Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano addresses the special teams group during a training camp practice.
Members of the team spoke to the media following practice on Friday morning. Here is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano Texans fullback Boomer Grigsby Texans cornerback Fred Bennett
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak (morning practice)
(on the morning's practice session) "We're just getting a little special teams work. They voted to come outside instead of inside, so we have to check their IQ."
(on who voted) "The players voted. They wanted to come outside, so we're outside."
(on why they'd want to do that) "You have to ask them. It's pretty warm out here."
(on linebackers coach Johnny Holland's contribution to the team) "Well, Johnny is a very detailed guy. Just really does a good job of teaching. He relates to players extremely well, a former player coaching from that perspective. But his players think a lot of him and play hard for him, so Johnny is a fine football coach."
(on Holland's film and preparation habits) "Well that's the way he played the game, it's the type of player he was. He was a former quarterback in high school turned linebacker turned great pro player, so his path and when he looked at some of these young guys, he wants to make sure they take the right path. Those guys really listen when a guy like that walks in the room."
(on his assessment of camp so far now that the team is one week in) "Well, I feel good. I think it's been a good week. We're nicked up right now, which you are at this time of camp, so we're having to do some adjustment from that standpoint, but the thing I've been most impressed with about our team is the core players, our veteran players are in great condition. We've had less IVs this year than we've ever had since I've been here. I think (strength and conditioning coach) Ray (Wright) has done a great job with them, and now we just kinda have to reel them back in here over the course of the next week and get them on the field to compete against Kansas City."
(on how crucial the team's conditioning level has been this camp) "It's really big. Those guys, in the condition they're in, and how you're able to hold up, the more you can work when you can hold up, and we've held up pretty darn good."
(on the importance of CB Fred Bennett stepping up in light of recent injuries at his position) "It was important before. It was very important, because the opportunity that he's getting now as a player, it's time for him to do that if he's going to be a starter and an active starter in this league for a long time, so importance doesn't change."
(on Bennett's "sophomore slump" after his rookie year in 2007) "Well, I think a lot of that had to do with Jacques (Reeves) playing so well, Dunta (Robinson) came back, so Fred kinda got caught in the mix from that standpoint. That's part of the NFL. It's not easy, it's tough, and it's hard to get to the top and even harder to stay on top if you're a starter, so he's figuring that out. I think he's figuring out how fragile that opportunity is and here we go again, so we'll see what happens."
(on if he has liked Bennett's camp performance so far) "Yeah, I really do. He's very professional, he doesn't say much at all. He's just going about his business. To ask a third-year guy to be the old man in the group is kind of tough, but that's where we're at right now."
(on if he feels like the team is on schedule at this point in camp) "Yeah, we're on schedule, but I think it changes every day in camp. You can wake up tomorrow and have some other problems, so you just deal with them day to day. The toughest week in training camp in the National Football League is the first one, and now they get a game to look forward to at the end of each week. So the perspective changes, but I feel good. We need to have a good afternoon, a good morning (on Saturday), finish the week the right way."
(on offensive assistant Bruce Matthews' impact as a coach) "Well, he's just a special person. It's been great to be around him for all of us as coaches, just tremendous man. I think the football part speaks for itself, our players really respect him, they call on him, they ask him questions, they listen to him when he speaks. He's like E.F. Hutton—if he says something, they're going to listen. He's got a great personality, and he's blending in extremely well. This one will be a great coach. If this is what he wants to do, he'll be as good as he wants to be. His knowledge of the game, and his work habits and what he does and the way he can relate to people. Y'all know what type of guy he is. If this is something he wants to do at this stage in his life, now that most of his kids are grown up, he can do anything he wants to do."
(on WR Jacoby Jones becoming more assertive in team environments off the field) "No, I've never had that problem with him. I don't know if you can be aggressive in meetings, it's just about what you get out of meetings. Just because you're in there for two hours doesn't mean that you get two hours of work done, so I think in the past that was the case, but I think that he's starting to figure that out. He's had a good week, a good week of camp, and he's playing a little tougher as a player, in my mind, both physically and mentally, and lets give him the long haul. Lets see. That's what we're looking for—consistency."
