Johnson is not satisfied with the 8-8 record, but he's pleased with the Texans' progress.
The Texans checked out of Reliant Stadium on Monday, meeting individually with general manager Rick Smith before cleaning out their lockers and going home. Head coach Gary Kubiak and several players spoke with the media for the final time this season.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on what positions the team needs to address in the draft) "I think it's a little too quick to answer that. We have to sit back here and evaluate our football team and this past season and where we're heading. As an organization, we have to prioritize those needs. The tricky thing in football now is you have a chance to address some in free agency and then you address the draft. A lot of times, you don't know what's going to happen for you in free agency so your draft status or the direction you're going to go in the draft can change. I think the key right now is our evaluations and we'll worry about those things in the future."
(on what he needs to do to be better at running the ball) "I think one thing that's obvious is that we have to get consistency in who's running the football. We went out and we chased that last year in free agency with (RB) Ahman (Green). Of course, that did not work out with his injury this year, so that was extremely disappointing for our franchise and the steps that we have taken. In this league, you have to have two, I'm not sure you don't need three in the long haul to be successful. Of course, we're counting on Ahman coming back and being 100 percent; he can be a huge factor for our team when he is. I think I've said this in the past, when you're missing things and guys are hurt, you can't just all of a sudden sit up there today and look at a roster and say, 'Well, we'll be ok there because he'll be healthy.' We can't approach things that way. He was hurt; he wasn't there. We have to go out and find some young kids. We have to find some guys that are going to be in it for the long haul and be there and if Ahman is 100 percent healthy and playing every week, then that's a bonus for our team. I just think we have to get some consistency back there in who's doing it."
(on if the playoffs are the next step for this team) "When you get to the point where that's the way you look at every year then you're in the right position. That's where I was for so many years. I know people used to think that all we talked about was winning a Super Bowl and stuff, but to be honest with you, the only goal we ever had each season was to be a playoff team because you'll never win a Super Bowl or never have a chance to be a champion if you're not in the dance, so to speak. Really, that's the ultimate goal. That was something that we started chasing this year. We thought we had a good enough football team to do that this year. That will be our goal from now on and that was talked about last year and that won't change. I would agree with them. I would hope that we can get our football team good enough and have enough confidence in what we're doing that every year that we don't do that we consider it a big disappointment. I'm all in for that, but I know we have to get better as a football team to get there."
(on fixing the turnover problem from this year) "Well, what you do is you walk in here and cut that film on and you say let's look at all of them and see why they happened, where the responsibility lies, how we fix them. That's all you can do. It starts with the quarterbacks and I told (QB) Sage (Rosenfels) that and I've told (QB) Matt (Schaub) that we have to protect the ball better as quarterbacks. Our football team, I would say offensively, we probably took a lot more chances then I really like to take from a standpoint if you run the ball better, you're not take some of those risks that we were taking. We threw the ball a great deal. I think we threw the football for almost 1,100 more yards then we did last year. That's a good thing, but that also means that we were throwing it a lot. I think we can cut down turnovers just by the type of team we have if we're running the ball better. There's no secret to it. It's just looking at, facing the facts, and moving forward. We'll do that and that'll have to start in day one of the offseason program. It's can't wait until we start playing again. It's something we'll have to address immediately."
(on the injuries in the secondary) "The question was just asked a while ago, where you're looking in the draft, what are you doing here or there, one of the things to me that immediately jumps out to me with our football team is our secondary. We basically, other then (S) C.C. (Brown), we played with an entirely different group the last nine weeks of the season. We made adjustments. The coaches made adjustments that, to me, were effective. They gave us a chance to win throughout the back end of the season, but at the same time, some of the simplicity that we had gotten to because of our changes really ended up hurting us in some games. If we're going to beat the Colts, we have to cover the Colts. We have to look hard at our secondary. We have to have guys that can go out there and lock some of those guys down so we can be aggressive and blitz and those types of things. I think our secondary is a concern. (CB) Dunta Robinson, when is he coming back? Right now, we're talking about midseason, so that make it even more of a concern. You have a young rookie back there that has very quickly become our strength back there and that's a young kid. We have a lot of work to do back there to become an improved defensive football team."
(on if he has anyone in mind for the offensive coordinator position) "You know, I've got some guys that I'm going to talk to. There's a lot of things that go on in this league over the course of the next few weeks, as you guys can already see today. I like to have patience in these situations. I like my offensive coaching staff; it's important that I have the right fit with the group. That's very, very key because when you're in that position, you're handling a lot of coaches, you're handling a lot players. So we'll take our time. I'll talk to all of the offensive coaches, get all their input. I'm basically interviewing every one of them for that position because I think they're all very worthy of that, and we'll talk to some people outside of the organization as well and then we'll make a decision that's best for the football team. That's the key. That will always be the number one focus, and we'll come up with a good one, I can promise you that."
