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Kubiak feels roster crunch


Cutting players before the season starts never has been easy for head coach Gary Kubiak.

This year, it's only going to be tougher because personnel decisions will have to be made earlier than ever before. For the first time, NFL teams can take only 80 players into training camp. In the past, the league gave teams roster exemptions for NFL Europe players, allowing the Texans to carry as many as 90 players during camp. With the European league now defunct, those exemptions are gone, resulting in some tough decisions for teams.

"It's the first time since I've been in the league where there will be some difficult decisions to make going into training camp," Kubiak said. "Normally, you are set with your numbers and your guys and you go. We've got problems right now with who we are going to take to camp."

Another problem for the coach is making sure the Texans he does keep stay fresh and healthy during camp. Fewer bodies mean that players will be taking more reps during practice.

Last year, the team lost safety Glenn Earl and running back Chris Taylor to season-ending injuries during training camp, and the Texans led the league in injuries during the regular season with 17 players on the reserve/injured list.

{QUOTE}Kubiak knows he can't afford such losses again, so he has spent the last three months tinkering with the team's training camp schedule and deciding how he'll approach two-a-days.

"I think, first off, you've got to get reps because you've got to get players ready to play," Kubiak said. "We'll probably adjust our afternoon practices a lot from the standpoint of how competitive they are to more teaching."

The head coach also will have to adjust how he handles reps for veterans who typically sit out during practices to rest their bodies. Kubiak said he plans on using a day-by-day approach, assessing the health of veterans before each practice.

"If all of a sudden you've got 10 or 12 guys sitting at a given practice, boy, you are really down," Kubiak said. "So we as coaches have to adjust our reps. I think what we have to do is be very flexible in our practices. We're going to have to sit down sometimes before practice and say, 'OK, we have to cut back here, or let's add here.'"

Currently, the Texans' roster is at 88 players, which includes unsigned rookie draft picks. It's important to note that players placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list do count against the 80-man roster entering training camp.

"Everybody has got the same problem, and everybody in this league has the issue of trying to cut down before we go to camp because everybody has excess right now without their rookies being signed," Kubiak said. "It's a different atmosphere for us as coaches and GMs as we prepare to take a team to camp."

Around the league, coaches are giving varying responses to how they feel about the new rule.

Carolina Panthers coach John Fox said that roster limits are forcing him to cut back on practice time.

"I think we're going to shorten our length of camp," Fox told the Carolina Growl. "We've always carried 86 players. This year with 80, it doesn't sound like a big difference, but it is. You're practicing at camp twice a day and it does affect it. I'm not sure what everybody else in the league is doing, but that's something we've looked at and adjusted."

Conversely, Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said he didn't foresee making many changes to his camp agenda.

"I don't anticipate (problems) unless we get a bunch of nagging injuries that are going to keep guys out," Whisenhunt said to "If we do, then you just have to adjust your practices accordingly."

Kubiak said he could not comment on the future of the 80-player roster limit for training camp and he was more concerned with its immediate impact.

"I think you're going to see a new set of problems with those numbers," Kubiak said. "And we're all responsible for working through that. If it does stick next year and it's the same, then we should all be better at what we're doing the next year like anything else."

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