(on what LT Duane Brown has done this week in camp) "Yeah, Duane is one of those guys that you don't even know he's out here. He doesn't say anything, just does his job. He's a better player this year. That's what you look for (when) guys go to year two or year three. Is he better than he was last year? No doubt."
(on whether CB Deltha O'Neal will be in uniform for the afternoon practice) "Deltha won't. He probably won't until we get him a little better conditioned. So we'll just keep working on him, Ray (Wright) will work with him on the side and we'll make a decision from there."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak (afternoon practice)
(on the team's injury status) "We've got a bunch of guys with a bunch of nicks. Let's see, Mike Jones, the receiver, missed this afternoon. Simmons came back this afternoon. It's nothing unusual that what we've had, it's just our numbers are down. I'll tell you what, it's making us better, because we've got some young guys who are really stepping up, getting opportunities to play and taking advantage of it. Practice was very competitive this afternoon, very good."
(on DE Connor Barwin's play today) "He gets off the ball. That's his specialty. He's athletic, he's got great get off, and he's learning from (defensive line coach) Bill (Kollar) with what we're asking of him. And all the tools are there, it's just a matter of him becoming a pro and knowing what's happening, and you kind of see it getting better every day."
(on wanting to see guys at game speed next weekend versus the Chiefs) "Oh, no doubt. We'll settle on that about the middle of next week, but one of the things going on with our team right now is that because some of the nicks and stuff, these guys are all getting more reps. More reps out here means more reps once you start playing, too, so we'll see what happens. Don't be surprised if some guys really step up and surprise the heck out of all of us."
(on if the decision to move up Saturday morning's practice to 8 was to avoid the heat) "Naturally, it's going to help us a half-hour. I don't like them out there if it's wet, I worry about that, guys slipping around, so I'm going to do it tomorrow and see how things pan out, and if we like it, it gets us off the field a half-hour earlier and I'm going to give them a break tomorrow afternoon and stuff, so just kind of check it out tomorrow and see if I want to continue to do it."
(on the work of the team's training staff) "Well, they do a great job. I've got to rely on (head athletic trainer) Geoff (Kaplan) to tell me exactly how I should be handling those players. 'He can go, he can't go, need to push this guy, don't push this guy, he needs a break.' I meet with Geoff as much as I do my coaches every day. And those guys usually have a pulse of your team, probably as good as anybody because they're down there in that training room and the locker room with them all day."
(on changes in the defensive scheme) "Well we really haven't changed scheme, we changed thought process, teaching, basically understanding how I want to go about it, but as far as changing something drastically, we haven't done that. We needed to carry over a lot of things we did well, we just need to get better at many other things. I think the transition has been good, they've taken to (defensive coordinator) Frank (Bush), they've taken to (defensive backs coach) Dave (Gibbs) and (defensive line coach) Bill (Kollar), and this group is working good together."
Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano
(on eliminating the wedge) "Well, rules are rules. It's equal sticks for everybody, so everybody's got to try to figure it out."
(on how he's figuring it out) "Well, I think everybody's going to have two fat boys in there. Two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, and you can't put three and four of them in there anymore. I don't see how you could because if they can't join the wedge, then they're going to block somebody in open space, and that's not fair to a big guy. When you get three or four or the old Detroit wedge where they had five guys in that wedge, they could all be shoulder pad-to-shoulder pad and let the little guys come to them, that's what they used to do. So, I think it eliminates your personnel. I think if you're going to have a two-man wedge, your two big boys ought to be in that wedge."
(on if a two-man wedge is the limit) "Two men only, yeah."
(on if that will be his approach) "Yeah."
(on how far apart they will stand) "The two big boys? They're going to be shoulder pad-to-shoulder pad. But nobody else can be shoulder pad-to-shoulder pad."
