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Anthony Weaver speaks to the media after reporting to training camp.

In many ways, defensive end Mario Williams probably is a microcosm of the Houston Texans entering this season.

As the players reported for training camp Thursday afternoon, Williams knew it. He is the player with high expectations who didn't quite reach all of them last year – just as the Texans were in 2006.

And he comes into training camp with less pressure, but just as high personal expectations – just as the Texans are now.

"As far as the team, coming out strong and working on being a unit is all I'm worrying about," Williams said. "Expectations are high, not only for me, but for the team. Winning is the only thing that matters and that's what we expect to do."

A year ago, Williams entered camp as the No. 1 draft pick and drew huge media attention. That has all calmed down now and he's glad.

"They kind of wear you down, especially in the position I was in last year," Williams said of the media blitz. "It's a big relief for me right now."

The Texans all seemed a bit relieved as they arrived at Reliant Stadium Thursday. Much will be expected of coach Gary Kubiak's second season, after the team won three of its last five to finish 6-10. Included in that run was the franchise's first-ever victory over Indianapolis, the last time the Colts lost on their way to the Super Bowl championship.

The strong finish is part of the reason the Texans come into training camp with such optimism.

"We're leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "I think it's just because of the experience the young guys got last year and the way we finished the season. I expect great things out of guys like DeMeco (Ryans) and Ahman (Green)."

Another reason for optimism is the presence of quarterback Matt Schaub, who will replace the much maligned David Carr. Schaub came over in an offseason trade with Atlanta in time to make the Texans' April OTAs – organized team activities – and his teammates already are impressed.

"I think he's a really good leader," tight end Owen Daniels said. "That's what you need at that position and it was kind of lacking in the past.

"The quarterback needs to be a field general and that's the type of person Matt is. He's just a great guy to be around."

{QUOTE}Carr suffered through five seasons of losing and 272 sacks, including an NFL record 76 in 2002 before being given a reprieve and a chance to move on to another team. Schaub played little behind Michael Vick in Atlanta the last three years, but already has his teammates excited.

"Schaub is a great guy," running back Ron Dayne said. "He's a great leader and he already knows the plays so he should do all right."

"I thing it's going to be an entire change in attitude here now," Weaver said. "I loved David (Carr), but sometimes when things go like that, they can get stale. With Matt, we have a whole new start."

Schaub can't wait to get started.

"I've gotten to know my teammates and I've gotten a feel for them," Schaub said. "That's what you want so everything just clicks. I feel good. It's time to get to work."

Schaub doesn't even wince when asked about his offensive line, which likely will be without tackle Charles Spencer for much of the season.

"I'm 100 percent confident in my offensive line," Schaub said. "These guys are healthy and they're young and I think we're all on the same page. We know what we have to do."

The players also are excited about the addition of Green, who has 8,491 yards in nine seasons in the NFL, as well as nine-year veteran linebacker Shawn Barber.

"The feeling is a lot better than the past now just because of the veteran guys we've added who have been on winning teams," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "Guys like Green and Barber have not only played well, but have been winners. They've led their teams and they can show us how to win."

Everyone agrees a winning season would be a huge relief.

"It's been very frustrating," Robinson said. "Nobody wants to lose, and each year we've lost wears on you.

"But I think this year we have a chance to turn things around. I'm just real excited."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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