Following are excerpts from coach Gary Kubiak and players following the eighteenth day of the Texans' 2006 training camp.
**Head Coach Gary Kubiak:
(on the changes in the kick/punt returners for this weekend)** "Well, one guy we want to take a good look at kick returner this week is (RB Damien) Rhodes. Of course (CB) Phillip (Buchanon), Phillip will be returning punts.After that we want to give (WR) Richie Ross a chance to return some punts this week, as well. That's a little bit of a change up from last week."
(on CB Phillip Buchanon returning punts) "I think he's explosive. There's no reason why he shouldn't be one of the top guys in this league. Coming out he was that way, he's done it in pro ball, and he has to do it for this team. We have to be able to win three ways, and if you can make big plays like that in special teams it gives you a chance."
(on how Phillip has separated himself from the others) "He's as good and comfortable at catching the ball on punts as I've seen. That has to be number one, he has to protect the ball. That's natural for him, and then his instincts take over. I'm just looking forward to watching him do that for a full year."
(on returning punts helping Buchanon's self-esteem as a player) "I think it helps him a lot. There are three corners in football that you really look at as starters because you see so much substitution in this league. We're going to play three corners all the time. (CB) Lewis (Sanders) has earned the right to be the starting corner at that spot. Throughout being a returner and punt returner and everything else, Phillip is going to be on that field as much as anybody. When he's out there we have to give him a chance to help this team win, and he should be able to do that as a returner."
(on his routine for this Saturday's game) "We're actually going to still meet on some of that today. The game plan basically is to play our starters for about a quarter and a half up to an entire half, depending on how many reps that is. Then play our twos from there, and our threes will play at sometime in the fourth quarter. Basically it's going to move back a little bit, but the starters could play up to a full half."
(on doing more game planning for this game than last game) "We still approach it like a preseason game. Next week we'll prepare like it's a regular season game from how we teach and how we meet. We're still fairly basic this week on what we're doing. We want to look at a lot of people, so we don't want to get too confusing. It's pretty much the same routine as last week."
(on G Chester Pitts) "Well, he's had a good camp. He's battled some nicks and bruises that he had to work through. I think he's played better as camp has gone on trying to grasp what we do. I think he still has a long way to go, but if he keeps working, he'll get there. He has to play well for us. He's been the guy that has been here since day one for this organization. I think people expect a lot from him. I know I expect a lot out of him. There's another level for Chester as a player to reach that's going to help this team, and we have to go find it this year."
(on Pitt's character) "I think it says a lot because you look at guys like him and (QB) David (Carr), and they've been here from the start busting their tail. When you go through something like last year and a player keeps battling, I think it says a lot about what they stand for."
(on changing up the defensive line) "Our ideal situation would be to start (Anthony) Weaver at one end and Mario (Williams) at the other. To do that, this team has to continue to find another inside player. Whether that's going to happen or not, I don't know. How far Alfred (Malone) comes, how far (Earl) Cochran comes, that will be a key to that. We know that Mario and Anthony can play inside and out. When it's all said and done, we have to play our best four. We have to figure that out through a little movement, and we're going to do that in preseason."
(on DE/DT Anthony Weaver) "He's a real pro. He's a great kid, he busts his tail on every down. We took votes last week, and I asked the players to vote for four players to represent there team in the preseason. These guys are not captains, we are going to decide who our captains are when we get to Philadelphia. We are going to send one guy out a week. Those top vote-getters were (WR) Andre Johnson, (DE/DT) Anthony Weaver, (QB) David Carr and (WR) Eric Moulds. I wanted the team to sit there and think about it, who they wanted to represent them right now. I wanted to see where we were at and I really wasn't surprised with the way the votes turned out. I don't think it was surprising to anybody."
(on the growth of CB Phillip Buchanon) "I think (defensive backs coach) Jon Hoke does a hell of a job with him. There is nothing you can do about a hamstring as a coach. When he is healthy he will come back and play. He missed a lot of quality time as a player. Phillip Buchanon has to step up, play well and return well. He has to let his teammates know that he is ready to help them win. I expect him to do that. He has worked well this week. He is going to play a ton this week, so it is time to start stepping to the plate."
(on RB Domanick Davis) "Domanick has been very positive for the last two days. You guys saw him running, he ran very well last night. (head athletic trainer) Kevin (Bastin) felt real good about it. He will not make the trip. He will stay back and continue to get treatment."
(on DT Travis Johnson) "Travis Johnson is doing a good job. He actually played very well last week. He can play better and he knows it. He is busting his tail. I think he is having a good camp. He needs to have a great camp and he needs to have a great year for this football team. He is making strides, so regardless of what you all might see where he is lining up third group, second group I would not put to much stock into to that. I want you all to know that he is making progress."
(on TE Bennie Joppru) "He understands that it is the start of preseason. We have a young tight end here that we drafted and he is having a great camp. Bennie understands the battle that he is in, his strength for us will be being a jack of all trades. He is giving us everything he has got and I am looking forward to seeing him play a lot more this week."
(on TE Bennie Joppru overall) "I think initially in camp he was very good. He really battled his body for about a week and struggled with nicks, his knee was bothering him a little bit. He has worked through that, which that has been impressive. He did a nice couple of things in the game the other night. We just need to give him a chance to do some more this week."
(on the inside of the defensive line) "I think Robaire Smith has played solid for us. When Anthony Weaver was in there he played extremely well. Travis Johnson is making progress. Seth Payne is a guy who is going to give you everything he has got every play. We are going to rotate those players. If we do find another inside player to go with Seth Payne, Robaire Smith, Travis Johnson, then we would like to play Anthony Weaver outside more. We are going to prepare as if we have chance for that to happen."