(on the stellar play of the offensive line this season) "Well, you know what, I'm going to start with their coach first, because I'm going to tell you what, John Benton, the job he did this year, I mean he is a – you know, when John came to me a couple of years ago, I never had so many calls from older coaches telling me how good they thought this young coach was. And when I brought him here, of course (Mike) Sherman was here to work with him at that spot, too, because I really didn't know that much about John; I just really was going on reputation and the guys that were really backing him. And, man, he's done a tremendous job. He's bringing along young players. He's great with the older guys.
"The key to the group is they were all out there. They played, for the most part, once we got settled down once we lost Steve (McKinney), the whole group played all year until of course Fred (Weary) had his situation. But Ephraim (Salaam), the way he played all year long. Chester (Pitts) was out there every snap, has become a better player in the last two years. Every time I've been around him, he's gotten better. Mike Flanagan was healthy, played extremely well, held the group together. (Mike) Brisiel is a guy who got one opportunity and, boy, did he take advantage of it. He's going to be hard to get out of there. And then I think Eric (Winston) has become a pro. I mean, the biggest compliment to pay Eric right now is we're in the last week of the season, he had a back problem, he went out there and played every play yesterday. So he's got it figured out. So do we need to get better there? Yes. And we've got some young guys to give us a chance to help us there. We need that young tackle, that left tackle that we think's the answer for this organization for a long, long time and that Ephraim can help bring along with us. We've got to go find that answer. Of course (Rashad) Butler's a great pickup by Rick (Smith). We'll see where he's at, but everybody in this league's looking for somebody who can protect the quarterback's blindside for many, many years, and we're no different at this point."
(on what bothered him most this season besides injuries) "Probably just inconsistency. You go back right now and it's hard for me to talk to y'all today about all those things until I take a hard look at it, but one thing that jumped at me was what were we, 6-2 at home, am I right? We're 6-2 at home, we get beat with 50 seconds left against Tennessee, we take the World Champs to the wire, we were one play away from them, so we played pretty darned well at home. On the road, we were inconsistent. We turned the ball over on the road. Well, we turned the ball over a lot. But I think just getting to where we're a consistent football team. Good football teams, it doesn't matter when you go on the road and it's loud and there's problems and this and that; you still keep playing solid football. And there were times that we had our problems on the road. I can think of San Diego as one, and you go talk about the Colts in Week 15, so just finding that consistency, I used to play for a coach that, Dan Reeves used to tell his team every year, he used to say, 'You win every game you got at home, you split on the road, you'll be a big-time playoff team every year,' and now I know what he meant. You've got to play well at home but you've got to be able to go on the road and find four to five victories, too, if you want to be a great team."
(on the AFC South doing well against the Texans this season even though the Texans know them better than other teams in the league) "I think we've got to get to know them better, obviously. Last year, what, we split in the division last year, am I right? We were 3-3. We're a better football team this year and we're 1-5 in our division. But if we're going to make the playoffs and be a good football team, those three teams right now were phenomenal this year, the Colts, Jacksonville and Tennessee gets in last night, but you're right. I mean, we've got to be able to beat those football teams, and I go back and look at it, I can break it down game by game. With the Colts here, I thought we were in position to win the game. We didn't. We went to Jacksonville, we never moved the ball better in the first quarter and a half, and we had six points. So I can find those reasons why I think we can get there, but there's no excuse. You've got to find a way to get there. So that's a big key in our offseason is continuing to try to catch up with those three football teams. It's amazing that you've got three teams from one division in the playoffs."
(on if there is any chance that T Charles Spencer returns) "You know, I saw him up in the office this morning, and I was teasing him. I said, 'Charlie, are you checking out?' and I said, 'I want to make sure you check in next year.' He's a great kid. He's been through a hard deal. That's a serious injury. I think I've said this to y'all, over the course of the past month, for the first time in the last year or so, I've had doctors and I have trainers telling me that they feel pretty good that he's going to make it back and play again. That wasn't the case for a long time, so I'm encouraged by that, and he is running on the treadmill with a certain percentage of his body weight, so that's a positive. Now, when Charles makes the move to come back, do we put him at guard, do we get him off the edge, those are questions that we have to answer. But Charles should be in a football mode when we get to the offseason program, so that's a positive thing."
(on RB Ahman Green getting 100 percent healthy in the offseason) "He doesn't have an issue that requires surgery, just rest, and he's had plenty of that. I expect when we get started April 2 he is 100 percent. His teammates, all the guys who have been sitting in this room with him, have been counting on him. Nobody knows that more than him. There are a lot of expectations. There's a lot of ground to make up, and I'm counting on him coming back full speed."
(on how to balance the defensive line) "We have to get more balance in our defensive line, if that's the question you are asking. One of the things that would definitely help is if we can get Anthony (Weaver) healthy. He had two surgeries last year. He did not go through the OTA's, did not go through anything in training camp. If my memory is correct, I don't even know if we suited him – no, we did suit him, but we played him on a limited basis early in the season. I think Anthony's health was a factor this year. Us finding some balance, whether that's Earl (Cochran) or whether it's somebody that we bring in, whether Tim Bulman becomes a player, you're right, we need to find some balance. It can't all come from 90 (Mario Williams). People catch on to that. They find a way to offset that. Finding balance in our defensive line is very important."
