Texans founder, chairman and CEO Bob McNair (right) watches Saturday's morning mini camp practice along with Texans general manager Rick Smith (center) and vice chairman Cal McNair.
Texans coaches and players reconvened on the practice field for the first time since the Dec. 30, 2007, victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Members of the team, including quarterback Matt Schaub, defensive end Mario Williams and several rookies, shared their thoughts with the media following the morning and afternoon mini-camp practice sessions.
Texans founder and CEO Bob McNair
(on his expectations for 2008) "Well, I think all of us are planning to be in the playoffs. I think that's what all the players want; that's what we all want. Now, you can't predict anything because we can't predict the future, but certainly that's where we want to be and that's our goal. The main thing is, we want to win our first game."
Texans general manager Rick Smith
(on his thoughts on the first practice) "I was pleased. I felt we looked like a football team and I thought athleticism was apparent. The speed was different, and I thought we were fairly clean with practice."
(on G Fred Weary) "Well, it's good to have him back, and he works so hard. He's been working extremely hard in his rehab process, and so we're expecting him to be healthy here pretty soon and back out here competing with the rest of the guys."
(on if he feels pressure after hearing founder and CEO Bob McNair's expectations) "No, we're all on the same page. We've all got the same goal, and I think that's one of the reasons why we're where we are today relative to where we've come from. And I think everybody understands all we're doing is working hard. We're going to continue to do that. We've done that; we'll continue to do that and see where it leads us."
(on draft picks being surprised by the speed of the NFL game) "Well, you can't simulate that, and that's the obvious biggest difference from the collegiate level to the professional level. And we try to practice (fast); that's one of the things that Gary (Kubiak) really emphasizes. We want to be a fast football team and so we practice that way. Everything that we do, we do with speed, and so it doesn't surprise me that they feel that way. They've just got to get used to it."
(on how important early practices are to gauge the players' health) "Well, I think number one, I think (Texans strength and conditioning coach) Dan Riley's done an excellent job so far. It's pretty apparent our football team's in good shape, so the offseason program has been successful thus far in my opinion when you look at that part of it. And you're right; (Texans head athletic trainer) Kevin (Bastin)'s got all of our guys that were injured last year on a pretty aggressive rehab program, and so guys just have to work. That's something you can't control. The only thing you can do is work as hard as you can work to get your body ready, and that's what our guys are doing, so I feel pretty good about that."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak (morning)(on an overview of the morning practice) "Well, it's the first time out. I think the thing I was most impressed with today is the physical condition of our football team. I think Dan (Riley) and Ray (Wright) and those guys have done a great job with our guys. About the only guys that really got winded today were young kids that just got off the plane, so I think we're a lot f urther along from that standpoint."
(on QB Matt Schaub) "He looked good, you know. We were just talking about him. He hasn't been around noise or around piles or around contact, that type of stuff, but he looked very comfortable and just make sure I keep people away from him, you know, but I thought he threw the ball really well.
(on what T Charles Spencer did) "He did everything that doesn't pertain to where he may end up getting tangled up with somebody. So he's making great progress. We'll see how he comes out of it this weekend. Hopefully everything's OK.
(on how T Duane Brown looked) "Well, I'll have to go back and see but, you know, we've got to see how far we can bring this kid in the next month and so we put him right in there with the first group today. And I know it was very tough on Ephraim (Salaam), and y'all know I have a great deal of respect for Ephraim and I can understand why it was tough, but as I explained to him, I've got to see how far I can bring this young man. But I know Ephraim's going to do his job and I'm expecting good things from him, but we felt like we had to put this kid to work right away."
(on if T Duane Brown is first on the depth chart) "Yes, he'll be working with the first group, and that's the only way we're going to find out if this kid's going to get to where we want him to go and how quick he can get there. You draft these kids in the first round to come in and play and that's nothing against Ephraim (Salaam), as I said, and we've had this conversation. But I understand the difficulty in that, but we as coaches feel like we have to put this kid to work right away."
(on what it means to T Charles Spencer to be back on the field) "Well, first off, he's very excited, you know. He's as upbeat as I've seen him in the last year and a half, and I think he looks really good, too. He's got his body weight down. He's part of the team again, so to speak. He's out of the training room, so, you know, it'll just be interesting to see how he holds up. You know, hopefully we walk out of here this weekend and we say, 'Gollee, everything went fine. The knee didn't swell,' then we move on to the next step. So we'll see."