(on how far apart the rest of special teams will stand) "They tell me three yards, but we're teaching our guys four so we don't walk the grey area because the penalty is too severe. You get three guys in the wedge and that forms up at, say, the 12, the flag is thrown. If they form a three-man wedge at the 12, immediately the flag comes and you're starting at the six, so the penalty is too severe, yeah."
(on how this is being stressed in camp) "Yeah, re-writing the book. A lot of guys had to re-write the book, everybody except San Francisco. They've been doing that, (49ers special teams coordinator) Al's (Everest) been doing that all his career, the two-man wedge."
(on if he likes the two-man wedge) "Yeah, it's fine. It eliminates a lot of headaches on kickoff coverage because you have different wedge fits, you know. If you have a three-man wedge, a four-man wedge, Detroit five-man wedge, you've got to know where to fit in there. You can't just go there and get two guys in one gap. It eliminates a lot of problems on coverage."
(on if it impacts who makes the team) "On special teams? That's always been the case."
(on if it's going to impact the make-up of the club) "No."
(on his assessment of special teams a week into camp) "I've got a long way to go – a long way to go. Rookie mistakes, veterans making mistakes, you know. The only good thing is (K) Kris (Brown) is hitting the ball really well and (P) Matt's (Turk) hitting the ball really well. Geez, man, those guys are good. The rookies aren't further along as they should be. They didn't retain from the OTAs. We come out and do the same drills competitively and combatively, the same drills we did in teach mode, and they have no retention. Some of the veterans don't have any retention, sometimes."
(on if he would have said the same thing about progress last year) "Well, last year was a little bit different because we had some new guys for the first time. You know, (LB Kevin) Bentley was new, (LB Chaun) Thompson. We had some new guys that we had to teach our system. The problem is, I'm not saying I know it all, believe me, but when they come from other teams they have some habits that they get away with that I don't like, so they've got to do it my way. Again, I tell them, if you've got a better way to do it, show me on tape where it's better. So, I do it my way; I've been doing it a long time."
(on if he was more forgiving last year because of the new players) "Yeah."
(on his conversation with RB Andre Hall) "I introduced myself to him, I said, 'I'm the special teams coach,' and right away he said, 'Oh, you're going to love me. I love covering kickoffs. You're going to love me, Coach. You're going to love me.' I see the first drill he did, he went around, all the way around, he went the wrong way. We explained the drill. He took the path of least resistance, you know. He took the path of least resistance."
(on that path taking too long) "Yeah, you don't take the easy way, you take the road less traveled and lead a trail, I told him."
(on if coaches need to be more hands-on now versus in decades past) "I've had my moments, you know. I've had my moments where I go back to the old school. I'm still old school mentality, but there's enough guys out here yelling. I yell in a meeting every now and then. It's going to take a lot for me to yell, it's going to test my patience to really curse a guy. I'm not into that. I used to be into that, I used to throw tapes at guys, shoot it at them toward the wall above their heads."
(on if he has changed or the game has changed) "The game hasn't changed. The game has not changed. The players are the same players. When I got in this league in '86, we got the same players in there, they just have different names, different faces. We've got some great guys and we've got some guys we've always got to keep our thumb on all the time. But the game hasn't changed. I still show tape of Bennie Thompson, Steve Tasker, the tackling of Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders. I still got all those tapes. What I coached then, I coach now. The principles of football don't change."
(on why he stopped throwing tapes and backed off) "Well, a guy's really got to test my patience, you know. Being a dad at a late age has helped me, too. That has taught me. We're in a profession that everything has got to be perfect right now, first time. It's not that way. It's just not that way. I've learned from raising a boy, my son, that you've got to have patience, especially with a special needs son like I've got. You've got to have patience. He's come along fine, so that has helped me transform into having some patience with these guys. Plus, I've got a job, you know. I've got a job. I tell those guys, 'I'm not going to yell at you. If you do this, you're going to be out of work. I've got to work, you're looking to get work. So it's easy. It's easy. Where else can you go make minimum wage outside of football – where else can you go and come to work in underwear – where else, and go make $325,000? Try doing it my way.' That's all I say. Plus, being around Tony Dungy has helped. He's not a yeller and those guys will run through a wall for him. So it's a combination of being around T.D. and being a dad, having some patience. Also, use the right word. Use sentences that push the right buttons. I talked to (LB) Cato June yesterday and said, 'Hey, were you not out at practice yesterday?' 'No, I was.' 'Well, I'm not noticing you out there. You haven't done anything.' Then I walk away, you know? Use the right words."