(on LB Charlie Anderson proving he can start) "I think he did some good things, he and Danny (Clark). That will be a competition. After watching the game yesterday, I'm a little disappointed in myself that I didn't play Zac Diles more here in the last month. Remember, Zac can play in DeMeco's (Ryans) spot. He can play for Charlie. He can play all three. He has worked at all three. I think Zac will be in the mix. We are talking about three starting linebackers next year, whether that's Morlon (Greenwood), DeMeco, Danny, Charlie. But I'll tell you right now, Zac Diles will be a part of that mix. He'll be a fine player."
(on WR André Davis' play as a receiver) "He played really well when Andre (Johnson) was out. His yards per catch might be at the top four or five in the league. He was special. He's a great kid. The boy took advantage of a tremendous opportunity. We'll go to camp and there will be a great competition. Kevin (Walter) earned a spot this year, but Kevin also knows that he's going to have himself, Jacoby (Jones) and those guys breathing right down his neck at camp. It's interesting how that's worked out, because last year we went to training camp and everybody was scared to death. Now, if we stepped back on the field tomorrow, that position would be about as competitive as you can find in this league, so it's great growth from that standpoint."
(on bringing in competition for P Matt Turk) "I think there is no doubt. We got better because we brought in Matt (Turk) to compete. That's why we got better from that standpoint. I think he's still got a lot of good years left in him. He takes care of his body. He's a workout guy. He's very dedicated to what he does, but I think anytime you can push Kris (Brown), you can push Matt – and it's hard to do in the league these days because of the limited roster spots. If a coach feels comfortable with his kicker or punter per se, the first thing he does is go find a different position to compete. They think, "We are ok there.' It's not like it was in the past where you've got enough spots where you bring in two or three kickers or punters and let them go at it for a month. I think if you can find a guy who can do a little bit of both and he's a young guy and he can put some pressure on them, too, it's only going to make them better."
(on if he has concerns about LB DeMeco Ryans' knee going into the Pro Bowl) "I don't because I think he's going to get a tremendous amount of rest. His situation, we knew it was going to get worse. When you look at it, should he have taken a break? Should we have made him take a break? You're probably right, but that's what the kid is all about. He wasn't coming out of there, and that's why his teammates love him. That's why he's their leader. He's going to be fine. A matter of fact, I talked to him in the locker room. He's going to work with Kevin (Bastin) here over the course the next month. It's very important to him to play in that game. It's very important to our team that he plays in that game. So I think you'll see him at full speed in a couple of weeks. He just hasn't had a chance to have a break."
(on the future of WR Jerome Mathis) "Jerome has missed a tremendous amount of time as a football player in the two years I've been with him. He's been on IR both times. This is a league about what you are doing, and you've got to be on that field playing. It makes it even tougher right now that we've got a guy back there returning some kicks. So he's got a tremendous challenge ahead of him. We'll see how he answers the call, but he's got to stay on the field."
TE Mark Bruener
(on his situation with the Texans) "This is the day after the season. You don't know what's going to happen. You can't project or predict what's going to happen. We'll take tomorrow when it comes and then the next day and the next day."
(on how much gas he has left in the tank) "I've got a lot left in the tank. They've got those flex-fuel cars now, and I feel like one of those guys. I feel like a guy who is rejuvenated with his ability and it's largely due to the coaching staff here and the way they train us with Dan Riley and our strength and conditioning staff. It's just the overall approach to my training. I feel very fortunate that I feel as good as I do in my career."
LB Danny Clark
(on his first season with the Texans) "Well, it started out great and our team did well, as well as we could. Obviously, we didn't get done what we wanted to get done as a team, playoffs, but we made a large step in the right direction and we've got a great foundation. But my first year here was productive until the injury, unfortunate injury, but I understand that's part of this business and the game, so I'm just optimistic about getting back and hopefully being a Texan next year and that nature."
(on ending a third straight season as a free agent) "Yes, that's rough. A kid asked me, I was speaking to some children here at the stadium a few weeks ago, and they were like, 'What's the toughest part of your job?' and I'm like, 'Moving.' The turnover rate in this business is high considering, so that's the toughest part is having to move, so hopefully that's not the case this year.'
(on if he would like to stay with the Texans) "Yes, I would like to stay here. I bought a home here, so I would lie to stay, but at the end of the day, I understand the business."
(on if he is excited about the future of defense) "Yes, I'm excited. We have some guys that definitely took some growth spurts, so to speak, Mario (Williams) and Amobi (Okoye), and then you've got young Travis (Johnson), I couldn't believe Travis was only in his third year. So this d-line, our linebackers, DeMeco (Ryans), there's nothing else to say about this guy, but he's great, and we have a great foundation and a great core as far as our defense goes, and I'm excited about it."