(on being a starter) "It's always important for a guy to stand up before the national anthem and say 'I'm a starter'. Those people should be on the field more than others, but we are going to play a lot of defensive linemen."
(on DE Antwan Peek) "He's rushing the passer very well, that's his strength. He will do that fine, we have to get him playing the run better. He's always played well for (defensive backs coach) Joe (Hoke). We have to coach around his strengths, and get him to the point to where he plays the run well enough."
(on the quarterback rotation this weekend) "David (Carr) will play up to a half, depending on how many reps he gets. Then Sage (Rosenfels) will take over, and at the end we will take a look at Cody Pickett. Quinton (Porter) will not play this week. He did a great job last week, but I want to look at Cody, so he'll come back and play in a week."
(on one running back separating himself from the pack thus far) "I definitely envision us playing more than one guy. Just to tell you guys how we're going to do that this week because we did make that decision last night. We're going to play Wali (Lundy), (Vernand) Morency and (Damien) Rhodes. Those are the three guys we're going to play this week. It doesn't mean Antowain (Smith) won't play. He could, but our perfect situation would be to play three players."
(on playing multiple running backs in the regular season) "We'll play two for sure, we might play three. We'll definitely have a system where we'll rotate before so we're not just wearing out one guy. I think you have to have two on game day to be effective."
Post Afternoon Comments
**Head Coach Gary Kubiak:
(on blasting crowd noise during practice)** "That's a big adjustment for your football team getting ready to play on the road and handle the noise, especially when you're trying to get 90 guys to handle the noise. It's different when you have your squad cut down during the season. I'm just trying to make sure that it won't be a shock to them. We'll probably do a little bit more tomorrow morning."
(on his expectations for Saturday) "I'm expecting us to go there and play well. We're practicing well. Our guys are practicing hard and they're working hard. I like their attitude and I expect them to get better. That's what I'm looking for."
(on the team after the first preseason game) "This team is working hard. It has a purpose every day that they're out here. (The team) has a lot of competition. A lot of guys are fighting for a job, and we're expecting to go out there and play the way we've been practicing, and we've had some good practices."
(on how the team has come together) "I like what I've seen. We've got a long way to go, but you can tell today that there are some guys tired of beating on each other, and everybody is on edge a little bit. That's a good thing, it means we're getting closer to the season, and we need to keep our cool. We need to keep our focus and keep working."
(on seeing players fighting in practice) "I don't want to see that. We have to keep our poise in everything that we're doing. You understand that its football, but they have to let it go, it can't hurt the football team. We have to get ready to play. As long as we can let it go and go to the next play, that's important."
(on T Charles Spencer playing with the first team at left tackle) "Yes, he and Seth (Wand) will split the whole game, but Spencer will start the game this week. We're doing that at a lot of spots. (LB) Morlon (Greenwood) will start this week. All those guys that were splitting time last week we are going to starters."
(on G Fred Weary) "Yes, we'll rotate three guards the whole time. Between (G) Steve (McKinney), (G) Chester (Pitts) and Fred they'll play for a good period of time."
(on working Fred Weary and Steve McKinney at center) "We have not. That has been our plan to work Steve there, but he's been beat up. We've been trying to settle him down and get him his reps at guard, and we'll work on that over the course of the next couple of weeks."
(on RB Vernand Morency starting) "No, he's not going to start. Wali Lundy will, and then Vernand will play. I think it will be Wali, Vernand and Damien Rhodes will handle the game at halfback this week."
**QB David Carr:
(on confidence on C Mike Flanagan)** "Definitely, I think that just comes with being more confident in your system. It's hard to exude that confidence when you don't believe in what's going on, or you're having trouble getting things going. Right now, the last couple of weeks, and even in the spring, I feel really comfortable behind Mike knowing that the stuff is going to work and the scheme is in place. I can be free and play ball. Guys see that confidence. They see my comfort level in the huddle and everything, so it kind of rubs off on them."
(on the offense executing better with fewer penalties) "I think it just comes from doing the same thing over and over. That's really what they do. Football is not a hard game if you don't try and screw it up. You can easily go in there with a million different plays and different formations. We run the same plays, but put them in different formations, kind of like smoke and mirrors for the defense. It's all the same for us, so if you run it enough, you're going to get comfortable with it, whether there is crowd noise, whether it's your home fans in the stands, so it doesn't really matter."
(on being utilized in the running game) "I did a little bit in high school and college, but since I've been here, not too much. I've done it improvise-wise, trying to get out of the pocket and run around. They kind of like the fact that I run around a little bit. They've used me obviously on the nakeds and keeps in the running game. It's good, I like it."
(on the offensive line) "I feel really good. I think the biggest thing for them, and me too and the wide receivers, is just to be able to run the ball well. It's just that last week we didn't run the ball much, but I wasn't just seven yards deep into the pocket every time. I was moving outside and a couple of times I dropped back. With the limited amount of stuff we did, I wasn't in the same spot. I think that helps the offensive line more than when people know because it's kind of easy when you get four defensive linemen in there and they say 'OK, the quarterback is going to be eight yards back there'. They're going to eventually get to you, but if you move the pocket and move guys around, it helps everybody out."
**T Charles Spencer:
(on catching some passes)** "I still have the hands. I used to catch passes all the time with my quarterback at Pittsburgh. Some things you just never let go."
(on getting the starting spot) "It's competition at left tackle, (T) Seth Wand and I are both working hard every day. We are pushing each other to be better; this team needs a great left tackle."