(on final roster spots coming down to special teams) "That will never change. You know, if you keep five safeties. Right now the safety position, for me, all six guys are good enough to go play special teams. There's no doubt. We've got some good safeties. Some of these safeties may not get to play on defense at all during a game; same thing with the linebackers. When I was on a 3-4 team, you kept eight linebackers. Those seventh and eighth guys, they're not playing (on defense). So they better be bell cows for me, like (former Texans LB) Troy Evans was. He wouldn't ever play, he still doesn't play, but they love him in New Orleans."
"The biggest difference is when I got here, from 2002 to now, half our roster if you go back and look at our roster and see where they came from, there were street free agents. There were guys that were on the street, Matt Stevens and Chris Carter, that was a safety playing for me. They were out of work, so we had to put a team together. They couldn't play for anyone else. Nobody else wanted them, but they could come make our team. Now, we've got guys that we're going to cut, I guarantee, you watch how many guys get picked up from this team. We got guys who can play. We've got some good problems. You know, those four tight ends, (TE James) Casey is a long way off on special teams, but I'm training him to maybe be the snapper. He can be the long snapper or short snapper. He's never done it. He and (DE Connor) Barwin, they're like Jim Thorpe, you know? They can do everything."
(on if repetition is how you train someone to be a deep snapper) "Yeah, practice a specific skill. I mean, (TE James) Casey was a quarterback, so that helps. He can throw. You show him the motion. I did it. I snapped a perfect spiral back to him. So he did it, and did the perfect spiral. So if he can do that, he can put two hands on the ball and do it. If you watch on Monday, he'll be snapping for us."
(on what will be the most difficult part of long-snapping for TE James Casey) "Opening day, opening day, opening day. When we play the Jets and (Jets special teams coordinator) Mike Westhoff is smart enough to know we have a rookie snapper in there, he's coming. You'd better believe it. They're going to try to expose him. So it's up to me to give him all the hard stuff in practice."
Texans FB Boomer Grigsby
(on having the right perspective) "I take the utmost pride in taking everything in the best perspective. I'm a realist and a dreamer, and I will try to conquer the world but at the same time you have to set realistic goals and know your role. I have had some great coaches that taught me a lot of interesting things as far as being a pro and not confusing effort with results. I have always considered myself a really big effort guy, but also another big thing is understanding your role on this team. I know the player that I am, I know what I'm capable of and so do the Houston Texans. They know that tomorrow, I'm not going to come out on this field and be Larry Csonka. I'm a realist and I'm ok with that. I'm going to do what I have to do to get on the field and help this team win."
(on looking toward the Kansas City game) "I'm excited for it. I had a wonderful career in Kansas City. I look back and it was some of the best years of my life. Ever since I was drafted, this entire pro football thing has been a roller coaster. I was the type to want to bring everybody along for the ride with me. Fortunately for me, the fans in Kansas City and the people with the blue-collar demeanor there really hit it off and I made a lot of unbelievable relationships. I'm looking forward to going back there."
(on describing himself) "I'm not the most flamboyant of people, but at the same time I think people understand that I live life to its fullest. I'm willing to go out there, have a good time and I'd like to think people can see the passion when I play. As far as when they say character, I would hate to ever confuse my character with the kind of professional athlete that's always looking for the camera. I think what best captures me is I enjoy being out there. I enjoy doing everything that I can and having a great time. I think life is entirely too short. I steal it from Braveheart all the time that every man dies but only some men really live. I like to live my life screaming 'Wallace' and running around."