(on LB DeMeco Ryans making the Pro Bowl) "Yes. That's great, especially someone at your position. And coming into this season I said he's one of my favorites, and I'm a bit biased, but at the same time, he's one of my favorite linebackers in this league and I'm glad he made it.
(on if LB DeMeco Ryans has said who he's taking with him to the Pro Bowl) "Yes, and hopefully it's his linebacker crew. He's given us a little insight on he may be able to do that for us, so hopefully that pans out."
(on wanting to be in Houston because of the team's progress) "Yes, our team is getting closer. We have a great nucleus I think, and I would like to be a part of that. I feel like I helped our team not only on the field but in the locker room, build some camaraderie and chemistry, so I think that definitely showed out there on Sundays when we had to plug and play a lot of guys. We had a lot of injuries and a lot of adversity, and guys just stepped in without missing a heartbeat."
(on his offseason plans) "I'm going to Chicago now. Actually, today, I'm going to L.A. for the Rose Bowl, so I'm going to see Illinois beat USC."
(on his plans in Chicago) "We have Christmas again every year after the season. My whole family comes over, we cook dinner and exchange gifts. Essentially, I miss Christmas every year since I've been in the league, so actually we do it again as a family."
(on who he sees in Chicago) "My whole family. Entire family. It's a good deal."
(on looking forward to resting) "Yes, I'm going to rest. And that's what happens. This is a rough business on your body, so you've got to have time to recuperate and watch a little playoffs and get a little pissed off. So at the end of the day, that's where we're supposed to be, so I've got a feeling that next year we'll put our self in that place."
WR André Davis
(on what he thinks about what he did yesterday) "It was a pretty good game. We were able to really just get everything rolling and we needed a spark and I think the kickoff return team really was able to do that."
(on if he watched all the highlight shows last night) "Just a couple. Just a couple of them. Of course, anytime something like happens, you want to enjoy and see all the comments about it and everything like and also see what other guys are doing around league and stuff. It was definitely exciting for us to, most importantly get the win, get our team to .500, and really be able to build a foundation."
(on how long it takes to come down from a natural high like that) "This high is going to last probably until the offseason training program starts back up. I'm going to really enjoy this for as long as I can and just seeing where I am at the end of this point and realizing where I want to go and just continue to try to build on that."
(on how he feels about the season that he had) "I just feel truly blessed. God has brought me through a lot. I've been through ups and downs in my career and everything and to finally be able to get to a point going into an unrestricted free-agent year, this is the type of way you want to be able to end it off, just to show people what you can do and show them how valuable you can be. Hopefully it turns out good and I'll be able to say here."
(on his strong finish heading into free agency) "I'm just going to let everything play out. Right now, I'm going to be really able to enjoy this time with my wife and my new baby that's coming along. We're just going to try and enjoy this time and let everything else play itself out."
(on taking less money last year when he signed with the Texans) "Well, of course, when I made the decision, I was a little worried about it and thinking, 'Why am I doing this? I've got this money that's here on the table and I can just take it.' But I wanted to take a risk and I think that's what it's about, and I truly believed that God had something better for me on the next team that I would be on, so I took that risk to come here just for the opportunity, because I knew that I'm a good player and I knew that I could help teams out when they give me the opportunity to. So when I got here, I just wanted to keep my head down and just continue to work hard and realize that we're all blessed to be here in the NFL, and just to be able to have a job is a great thing to do here in the NFL and once I got the opportunity here I wanted to make that I put my all out there on the table, and it ended up working out for me."
(on if he has formulated a plan to attack the offseason) "I really haven't given it much thought. I think that's why you try and choose and agent who's very trustworthy and somebody that you trust to go out there and get the best deals for you. So I know I put my all out there on the field and I've done my part, so now it's the business side of it where he's going to be able to negotiate, and I can sit back and just hear what's really going on and make a decision from there."
(on his next contract possibly being the last of his career) "I don't know. It's kind of weird to think about that. Right now, I'm really just taking it on a year-by-year basis. Right now, as the years continue to pile up, the body's not feeling quite as well as it does when I was a rookie, so I just want to take it year-by-year and right now hopefully I will be able to sign a multi-year contract and hopefully this will be my last one and I can just go out with a bang from here."
RB Ron Dayne
(on what he remembers the most from the season looking back) "Just not being a loser. Being able to come out and say that we're .500. And the guys."
(on what the team needs for next year) "I'm not sure. I think we're alright where we're at, but that upstairs—they make those decisions. I don't know."
(on if next year is "the year") "I guess. We just keep getting better every year, playing harder and having fun."
(on whether this year feels different that last year) "Yeah, it does, but you can't really tell. We'll probably be able to tell once the playoffs start, and the teams that we played against, how we did against those teams.
(on how he played this season) "I think I played decent. I wish I could have played more. I wish I hadn't gotten hurt, or I might have been able to do a little more to help the team."
