The Texans' kicking competition took a step forward on Tuesday morning, with Kris Brown and Neil Rackers competing in front of the team for the first time in training camp.
Brown, the incumbent and last remaining original Texan, and Rackers, the free agent addition from the Arizona Cardinals, had been kicking on a separate field with special teams coordinator Joe Marciano .
With all of their teammates and coaches watching Tuesday, they took turns attempting two field goals apiece from distances of 27, 37 and 43 yards. Brown finished 5-of-6, barely missing wide left on his second attempt from 43 yards. Rackers was a perfect 6-of-6.
"For me, I'm around new guys," Rackers said. "I've got to prove to them that I can put the ball through the uprights. That's more pressure than a game to me. You're trying to impress your teammates and let them know that when they put you on the field, they're getting three points."
Both kickers struck the ball with authority on each kick, with a couple of their conversions hitting the top of the video lift behind the goal posts.
"I think most every one of my kicks, I hit really solidly," Brown said. "At this stage in the game as far as training camp goes, that's what you're looking for. You're looking for consistent contact on the ball. I'm certainly not pleased anytime you miss a kick, but when you do and you feel like you hit it well and you were focused and really into your target, there's really not a whole lot you can do about it."
Texans coach Gary Kubiak called the kickers "dead even" on Tuesday and expects it to be a close race throughout camp and the preseason.
"It looked pretty good today," Kubiak said. "I think that's the way it's going to be. I think it's going to be nip-and-tuck the whole way and they'll both handle themselves well and kick well and make it tough on us to make a decision."
Five Things Worth Noting
• The Texans were down about 10 players in the morning, including defensive end Mario Williams (hip) and linebackers Zac Diles (groin) and Xavier Adibi (groin). As a result, Kubiak ended practice 20 minutes early and the Texans had a light walk-through practice inside the Methodist Training Center in the afternoon. "It's the toughest part in camp for the rest of this week, so we've got to get some guys fresh," Kubiak said. "Maybe we could get them back before the week's out, but we're trying to do more mental stuff now."
• With so many veterans watching from the sidelines, rookies and other young players got a chance to step up on Tuesday. "Sometimes you don't know what a young guy has got until he gets thrown in the fire, and they're getting thrown in the fire right now because of some things happing here in the last day," Kubiak said. "We'll find out. We'll keep pushing. I tell you what, the team has been working through some tough workouts. We are talking as an organization, as a team, that we want to get tougher, so we're going to get our chance right now."
• Two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans weighed in on tight ends Joel Dreessen and James Casey, who are competing for a starting spot with Owen Daniels still sidelined by a knee injury. "Dreessen has improved a lot," Ryans said. "(He's) definitely one of the best tight ends that we have, and it's good going against him because he's a tough guy, a never-give-up kind of guy. He's going to go all day, and I like his attitude and his work ethic. Casey can do a lot. He can line up in the backfield at fullback. Casey's probably one of the guys with some of the best hands on the team; he pulls in a lot of difficult catches."
• The dominant sports headline of the day was the reported retirement of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, although skepticism abounded in the national media that the three-time MVP is actually calling it quits. Kubiak chimed in on the reports on Tuesday afternoon. "Whatever Brett wants to do, he's a great guy and good for the league," Kubiak said. "I wish he would play, but whatever is best for him and his family."
• Approximately 300 children from TORO's Kids Club and their parents attended the Tuesday morning practice, which was the Texans' first morning practice of camp that wasn't open to the public. Rice football coach David Bailiff, Casey's former coach, also was at practice, as was Stephen F. Austin coach J.C. Harper. Bailiff's Owls play Texas at Reliant Stadium on Sept. 4. Harper's Lumberjacks take on Sam Houston State at Reliant on Oct. 23.
Five Things Worth Quoting
"It was a pinched nerve in my neck, C4 and C5 (vertebrae).It was good to find out what it was, but heartbreaking to know that I couldn't finish the season. Getting it fixed and getting cleared about a month ago was the best thing that could have happened to me."
- RB Steve Slaton, on what his injury was last season. Slaton had an offseason cervical fusion operation to repair the injury and has had an impressive first few days of camp.
"I wish I could tell you yes, but you could normally assume no. It's just the way it works. It's not like you could go out and create field goals. We'll probably rotate them every kick. If one of them has a game winner, we'll make sure the next guy will get the other one. We'll just going to be as fair as we can."
- Kubiak, on if there will be enough situations in preseason games to determine who will win the kicking job
"Well, I'd love to get a game winner, after the Green Bay game, back in Phoenix this year, so I'm with Coach Kubiak: I'd like to recreate that situation as well. You just try to create those situations in practice."
- Rackers, who missed a potential game-winning field goal in a home playoff game against the Packers last season, on not being able to produce certain situations. The Texans open their preseason at Arizona on Aug. 14.
"After practice, we go back and talk about what each other did. It's good to have another experienced kicker. If you're not hitting the ball well, you have someone else who knows what is going on."
- Rackers, on his relationship with Brown
"This is my 12th year, and I'm probably enjoying this situation more than any other camp. You probably think that's crazy, but it's good to have competition. It's good to have Neil in. I think that there's really this idea that just because you've got competition that there's got to be some contentiousness in the relationship, and really there doesn't need to be. Neil's a great guy. When we're out here competing against each other, we're competing, and we're fierce competitors. But when we walk away from here, we can be friends."
- Brown, who has never before had competition for his job in training camp with the Texans, on his approach to camp this year