(on mixed martial arts) "I do a little bit of that. (Minnesota DE) Jared Allen is one of my best friends, a brother from a different mother, and he is heavily into the mixed martial arts thing. I kind of just tagged along with him. I'm more of the weight trainer and training partner. I went along with him and we have a lot of friends in mixed martial arts. Quite honestly, Jared's very good at it. I don't really have a good opinion, but I've even asked people inside the gyms and said, 'Is he as good as he looks?' and they say, 'Oh yeah,' because I feel completely out of my element. I just get smacked around, but I think I'm more of the blue-collar brawler type. I'm more of the tackle and use the football skills and the tools in the tool box that I already have and take it from there. Fortunately, I'm a football player and not a fighter."
(on comparing martial arts and football) "They're actually quite different. I don't know if you can really compare them. As far as the mental toughness side of it, MMA fighters go through so much training and so much of a pounding. I think it a takes a little bit more of a unique personality in order to stand there and get punched in the face. As crazy as our sport is, people say it's a contact sport and by all means it is a collision sport but, I still have equipment on. One thing that makes me, me, is I'm not scared to put my face in another man's face but I also have a helmet on. Without a helmet, I might be a little more reluctant."
(on anything that can be transferred from martial arts to football) "There are a lot of aspects of the hand to hand of it that work better for Jared as a defensive lineman coming off the edge and using his hands. Maybe even the secondary guys and the receivers releasing off the line, but my position in a nutshell is really to go as hard as you can, put your face in another man's face as hard as you can. It's hit or be hit, sell out and go get it. I don't think there is a lot that I can draw from it other than sometimes to cowboy up and go do it."
Texans CB Fred Bennett
(on the rookies) "Those young guys can run. I got to keep my speed up."
(on the rookies influencing him) "Yeah, they keep me going. Little do they know, they keep me going a little bit. I see them run around like that, I want to do the same. It's all fun."
(on correcting rookies) "Yeah, most definitely. I'll pull them aside and let them know, 'Hey, you did this in your technique' or 'Get better at this.' The thing I like about them is they listen, they want to get better. For them to be coming to me, and taking it in from me I'm like, 'Wow, I really am the leader back here.' So it's fun."
(on the last time he spoke with CB Dunta Robinson) "Man, it's been about a week or so. I heard he's down there in Florida training right now so I don't know what he's got going on."
(on if he's making a plea with CB Dunta Robinson) "No. I don't really get caught up in his situation. I guess he'll be here when he's ready to be here."
(on Robinson's return being more important because of the past week's events) "Yeah, the sooner, the better but whenever he gets here we'll welcome him with open arms. Like I said, I guess that's the business side of it, that's his situation. I'm in camp. I'm out here practicing with my teammates trying to get better."
(on if he's teaching the younger players what CB Dunta Robinson taught him) "Yeah, most definitely. Me being a rookie, having Dunta and some of them other guys around, some of the things they taught me and told me, I'm just trying to explain that to these young kids. I always use my rookie year as an example to them because I feel that most of them got a chance to do what I did as a rookie."
(on CB Dunta Robinson's demeanor) "I guess he's getting healthy, doing what he do, enjoying himself, I couldn't care. But when I talk to him, it's more on a brother-to-brother basis. He and I have a real good relationship and I love him like a brother. When we talk I try not to talk about his situation as much. If he wants to talk to me about his situation, fine, but I never push it."
(on needing CB Dunta Robinson back) "Yeah. Like I said, when he comes back I'll welcome him with open arms but until then I'm out here just trying to get better and help this team."
(on if it's strange being on the field without CB Dunta Robinson) "No, not at all. No, I think I'm ready for that challenge, you know what I'm saying. I had him two years and I think he taught me enough and I think I've grown, I think I've grown up and I've become more mature so I'm ready for the challenge."
(on if he thinks the younger defensive players get good experience going up against WR Andre Johnson) "Yeah, most definitely. He's going to treat you like you've been in the league ten years. He don't care who lines up in front of him, he's going to treat them all the same, and that's good, that's a good competition. That's good for them youngsters to be out there going against him, just to get used to a high-profile receiver like that so it's good for them."