(on how frustrating his ankle sprain was at the end of the year) "It was tough, but I just kept fighting through it and tried to go out there and have fun when I could."
(on if he would like to finish his career as a Texan) "Yeah, definitely. Just being here and being able to be around the guys, the team is on the uprise, so I'd love to be around that."
(on if he has offseason plans) "No, not really. Just hang out with the family."
CB DeMarcus Faggins
(on seeing the team grow as one of the six original Texans) "We're 8-8, it's a good feeling. We had that one year in '04 where we had a chance to be 8-8 and we let that slip away the last game of the season against Cleveland. But it's a good feeling to be 8-8 right now. It shows you that the team is going in the right direction."
RB Ahman Green
(on how the disappointment of his season compares to other years) "I never really had a season like this—probably my sophomore year in college, when I had to fight turf toe and I had a broken foot at the end of the year. It's kind of similar to that year, very frustrating for myself, my teammates, my coaches, Rick (Smith), Gary (Kubiak), coach (Mike) Sherman, because he was excited about bringing me here. I've got to wait, and now coach Sherman is off to bigger and better things at A&M, so with my teammates here all I can do with this offseason is take it one day at a time because before we know we'll be kicking it off again for the '08 season, mini-camps, training camp again. So I'm going to continue to rehab it, do what I've been doing, resting and building up strength from the ground up and getting ready for next year."
(on if he still felt "tortured" by this season) "Yeah, because I'm a competitor out there helping my team out there in every possible way—catching the ball, picking up the blitz, running the ball, things of that nature, and just being a leader due to the way that I play and that I practice. That was torture, not being to be able to do that and do it at the level that I like to."
(on how he views the future in Houston and if he'll be back here next year) "I'm not worried about that. I'm just taking it one day at a time and just getting myself physically ready to handle next season coming along, but that's a long road right now. Right now I'm just taking the first couple of steps of really resting and getting this thing back where I need to be."
(on if time off will help him recover from the knee injury) "Hopefully, and that's what time off can do. That's what heals things, physically and emotionally—it's time. That's what I'm counting on, and hopefully I'll do that."
(on his offseason plans) "I'm going back to Green Bay, just to check on the house. I'm going down to the Bahamas. Michael Jordan has a tournament I go to every year that he invites us to, so going down for that, but that's about it for me. Hanging out with the kids, that's it."
(on how he usually does at the tournament) "Not good. I'm not a golfer at all. Just go hit 'em and enjoy the scenery. I'm not good, so there's no pressure for me. I just go out there and bang it around."
CB Von Hutchins
(on his offseason plans) "I'm going to take a couple of trips later on in the offseason, but right now I'm just going to chill out and relax and take a little time away from football, time to relax and just watch the playoffs."
(on where he plans to go this offseason) "I'll be here for the time being, but as far as trips I haven't really decided. I don't really know where we'll go, but we'll go somewhere warm. Definitely not cold. Also we'll go to Mississippi a little bit, spend some time with some family and friends."
WR Andre Johnson
(on finishing the season 8-8) "It's not where we want to be, but like I said before, we took a step in the right direction and it should be some type of motivation for us coming into next year."
(on seeing everything here over his first five seasons) "Yes I have. I've been through the rough times and like I said before, I think things can only get better for us."
(on if he has more optimism going into this offseason than any other) "Things are just different from when I first got here. Just the way the team is, the attitude around in the locker room. When I first got here, it just didn't seem like everybody was into winning, but now everybody wants to win, so that's a good thing."
(on if he is anxious for the season to start up again because he missed some time because of injury) "Yes, but I look at it as things happen for a reason. Things happen and you just have to come back and bounce back from it next year. It's something that no one wants to happen, but it did and you just have to come back and make a statement next year."
(on having WR André Davis back here next year) "I'm very hopeful. He's a great player. I talked to him yesterday after the game and he wants to be here and I hope we can keep him around."
(on how many holes the team needs to fill this offseason) "They always say what if you didn't have the injuries and stuff like that, we'd probably be in the playoffs, but you just have to learn to play through adversity. I think that we learned how to do that, play through adversity, and I think it's just going to help our team and make us a whole lot better."
(on if the 2-14 season seems like it happened more then two years ago) "The way things are now, I haven't even thought about that season. It was two years ago, but it feels like it happened longer than that. We don't think about 2-14 around here any more."
(on the attitude being different this season) "I think it is. Like I said, the attitude around here is a lot different. That's a good thing. Everybody wants to win. Like I said, when I first got here, it wasn't like that. The attitude wasn't like that. I'm just happy we have those type of guys around here."
(on the wide receivers stepping up) "André (Davis), Kevin (Walter), Jacoby (Jones), I think they went out and cooled a lot of people out this year. We have a lot of guys now that can make plays for us. Hopefully, we can have all those guys here, like I said, and just keep it going."
(on being in the league five years) "I remember when I was a rookie like it was yesterday. I was in the training room talking about that the other day. Time flies, so I'll be getting ready for my sixth season."
