Following are comments from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith. The pair talked to the media Friday after releasing 19 players, hours after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-13, in their last preseason contest.
(on last night's game)**"I was very impressed we gave those young guys a chance and a lot of those guys that were very impressive unfortunately were many of the guys we had to let go today. I thought they played well. They rested a bunch of starters as well as we did. To go out there and not get sloppy and play a clean football game where we didn't turn the ball over or there weren't a lot of penalties. Just a lot of great effort, a lot of guys battling for a job and trying to prove they can play on this league. I liked the way they went about it, I was impressed we ended things. And just ready to get started this week.
(on this cut being tougher than the other) "They're all tough. The way the cut system is different nowadays, I'll go back years. There used to be a slow gradual process where you're letting a few go each week. The way it's set up now you basically have your whole group together until that last game. That's a big cut down day–to-day. Those guys have given you everything they've got for six weeks and they get very close. I think this group became very close because of the competition on our team. And our first go around together, us as coached and them as players. It was interesting today to see all these guys who were let go there were a lot of veteran players around here today with those players that got let go because of some close bonds that I think they formed. Hopefully some things will work out for them. Hopefully a few of them will get picked up, or something will work out.
(on RB Antowain Smith) "That was very difficult. First of all he played extremely well and Chris (
) did too. That was a very tough decision for us, but the bottom line, for us as a decision, it's about youth and Chris' ability to become a returner. Which we think he has the ability to do in this league. There's still more work to do over these next few days. I want you all to understand that because there will be some more moves for us as a football team. For today that's the decision we made amongst them two. Had a good visit with Antowain today, he's a great guy, he's a local guy and I'm really proud of the work he did. One of the things that was very impressive about him was how much he helped those young guys. They were after his job and I told him, "you're like a dad to those guys these past six weeks." He didn't like that, but he's a great person. A really, really good person and we wish him well. I wouldn't be surprised if he got picked up after his effort last night."
(on a spot for Domanick Davis on the roster) "That decision will be made. We're at 55 right now, as you guys can see, we're not at 53. We've got two more decisions to make in the next day and a half. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
(on creating roster spots as he's picking up players) "Before that happens we could actually have a few roster spots. Probably the best answer I can give you right now is that we will be at 53 after tomorrow. And we will, if we pick up players, have to create roster spots. It may pan out a little different, but right now that would be the way it happens."
(on young running backs) "It's a big concern. But that's the world we live in and these kids worked hard and they played well. I think they're going to be fine players. It's going to take some time. There's going to be some growing pains. But that's the only way we're going to get better, if we take some chances on some of these players and are willing to work with them and raise them as pros sort of speak. You're looking at three guys that could be here a long, long time, too. It's going to be tough, but I believe in the kids and we'll go to work. Hopefully they'll get better each week."
(on Domanick Davis' options to stay on the roster) "There are only two options I see for Domanick. First of all, we're going to buy all the time we can. That's the obvious. There's so much information being gathered from a medical standpoint, from Domanick's point of view on how he feels and a timeline. We're gathering all the information and trying to do the absolute best thing for him and for this football team. I want to take all the possible time for it. Our meeting yesterday was tremendous. He's a great young man. He's been super for this organization. I just want to make sure that every 'I' is dotted and every 'T' is crossed before we make this final decision."
(on having two quarterbacks right now) "We're going to go with two right now. We have a couple of options. We could pick up another player and we could bring back one of those two back on our practice squad that we let go. I thought they both did a heck of a job last night. They really prepared to play hard and did a fine job out there last night."
(on any concern with the kicking game) "No, those are our two guys. We put a lot of pressure on them by not bringing in. I think they kick a great deal in the preseason, unlike some kickers at various organizations. There's a lot of pressure on Kris (Brown) and
). But I feel good about them. They're two hard workers, two good kids. They've done it before and they've been effective and I expect them to continue to do so. I've told you how much I think of Kris. His work habits and way he goes about his business every day. He's going to have a fine year. I'll tell you how I see it. He hits the ball low last night. He gets it blocked and a lot of guys have reasons why they do that. When Kris walked off the field I said, "What happened?" and he said, "It's all me. I just hit the ball bad. I hit it low." He's a tough minded young man and our team believes in him. I expect him to have a good year."
