in the stands because it's as close to real football that you can get on July 28.
Many of you have asked "how did [insert player name here] look?" Yes, there have been some impressive things happening on the practice field, but right now I'm just crossing my fingers that they all get through the next two weeks – and the next four after that – without serious injury. We already lost a promising young RB and there are a few others hobbling around.
At this point, I usually take off on my rant about the preseason being too long, but I'll save that for another time. Let's wait until the Bears game to start dissecting our potential Hall of Famers.
Back to the training camp experience.
All the sessions were extremely well attended. Fans packed the bleachers and the north end zones of two practice fields.
Players signed autographs for excited fans before and after practice.
Outside the seating area, there is a fan zone with games for kids, food and drink booths, autograph stations with Texans Cheerleaders and 'Texans Ambassadors' who are former Oilers players and players from the Houston area who are keeping the great NFL and AFL legacy in Houston alive. I had the pleasure of meeting Jacob Green and Kenny Burrough at the Saturday morning practice.
A few other observations:
- The Brandons (Harrison and Mitchell) bring some very noticeable size to the secondary, as does Fred Bennett. Only time will tell how well they can cover receivers
- Jamar Fletcher appears smaller than the advertised 5-10, 186.
- Jordan Black was wearing No. 71 all weekend with Thomas Smith wearing No. 72.
- Victor DeGrate and Chris White are both wearing No. 63.
- Drew Hodgdon is getting reps at second-team right guard. Kasey Studdard was playing second team left guard.
- Brandon Frye turned his ankle and was wearing a boot and not practicing on Sunday morning.
- Jon Abbate is getting a lot of reps at fullback with Jameel Cook sidelined. He's definitely not afraid of contact and held his own in a head-on collision with Shantee Orr Sunday morning.
- What we've heard about Schaub appears to be accurate. He's not the athlete we're used to seeing back there and doesn't have the biggest arm, but his location and timing on passes is very good. He is at least 6-4 and with his high over-the-top delivery, there will be fewer batted balls this year. He executed some very good play-action fakes over the weekend, and he appears to have good footwork in the pocket.
- Second-team linebackers were Shawn Barber (strong), Danny Clark (middle), and Shantee Orr (weak) most of the weekend. Charlie Anderson has replaced Orr at first-team strong side backer – at least for now.
- Matt Turk noticeably out-kicked Chad Stanley in hang time and distance during an extended punt team drill Saturday afternoon. Turk is a big man (6-5, 240) and when his foot contacts the ball you can't help but notice the thud echo throughout the complex.
There are three more public practice sessions:
- Thursday, August 2, 7:15 - 9:15 pm (gates open at 6:15);
- Saturday, August 4, 8:30 – 11:00 am (gates open at 7:30);
- Wednesday, August 15, 7:15 – 9:15 pm (gates open at 6:15)
Dress appropriately and we'll see you there.
You can email Alan Burge at: email@example.com