(on much he has grown as a player) "I think I've grown a lot. I just look at the way I played from my first year until now. I think I'm just going to continue to get better and better as long as I keep working the way I'm working.
(on the main goal for the Texans moving forward) "Playoffs. Like I said, a lot of people ask me do I set goals; I only have one goal, that's getting to the playoffs. All the other things happen if you go out and perform well on the field. So that's my goal, just getting to the playoffs, and we'll see what happens from there."
C Steve McKinney
(on what it was like to watch this team get to 8-8) "It was pretty impressive. I mean, it really was, considering how much the team had to overcome and play through. We went through a streak there where we had a lot of turnovers and we were really hurting ourselves and then to finish 8-8, you feel good about it, but at the same time, you can't help but look back and say this game or that game. We could easily be sitting here 10-6 talking about the playoffs or something. I think everyone's goal is to get to that point. We just want to be a playoff team and I think we made a step in the right direction this year."
(on what this year means for next year) "We had a lot of holes we had to replace last year and we were able to do that, despite the injuries. Leading into next year, I think that we can look back on this season and see what we did overcome to finish 8-8 and know that 10-6 is definitely a reachable goal. And to be a playoff team, that's definitely a reachable goal for this team right now."
(on all of the other teams in the AFC South making the playoffs) "Yes, we're in a tough division. Three of the four teams made the playoffs and we finished 8-8, so we know what we have to do. We know that to get to the playoffs is not going to be easy. Obviously, we have to start by winning our divisional games. That will be one of our top goals next year is to win more divisional games and try to supplant Indianapolis and Jacksonville."
(on the play of the offensive line this season) "It's amazing what a new quarterback, new offensive scheme, and better block front can do. The sacks were not an issue and in this system and with the guys we have, I don't see it being an issue. I think that it will just continue to get better."
DT Amobi Okoye
(on his first season in the NFL) "It could have been better as far as records and winning games and stuff like that. It was a big learning season for me. I learned something almost every day. It turned out to be 8-8, which is great as far as having a winning season in my first year. I'm just happy for that"
(on knowing the NFL was a different world form college) "The moment I got here – OTA's. A lot of my friends in the league told me, 'Don't worry about it. You're going to be fine. I know your talent.' Things weren't all what they said. Things were a little bit harder. I had to adjust to the speed and all that. it's really been an adjustment since day one."
(on his offseason plans) "Right now there are a lot of things in the air, but I plan on going to the Super Bowl."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on if there is already excitement about what the team might be able to do next year) "We're definitely excited about it. We feel like we should have been a playoff team this year and didn't make it. We're definitely going the right direction. Getting to the 8-8 is a point where we can't go backwards from now on. We set the standard at eight wins, but we can't go back. We have to be able to find a way to get those other two or three wins."
(on if there is a standard for next season) "Whatever it takes to get into the playoffs. However many wins that takes, that's the standard we're trying to get to. We're trying to do something special each year and trying to move this organization forward and going to the playoffs will definitely do that."
(on Coach Kubiak trying to keep him off the field, but he was playing anyway) "It was tough, but they told me I wouldn't play much, but I just got into the rhythm of the game and was like I really can't come out right now. It was good to see (LB) Zac Diles get in and get some reps and get some valuable game experience."
(on if he'll be healthy enough to play in the Pro Bowl) "Yes, I'll be healthy enough. I finally get some time to rest. I have month now to really get off my feet and rest, so I'll be ready to go."
(on the possibilities for the defense as the young player mature) "I'm just happy, I'm excited and eager to see how guys are going to grow, how they're going to evolve into great players. Guys are so young with (DE) Mario (Williams), myself, (DT) Amobi (Okoye), (CB) Dunta (Robinson), with the nucleus of our defense being so young, guys have a lot learning to do, a lot of growing to do. It's going to be exciting to watch."
(on what the team learned about themselves this season) "We just learned how to persevere and know to keep going, no matter what happens. We didn't stop for anyone. If a guy got injured, the next guy was up and we were still rolling. We know we can battle though anything. I don't think there's any kind of adversity that can hit us that we can't deal with. I think that's just a credit to the team and to Coach Kubiak for being the leader of this team."
(on the playoffs next season) "We have to get there. There's no point of going backwards now. It's a point of us moving forward and us getting to the playoffs."
(on all three of their division rivals making the playoffs) "Man, it is crazy. I was thinking about that. Three out of four teams in our division are in the playoffs. That lets you know you're playing in a tough division and for us to get to the playoffs it's going to be a hard road to travel, but we're definitely ready to take that step."
T Ephraim Salaam
(on what it would mean if his commercial was picked to be a Super Bowl ad) "It would be an honor."
(on the story he told in the Super Bowl ad) "It is a phenomenal story that is true. Hollywood couldn't write a script like this; we're playing next to each other, how about that? I'm having fun playing next to one of my close friends that I knew before football and that doesn't happen, ever."