(on Sam Cowart's release) "I'm not going to avoid that. He's the only guy I haven't talked to today. So in fairness to Sam, until I have a chance to sit down with him I really would rather stay away from that. I'll be glad to talk about it as quick as I've had a conversation with him."
(on practice squad spots for Tramon Williams and John Walker) "No doubt. I would say that of our eight, all eight could come off of our team. It could be four or five from our team and three or four from another place. But we've definitely got some very strong candidates for our practice squad."
(on concern on rookie running backs) "I'm really not. I think we're going to play a couple of guys. This is the type of football team we're going to be this year. I want the position played well. If it ends up one of them being the bell cow, sort of speak, I just want that position to be played well. I know it's a lot to ask for from these young guys but I really think these guys are going to grow into this job and become fine pros. Hopefully we're going to catch the best of them as they grow."
(on what he sees in RB Wali Lundy) "I think he's beyond his years with his composure, his preparation, he's a very smart young man. He and (LB) DeMeco (Ryans) are a lot alike. They walked into this room from day one and handled themselves like pros. The mental aspect of what we ask out of a player, Wali has no problem with. He has had no problems assignment-wise. I don't think anything is too big for him. He has played in a lot of big games. And I think Wali is as healthy as he has been in the last couple years as a football player. I see a very composed young man that next week won't be too big for him. Out team needs to play well around him, but I think he will do well."
(on whether he thinks Lundy's college injury caused him to drop in the draft) "Well, I know it was a factor because I know he had some ankle issues last year, and he split some time. He was much more productive the year before. So coming out in the draft, he did not work out for people. He was not one of those guys that were working out for people on a regular basis. He had some problems. So I definitely think it had more than a factor in his sixth round pick."
(on what position is a priority when looking at the waiver wire) "Well, I think in our minds we kind of have a priority of what we're looking for, but I think there are about three ones and about three twos. I don't it runs one through six. I think its going to depend on what's happening. For us, one of the tough parts for us is as we set our roster is knowing each time we make a move it's going to have an effect on people that are here. So we have to be prepared for that so that is part of us getting to where we are today is us taking into account that if we pick up this position then where will this kid go, what would we do with this young man, or could we still keep this young man somehow. But all of those things have been taken into account."
(on whether there is a five week waiting period for anyone played on the PUP list) "Yeah. And you see that was the decision made on (LB) Kailee (Wong), so that is when Kailee can be back and (WR) Jerome (Mathis) can be back. Kailee has come a long, long way. He is very close. But I had a talk with him today, and I just think for us to ask 8-10 plays out of Kailee in Week One and then 12-15 in Week Two, if we do that process, we might set him back. And Kailee will look you in the eye right now and tell you, 'Hey Coach, by Week Five I will be 100% and ready to go.' And that is what is most important for our team. So we think it was best for him, and we think it will be what is best for our team."
(on whether Wong will need all five weeks) "No, I think if really push came to shove, we could have actually got something out of him this first month, but I think the best thing for him is to continue his process, which has been unbelievable, and be ready to go full-speed Week Five."
(on whether WR Jerome Mathis is as close to being back) "I think Jerome is a little bit more of a question mark than Kailee as to whether he will come out of that thing and be ready to go, but right now I don't see any doubt in Kailee. (For) Jerome, we'll see."
(on whether he has looked at the film from last night with the waiver decisions being made) "I have seen some of it. I'm catching up. I'll go finish up here after the (press conference)."
(on how last night's game help settle position battles) "Well the running back situation was definitely important. We wanted to see how those two guys played. The tackle position was an extremely important battle for us, and we're not through there. That's probably the main reason we're at 55 today and not 54 or 53, because we still have some decisions to make there. I've told you we're looking for who is the best swing tackle for this football team, and that is the decision we have to make. A couple other things: I would say on the defensive line we had a tough decision to make. At this point we went with (DT) Alfred (Malone). I think (DE Earl) Cochran can play in this league, so that was one of them. And I wanted to look at all of our tight ends again. As you saw, we didn't sit any of them. We played them all. One thing that was very impressive coming out of the game was (TE) Owen Daniels. I think there is no doubt he is ready to go. He's our guy. And he's a young one too, but the boy's going to be a fine player. Last night we asked him of kind of step up and let us know that. He did. He played really well."
