Last year in training camp, Charles James II was giving his rookie teammate a dose of real-life NFL advice. The difference between making a roster and getting cut is sometimes just one mistake, James warned, as "Hard Knocks" cameras rolled on him getting heated in practice.
This year isn't really much different.
James may have signed a contract extension in March, but he isn't taking anything for granted. His sense of urgency to make the 53-man roster at the end of camp is higher than ever, according to the third-year cornerback.
"I'll never get comfortable," James said in an interview with Texans TV. "You can't get comfortable in this league. It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and it's a new year. So I have new expectations for myself, and I'm just striving to be the best, and striving to be great. I think it's going to be like that until I retire."
After playing in nine games with one start in 2015, James finished with 14 tackles (seven solo), one pass defensed, and one tackle for loss. He also became a big special teams contributor for the Texans, recording five tackles and downing numerous punts that placed opposing teams deep in their own territory.
"He was a really good gunner, downing punts inside the 10-yard line," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He did a number of things on the punt coverage team, other than being a gunner. He was good at punt return and covering kickoffs. He's a guy that really is a good teammate, understands his role and special teams is definitely one of his roles."
James, who underwent season-ending foot surgery last year, missed OTAs and minicamp this offseason while he recovered. His goal was to return to the practice field by training camp, if not sooner, because he didn't want to miss a single snap.
"Being without football for six months was brutal—I hated it," James said. "I tried to basically watch old film to kind of get me going but that's not like being out here and experiencing the real thing and practicing and getting better with my teammates. So not being out there for OTAs and minicamp hurt me just because I wanted to be around the guys. I wanted to get back better, but we made some good decisions upstairs and it was best that I just come back to training camp."
The Texans offense looks vastly different than when James last practiced during the regular season: a new quarterback, running back, and a wide receiving corps that brings a lot of speed. For James and the defensive backs, it's welcomed as a challenge to help them improve every day.
"It's been good," James said of the new offensive players. "Some young guys look young, and some young guys actually look old. Those guys are doing a great job over there and they're making a lot of plays. They're actually making it tough on us guys as vets, and it's for us to get better. For us, it's about us giving them a great look every day and them giving us a good look every day so we can both get better."
Training camp continue on Saturday, Aug. 6 at the Houston Methodist Training Center.
Check out the best pictures from #TexansCamp Day 5.