(on how his talk went) "It was cool. They thanked me again for what I did this year and we'll see what happens. I want to be here. I want to be a Texan for the rest of my career and I like the direction the team is going and I want to be a part of that."
(on what he sees for this team looking towards next season) "Progress, it's there, it's in front of us. If we can keep some people healthy, I know that's not an excuse, but when you lose the backup to the starter, when you start going to the fourth and fifth string, it wears on you, especially in the National Football League when everybody else is at full-strength. But the character and the drive and motivation that everybody has on this team, from coaches to players, is phenomenal, and it can only get better with that type of attitude."
(on the progression of the offensive line) "How many sacks did we give up this year? How about that? It's the first thing you guys asked me when I came in here at the beginning of camp was the sacks, now nobody is even talking about. We only gave up 22 sacks and next year we'll try to improve on that and be in the teens. How about that? From two years ago allowing 68 to 22 and I'm not saying I have something directly to do with that, but the two years I have been here, we have cut them in half twice."
(on being sixth in the league in sacks allowed) "That's phenomenal. I guess you can't lump the whole thing on us anymore. We're doing our job and we have guys working hard. We have backups coming in and playing well and doing the things we need to be successful. It's just the whole attitude. The whole attitude is different in Texas. We're ready to work and I'm excited about next year."
(on his offseason plans) "I'm just going to go hang out and just relax. Me and my wife are going to go to Rome."
(on if he's been to Europe before) "No. She has, but I haven't. We'll go over to Rome, Venice, Italy, all of that good stuff, so I'm excited about it."
QB Matt Schaub
(on the importance of bringing back WR André David next year) "It would be huge for us. What he's been able to do on special team receiving the ball when (WR) Andre (Johnson) was hurt and he was in there full-time, he made some incredible plays for us. It would be big to bring him back."
(on how close this team was to making the playoffs) "Incredibly close. You look at some of the games we lost this year, we were either winning in the fourth quarter or we were right there, one play away from winning them. The difference in this league is one or two plays and if we win those two or three ball games, that's totally different. We're a 10, 11 win team and we're right there in the thick of it."
(on looking forward to the possibilities of next year) "I'm definitely looking forward to next season. I wish it started next week. We're looking forward to this offseason. We finished on a great note, to take that step to finish 8-8 for this franchise and next year we can look forward to winning more ball games."
(on some issues that need to be addressed on the offensive side of the ball) "I think if you look our team offensively this season, we did a lot of things around here that haven't been done. We were only sacked 22 times and people were saying how that was such a big problem, well, the offensive line, they did an incredible job for us. We were able to run the ball all season and throw the ball. We threw for a lot of yards. We have to quit turning the ball over. We have to be better on third down in certain areas and in the red zone, we just have to be efficient. I don't think it's a matter of any personnel issues. We have the players here that we can go out and do some great things next year."
(on his new year's resolution) "My New Year's Resolution is to get healthy. To rehab my arm and just get back to the grindstone and get this team to the playoffs and win the championship."
P Matt Turk
(on his future and where he thinks he'll be next year) "In this business you just never know. If you would have asked me at this time last year if I though about going back to St. Louis, I probably would have bet the house that I was going back to St. Louis after I had the year I had there. So I guess you just wait and see and hope and pray and just be happy to be working."
(on if the team should put extra stock in his strong performance at Indy) "Indy was a good game, definitely. I wish every game could be like that one. I hope that they look at the whole season. I think that I had one game I'd like to get back—that was the Cleveland game—and I think if you eliminate that Cleveland game I have my best net of my career. I think it would have been 39.8. But you have to add them all in there. But we ended up pretty good, at 38.4 yard net, and had 25 inside the 20s, a bunch of fair catches, so they didn't return a lot of balls on us. I think they had 140 total return yards against us, which is like 8 yards a return, and only 16 returns against us. As a punt team we did well."
(on his offseason plans) "I'm going straight back to South Florida, baby. Taking the family and the dog and we'll be in South Florida soaking up the sun."
WR Kevin Walter
(on the end of the season) "(It's) disappointing because we're not playing next week. We worked hard to do that and it's disappointing, but it also feels good to end on a winning note, being 8-8 and beating Jacksonville. They're going to be a good team in the playoffs, a physical team, and that's what we wanted to do is go out there and play physical and make plays, and we did that yesterday. But it's a little disappointing because we know we could be playing next week."
(on if the team grew this year) "The team did. From being here last year and this year, I think it's night and day, especially offense, defense, and every category. It was great. We're improving. We're definitely heading in the right direction, and like coach said after the game, we're not losing any more. We're moving in the right direction, and (Texans owner) Mr. (Bob) McNair is definitely going to have a winner around here."
(on if he is excited going into next year) "I'm excited, I'm excited. The sky's the limit for this offense and defense and this whole team. We've got a lot of guys that play hard, play fast and play for each other, and it's unfortunate we had some injuries this year that hurt us a little bit, but we're going to come back next year and the main thing next year is win division games. We struggled with that this year, and if we can do that, there's no reason we should not be in the playoffs."