(on how he feels about having five rookies starting to open the season) "Don't remind me of that. That's alright, though. That's the way we're going to get better. We're going to build this thing from the ground up and believe in those kids. Hopefully they are kids that are going to be playing here for a long, long time. Yeah, it's a little nerve-wracking for a coach, but heck, let's go do it."
(on how DE Mario Williams has progressed to this point) "I think it's going to be a growing process for him, but I definitely think he's ready to go. He got better every week. He went out and he's getting more and more comfortable with our defense and our schemes and what we want to do. I think the next big step for Mario is seeing the level of competition that he's going to play again on a week-to-week basis, and nothing is bigger than what he has to go against with the Eagles. I just want him to play hard; I want to see him improve each week, and I think he'll be a factor and he'll make the rest of the team better."
(whether DT Travis Johnson has played well enough) "Yes, he has played well. We might be able to help ourselves as a football team in the next couple of days on the inside. We'll wait, but Travis has definitely payer better and has done better each week. (DT) Seth Payne played—now there's a good story. How many years has Seth been playing? Nine, 10? I don't have it on paper here. He was out there battling last night. He played almost the entire football game in a lot of ways at some point, and hey, that was fine. He went out there and showed us he is going to be a big factor on this team. He was very impressive. To answer your question, we might be able to pick one (defensive lineman) up, but we'll wait and see, but Travis has improved."
(on whether any new additions to the roster would be claimed from waivers or trades) "They would probably be claimed (from waivers)."
(on which OT would be most likely to be a back-up guard if needed) "I think in a pinch they all could, but probably the one that you would put at the front of the line right now would be (T Eric) Winston. He's a guy that could go in there and do some of that, but we're not convinced that he can't be a swing tackle. Our concern with him doing that is not physical; it's about the mental aspect of being ready to play both sides, especially this week. But he has made a lot of progress, and he has gotten better and better. He's going to be a fine, fine pro. How quick he's going to play, I don't know, but he's probably made as much progress as anybody up front."
(on whether G Steve McKinney played well) "Yeah, that was encouraging. Yeah, he did. We wanted to play him a little bit at center because we were rotating those two young quarterbacks, but he came out of the game fine. He told me after the game, he said, 'I wasn't myself. I wasn't 100%, but I feel good. I should be fine.'"
(on whether WR Derrick Lewis is the teams' fourth receiver) "Yes, he is."
**General Manager Rick Smith
(on if he's feeling any pressure right now)** "I don't feel any pressure. We feel good about what we did in the preseason, and we had a goal when we started training camp to come out with the best 53 guys for a roster. We have not gotten to that point yet, but we're close, and we feel good about the start."
(on why the team went with so much youth at running back) "I think that it's a result of the competition on the field. Those guys stepped up when they had opportunities to step up and play, and I think (Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak) mentioned the fact that we really feel like (RB) Wali Lundy is a guy that is beyond his years in maturity and the way he approaches the game, so we don't worry about that. I know a lot of people talk about the fact that young backs a lot of times have problems with the things without the football in their hands, with blitz protection and those kinds of things, but we feel pretty good about those guys as it relates to that. Now, you know, we all know that you make assumptions, but you're going to go through growing pains when you put young players out at any position, and we certainly know that and we're aware of that, but we're going to live with those mistakes because of what the positives are going to be with those young guys."
(on whether the decision of what to do with RB Domanick Davis is the biggest thing on his mind) "It's certainly something that's very, very important to us, and it has been. Obviously with us making the reductions today that we made, and we certainly haven't gotten down to where we need to be, and he's a big part of that. So we want to just make sure that we're diligent about the decision, that we make the right decision, and that all the factors are considered, and so that's why we're going to take as much time as we have to do so."
