Let's go camping

Corey Bradford rolled out of his BMW a glowing ball of optimism. But he wasn't the only Texan boasting such a mood.

One by one the Texans checked into the team hotel Thursday afternoon, the first step of 2004 Training Camp.

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"We left a lot of plays and a lot of games on the field last year," Bradford said. "Hopefully this year we can correct all that."

"Correcting" last year officially starts Friday when players report to Reliant Park for conditioning test. Practice begins Saturday.

Some players carried bags off airport shuttles. Others came in with little more than the clothes on their back. Training camp doesn't allow for much free time. The biggest requirement for the room – clean, cool sheets.

"You don't have much time in the room," tight end Billy Miller said. "I think as long as you stay in the ice tub and watch a little TV and just relax as much as possible (you'll be fine). As much relaxation that you can get, you've got to."

A sense of dread also filled the air.

Players were sweating from simply standing in the heat. But a change in scheduling that allows for more early morning and late afternoon practices will ease some of the pain.

The idea that heat builds character is not something players particularly like.

Center Steve McKinney joked of training camp as a vacation.

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Just living in Houston, according to McKinney is enough. Practicing in the heat is overrated, but can serve its purposes in toughing up for the season.

"It's really hard, but its fun hanging out with the guys and getting to bond with everybody and spend time with them," McKinney said. It's fun at first. After a few weeks it gets kind of grueling."

He and others on the offensive line particularly have their work cut out for them come Saturday. A new zone-blocking scheme is being installed and this weekend will be the first test in full pads.

"I'm excited to get the pads on," McKinney added. "We've got the new blocking scheme going in. It's easy to do it in just jerseys and helmets but you put the pads on and actually get out there and get to hit somebody and get into a rhythm and get to feel it, that's going to make it a lot better.

"We're going to turn the corner this year. I'm excited about it. I feel like we're going to be in playoff contention. There are some good things happening around here."

The team has stressed throughout the off-season about not putting a number to expectations. Hard work will speak for itself.

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Gary Walker's ]()defensive lineman frame nearly filled the hotel exit as he returned to his car.

"We just have to go out and handle our business on the field and let the chips fall where they may," Walker said. "We don't want to get overloaded before we get started. Fans, everybody wants a competitive team and we want to be competitive. We got a lot of talent last season and everybody saw the disastrous season we had as far as injuries and stuff. Hopefully we can keep everybody healthy this year.

"If we keep everybody on the field we have just as good a chance as anybody in this league."

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