Texans general manager Rick Smith was a guest on SportsRadio 610 AM on Thursday morning with hosts Marc Vandermeer and John Lopez.
In the second segment of a lengthy two-part interview (read Part I), Smith discussed the upcoming draft, his role on the NFL Competition Committee, free agency and several of the Texans' key defensive players. Click here to listen to the podcast. Below is the transcript:
The Combine is coming up. What's the approach here, because regardless of lockout/CBA issues, there will be a draft. So that's business as usual, correct?
"That is correct. Everything that we typically do leading up to the draft. Our scouts have been out at all the all-star games, the East-West Shrine Game as we mentioned earlier, the Senior Bowl, Texas vs. the Nation Bowl. So we've been out watching players and interviewing players and talking with players and coaches and conducting our scouting process as normal. Like I mentioned, we have introduced the free agent class to the coaches, and they are evaluating those players this week. We'll have that meeting (Friday) and get a sense of what they feel like from the free agent class. Then we'll introduce the draft prospects to them next week and get them started on that process. Our scouts are in next week and we will set our board, our preliminary board, next week in meetings all next week, and the following week we go to the combine. And so it is business as usual. After the combine, we've got all those pro timing days, and so regardless of what happens with respect to the labor situation, we will have a draft."
The Browns yesterday really cut ties with a lot of players. A lot of teams are releasing players. Players are hitting the street. What does that mean if you're interested in these players? Can you do anything along those lines?
"Obviously, those players are on the street. Right now, (or) in any year, you can't negotiate or talk to other players who are about to be free agents. But what you can always do is renegotiate with your players who are about to free or anybody on your roster, for that matter, and/or street free agents. And so if guys are available as free agents, you can sign them. It's people clearing their books. You see this from time to time a little bit later. This is a little early in some respects. You'll see a little bit more of this as the month continues to develop."
You're on the Competition Committee. What role does the committee have in any analysis or push toward the 18-game schedule?
"We're involved in the process of looking at what that means from the standpoint of the offseason conditioning programs: How much time we need, how much development that we need. Because if you look at an 18-regular season game schedule and two-game preseason schedule, one of the most important things from our perspective that you lose are evaluative opportunities to look at young players. And so we're looking at ways that we can maybe look at training camp and try to figure out, 'How do we make up for that lost time that we're losing with evaluating and developing players?' You've got to look at roster sizes, if it impacts the roster sizes. You look at injured reserve rules. So, all of those things are on the table and are things that we're looking at and contemplating and studying."
I would imagine there's guys lobbying for different things in relation to the 18-game schedule. Some guys might want larger rosters than others, that sort of thing. You converse about these things, right?
"We do, and it's a great group of men. I'm blessed to be on that group. It's such an important element to our league, and we've got a bunch of good men on there. We have some fun discussions and spirited discussions at times, but there's tons of respect for everybody. The bottom line is at the end of the day, we are charged to do what's best for the game and make sure that we keep the game first and foremost, and that's what we all are committed to doing."
Got to ask you Texans free agents. Specifically, Bernard Pollard came on our air and said he wasn't real confident about coming back. Can you give us maybe a priority list or how you feel good or not good about some of the Texans' guys?
"Obviously, when that happened, I heard about it. Bernard is opinionated and he's not too shy about expressing those opinions, and that's fine. We've had that relationship for a number of years, and so I don't mind that. You know, that's what we're doing. We're doing that this week. We're looking at our players. It's a little difficult. With the uncertainty of the labor situation and salary cap situation and everything that is going to be moving forward with respect to parameters in how you set your team, it's hard to try to sit down and try to put a contract together for a player when you don't know what the parameters overall are going to be. And so that's what our situation is here. We've met with some agents. We'll meet with agents. That process really gets started next week at the combine where you start to sit down and talk about, 'Hey, we're interested in bringing these guys back.' We've expressed that we wanted to bring the guys that we want to bring back to the agents. We'll start to do that a lot more next week. But the truth of the matter is it's hard to sit down and talk contract when you don't know what the overall parameters are going to be."
We've asked Wade Phillips numerous times about the 3-4 and how different Texans personnel members fit in, but your quick thoughts here on Mario Williams and Brian Cushing in that 3-4 defense, what they might look like.
"I am excited. I'm excited from a personal standpoint, guys, to be honest with you, because at Purdue, I played in the 4-3 defense. In Denver, we played the 4-3 defense, and here, we played (it). So I've grown up in a 4-3 defense and this is really my first exposure to a 3-4 from a personal standpoint. Obviously, we've watched it and studied it and understand it, but from the standpoint of us playing a 3-4, this is the first time. So I've spent hours in the room with Wade, talking to him, watching tape with him, getting a sense of what it is that he looks for and how he wants to coach it so that we can educate our scouts, and I do think that we've got some players who can be productive in this system. And Mario, Wade's got a game plan for him and how he wants to use him, and he's very confident that Mario's going to be able to be a productive player. And Brian in the same respect. As I look at the defense, there's some guys that are prototypical at certain positions, and Brian certainly is that way and maybe (at) more than one. So I think wherever we put him, it's going to be a situation where he's going to be able to impact the football game much like he did his rookie year and will be able to get some pressure after the quarterback and just play overall better defense."
Players are still able to work out and rehab at the facility until March 3, right?
So it's got to be tough for DeMeco (Ryans) when you see him leave the building March if there's no agreement. How's he doing, by the way?
"He's doing fine, and it will be tough. And that's why we're committed from a league standpoint of working as hard as we can work. And they're doing that, to make sure that we do continue to have those (injured) guys around (for rehab). We've got a lot of work to do to get our guys up to speed on what Wade wants them do at all the different positions. And so that's what we're excited about, and we're excited about trying to get this football team better and studying and trying to add some players now that are going to go out and make plays. That's' what we're always trying to do. On offense or defense or special teams, it's just about adding quality players who can make plays with the football in their hands and/or make plays on the ball on defense."