(on what separated FBs Jameel Cook and Nick Luchey) "Cook is an athletic player. He's a guy who will go in and lead block, but our fullback in this offense over the last few years—when we were in
and what we're doing here—has evolved. It used to be a hammerhead guy who would go in and lead block, and we were fortunate years ago to have a guy by the name of Howard Griffith who was very, very productive at lead blocking. Even though Howard had had running back in his history, he was a guy that was very effective at lead blocking and could get through the holes. Since Howard retired, we hadn't really found a guy who could go in and do that and be as physical at the point as he was, and so just because of the type of players that we had employed at the position, it evolved into more of an athletic type of guy who could get out and get out of the backfield and catch the ball out of the backfield—a guy who had to be tough enough to go lead block, but that we could do some different things with. So that's why we had the guys who had played fullback and running back for us in the system. Cookie is that kind of way; he's that type of player. Nick is that way in some respects. You don't expect him to be that because he's 265 pounds, but I think he showed that he can catch the football out of the backfield and go in and lead block. So we just felt like at this particular time that Cook could do that, and we've got some versatility in some of our other guys. You know, (TE) Bennie Joppru has shown the ability to go in and be a guy who could play some H-back, play some fullback and have some versatility, so that was a big part of it as well."
(on what they liked about TE Bennie Joppru) "Obviously, he's got to be a guy who has a tremendous amount of fortitude and perseverance. I think that his confidence will continue to grow. I think it's something that we've seen develop and start to show here as he has had an opportunity to go out and play. He's a guy who hadn't had an opportunity to play. Obviously, everybody's well-versed in his story, but you ask him, 'You caught a touchdown pass. You played a full game.' And you ask him, 'When's the last time?' And there is no last time. His are all first times. So it's good to see that, and we're happy about that and very proud of what he's done, and certainly expect him to continue to develop. He's a talented guy. I mean, he was drafted high because he's a talented kid, so we're excited about his progress and what he could contribute to the football team."
(on how he feels going into the season with five rookie starters) "You know, that's tough in this league. It is. Again, I think it's obvious that we're going to have some growing pains and we're going to live with some of those rookie types of mistakes, but I think what we do here this year, and a large part of what has driven our discussions and our decisions have been predicated on us building. For these guys to get the type of experience that they're going to get will be invaluable as we move forward in the future. And certainly, we know that we're going to live with some of those mistakes, but we also feel like those are the guys who earned those positions on the football field in what they've done in the preseason and what they've done in our mini-camps and what they've done in training camp. It's something that as an evaluator, I push for that. It's a little tougher on coaches, but we feel good about what these guys can do for us on the field now, and certainly what that means for us as we move forward into the future."
(on if he considers linebacker to be at the top of his priority list for potential free agents) "Well, I think what's really significant to me about our claiming priority now, in terms of still having that first spot, is what you can do is you can dramatically increase the depth on your football team. You can still go out and get a couple of good players—a couple or a few good players. So linebacker is one position certainly that we're going to look at, and we're going to look at a few more positions, and we're just going to try to make sure that we solidify this football team as best we can so that we move forward for the season."
(on if he thinks DE Mario Williams is ready to play up to his status as the first pick in the draft) "Absolutely. I really do believe that. I've said all along since I've been here that there are no question marks about the guy as it relates to his physical ability and the combination of all of his physical attributes. The thing that I've been impressed with since he's been here and since I've been here to watch him is his ability mentally to handle all of the things that we've asked him to do over the course of our training camp. We've had him at left end; we've had him at right end; he's played inside and rushed inside in our nickel packages, and dropped in some of our zone dogs. So he's shown the ability to handle all of those things that we've thrown at him, so when you put those things together—a guy who has the physical ability that he has as well as the mental capacity to handle that—once he gets more comfortable with what we're doing, this guy's going to be a productive and a heck of a football player."
(on his opinion of the talent evaluation that Gary Kubiak did on this year's draft class) "I think, as an organization, they did a great job in the draft. Obviously, and I've said this when people have posed that question to me, or questions related to the draft, and I've said not only that, but I think they did a great job in free agency of going out and getting a bunch of guys who are going to contribute to our team that way. So I think, yeah I think that as an organization we've done a great job of evaluating talent and knowing, again, what players fit the system and knowing what we're looking for, and I think you're seeing the fruits of that as we try to solidify this roster at this point."