The Texans opened the doors of Reliant Stadium to players at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, one day after the end of the lockout.
Thirty-two players showed up in the morning for voluntary work, including quarterback Matt Schaub, linebackers Mario Williams and Brian Cushing, tight end Owen Daniels and rookie defensive end J.J. Watt.
"It's like the first day of school again," center Chris Myers said. "You get in there and this morning, the first thing was everyone was in the locker room and we hadn't been here in four months, so it's kind of like you're reintroducing each other and the jokes start up again. It's like we didn't lose any time at all. We just start right back up. It's great to be back and finally getting on the road again with our season."
Players started the morning with a group run across the street at the Methodist Training Center. They also had a chance to work out in the weight room with strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith, meet with team trainers and equipment staff, watch film and attend meetings with coaches who had been waiting to see them for months.
"We were all working out elsewhere, but to be all back together in our environment at the stadium with the coaches around, the equipment guys, the trainers, we were able to get back in a normal routine," Schaub said. "As players, we're creatures of habit, and we like a schedule. Having that all thrown off the past five months, to get back into a normal schedule after getting the word yesterday what the timings would be for the next week and the start of camp, it was exciting."
Schaub tried to keep his teammates sharp during the lockout with organized workouts at nearby Rice University. The workouts mirrored the Texans' organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camps and were attended as many as 40 players at some sessions.
"I was very encouraged," Schaub said. "We had a great turnout, both in our mini-camps and just in the normal workouts. Guys worked hard. We followed our program to a 'T' and got a lot out of it. Hopefully, it'll pay off once we get to camp and we'll cut down on any type of injuries that might happen and just be able to get right back in the swing."
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who reported that his ankle "feels really good" after season-ending surgery in 2010, said that tight end Joel Dreessen also played an integral role in the players-only workouts.
"He put us through the exact workout we would've done here with Ced Smith," Barwin said. "He took that right over to Rice and did the whole (thing). He was on the clock every day, he had the sheet, he was timing us, so it was like we didn't even miss a beat."
Barwin also quipped that the worst part of the lockout was "the amount of laundry that I had to do."
"It was like back to when your mom and dad used to drive you back and forth to football practice in fourth grade and you put your sweaty pads in the back of the car," Barwin said. "That's exactly what it was all summer. You had to do everything yourself, and your car smelled; it was terrible. But it just made you miss everything you have playing in the NFL and how lucky you are and how fortunate your facilities and all the things that they have for you here."
Tuesday marked just the second time to be at Reliant Stadium for Watt, the Texans' first-round draft pick from Wisconsin. It also was the second time that he got to meet defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Watt said that the first thing he asked Phillips on Tuesday morning was, simply, "Can we start working?"
"That's what I wanted to do," Watt said. "I wanted to start working. He had a smile on his face and I had a smile, and we were just both ready to get to work. It's nice to be able to flip through that playbook and turn on that film and just go to work, because that's what we've been waiting to do for so long."