(on if he has a vacation planned) "Yes, a little bit. My wife and I might take a trip to the Caribbean and relax a little bit, kind of get the body to relax. My body's been going since July, so it's been a hard-fought season, but it's a lot of fun."
(on WR André Davis yesterday) "He was unbelievable. The guy, it doesn't surprise me at all really, though, because he's a professional. He comes in, he works hard, he goes upon his business and he's a true pro. And he deserves that and I'm so happy for him, and it doesn't surprise me. Once he gets out in the open, I know no one's going to catch him. The guy can run, and he makes plays not only as a kick returner but as a receiver, so I'm glad he's here, for sure."
(on if he is trying to convince WR André Davis to return next season) "Oh, yeah. I've been talking to him the whole season. Yeah, definitely. We need him here. We need to keep the same group of guys that we have here next year. It's going to be a lot of fun."
DE Mario Williams
(on how he feels about the season) "Well, obviously it didn't go like we wanted, but we got a winning season, so that's the first thing. So we just roll with that for next year."
(on how special it is to be a part of the Texans' first 8-8 season) "Really special. We're trying to change the way things have been around here, and this is just the beginning, so we've just got to keep going."
(on what he plans to do in the offseason) "Probably just working out. Traveling a little bit, working out."
(on DE N.D. Kalu saying he was happy to see Williams silence his critics) "Yes, well, I appreciate it (laughs)."
(on what it means to show people that the organization did the right thing by selecting him first overall in the 2006 draft) "Well, number one, it's me coming out just playing hard for the organization. Whatever happens, happens. For it to turn out this way is good for the organization and for (Texans owner) Mr. (Bob) McNair, especially, just kind of relieving a little bit of stress that was on him, so in that sense, it's great. But as far as myself, I really don't have any personal get-back or anything like that."
(on how hopeful he is that he will be the need player selected to the AFC Pro Bowl roster) "You know, once again, whatever happens, happens. I'm really not worried about it. I'm not thinking about it. I'm just going to take a little breather for a couple of weeks and then get back to working out, and whatever happens, happens."
(on if he is starting to get a sense of how good he can be) "The thing is, I'm really not satisfied with what happened this year, obviously. I had some good numbers, but I've got to start fast. So as far as looking at what I could do, I just know that I've got to start faster and get those things going earlier in the season and keep it going throughout the whole season."
(on how close the Texans are to making playoffs) "Once again, it's one of those things that a play here or there in the game can change the whole thing. There were a couple of games that we could've done just a little bit different stuff, just made a couple of plays, and we would've been there."
(on how good he feels at the end of this season compared to last season) "I feel a lot better. It's like night and day, pretty much. And then the players around me are helping me out and the team is molding together, and we're just playing off of one another and it's getting better."
(on gaining respect in the locker room, with teammates praising his work ethic) "It means a lot, because I'm still just a regular guy. No matter what, at the end of the day, I'm still just a person. Everybody just goes out there and contributes as much as they can, and I do the same thing."
(on his New Years' resolution) "Probably – I don't know. That's a good one; I haven't thought about that. I'm not big in thinking about stuff like that, but probably just working harder, pretty much, just getting better, and like I said, just starting off faster next year during the season. But it's going to come from the offseason right now. So like I said, I'll just take a couple of weeks off and then get back to it."
(on what he can do in the offseason to improve) "Just work harder. That's what it all comes down to. Just work harder."
(on if he is excited about the possibilities for this young defense) "Oh, yeah; most definitely. And then it comes down to not just myself but the team having another year of playing together and just feeling each other as far as how to play off one another, so the possibilities are there."
(on looking forward to the development of the young defense) "Yes, most definitely. I'm looking forward to playing with the guys, especially the young guys that are still out there battling hard. And then next year'll be different for them, so who knows what'll happen then."
T Eric Winston
(on how he feels compared to the same time a year ago) "I think it's a long way. You come in to a league and you get your shot and you feel like you play pretty well, but you just hope to keep continuing to get that shot and keep playing, and fortunately I did. I put in a lot of work in the offseason and came in this season and I felt like I played pretty well. There's always room for improvement. We're going to get that this offseason, as a whole and myself especially. We're going to really stress some things and try to get better at them."
(on how pass protection has improved) "When we came in here, we all knew what was upon us, with the guys coming here, me and Charles Spencer and Mike Briesel, we all knew the kind of pressure that was going to be on us, but that was something we wanted and that was a challenge we wanted to rise to. I felt like this year we did a pretty good job of it. You always want that number to be zero, no matter want. You never want the quarterback getting hit—that's your responsibility. But at the same time, you realize that there are going to be some times that he's going to get hit and going to get sacked, and there's nothing that you can do about it. But that number keeps getting smaller and that's what we want."
(on his offseason plans) "I'm hanging around. I've got some weddings to go to. I'll see some friends and stuff like that, but that's about it."