(on how he controls the wide-eyed rookies who want to impress the coaches on the first day) "Well, you don't. You want them to see what it's all about, and right now they'll go back in there at lunch and they know how we work. They know how our guys go about their business and they've got their work cut out for them, so that's what you want to happen. When they leave Sunday, they've got to know before they come back exactly what's expected of them."
(on if LB Zac Diles is getting the first crack to start at strong side linebacker) "Yes, he is. You know, there's a lot of guys in there competing, with (Kevin) Bentley and Zac (Diles) and of course (Xavier) Adibi and (Chaun) Thompson, but Zac's lining up with the first group right now. He needs the reps. We'll see how he does."
(on his approach with G Fred Weary) "Well, we've got to get Fred totally healthy right now. That's the key, and he's very close, you know. We're hoping that maybe, definitely training camp is what we're looking for, but we feel good about the idea that he will be 100 percent very quickly or, of course, we probably wouldn't have done it. But we're expecting him to be back."
(on G Fred Weary coming along so well) "Well, it was a clean break, so they felt like he had a very good chance at coming back quickly, but Fred's an awful hard worker, too, so that's added to it."
(on if "protect the ball" and "take it away" are battle cries for the team this year) "Well, you know, I told you guys last year I was screaming and hollering it every week and I thought if they had to look at it every day, maybe it would help. It's all over the locker room, it's all over their pants and if we've got to put it anywhere else, we will. But if our team protects the ball better, we're going to be a better team."
(on if putting that on the back of shorts is the best place for it) "Well, I know offensively they all have to look at it when they get down. I don't know about defensively. We'll see. I don't know."
(on the importance of early workouts from the standpoint of getting and keeping the team healthy) "Well, I think they're important to see where some of these guys are, but you're right. It's definitely important to see how far we can come here over the course of the next month, but I think just going back to our conditioning level, to me, I can tell right now we're a lot further along as a football team and hopefully that means that we stay healthier throughout the year. Let's wait and see. But it's been a rough couple of years from an injury standpoint; hopefully we're due for one that's not as bad."
Head coach Gary Kubiak (afternoon)
(on tackle Ephraim Salaam's reaction to rookie Duane Brown's added reps) "Heck, you should be disappointed. He started 16 games for us at left tackle last year and did a great job. This football team is counting on him doing a great job for it again. It's strictly a decision on my behalf as a coach of wanting to get this young kid (Duane Brown) as many reps as I can and get him going. Hey, I understand that. That's part of being a pro. Ephraim and I had a good talk. If he reacted any other way and wasn't disappointed, I'd be disappointed. So we're fine. We'll work through that."
(on if Duane Brown is the Texans' starting left tackle) "No, we have not made any decisions. We're lining up working reps. We have a long way to go before we play, but we think it's very important that this young man gets every possible rep he can get. Ephraim has seen a few reps in his day. This kid needs all he can get."
(on his impression of Duane Brown) "It's one day. He's very athletic, very competitive. But I thought we all worked good today. You'll see in the long haul. But the thing he has to see is the speed of the game. He's got to see Mario Williams for the next couple months on a daily basis to get him where we need him to go."
(on the Texans using mini-camp to develop an identity) "Every team is different. This team will start to find an identity. It's got some new faces. It kind of developed some new leaders last year. It'll start to develop an identity as we move forward right here. But these three days are just kind of to let everybody know what it's all about, especially these young kids to find out that they better be ready to go or you can't hang around here long. This is a tough, tough business. So try to get them ready so that when they come back on the 19th they understand the drill."
(on running back Ahman Green) "I thought he looked really good. He went twice today. I'd like to work him. He's had a good offseason. He hasn't missed a day. He's worked very, very well. So I was encouraged by today. But we got him some help back there too. That's a good thing. We have a lot of guys back there to get some reps."
(on rookie Steve Slaton learning from Ahman Green) "Yeah, Steve is a very smart kid. That was part of our evaluation on him. We knew that we could catch him up real, real fast. He had a lot of reps today for the young man. I'm sure he'll sleep well tonight."
Linebacker Xavier Adibi
(on being thrown out there with DeMeco Ryans, Morlon Greenwood and Zac Diles) "First of all, just seeing them play, I see why they are the starters. They are a very talented. I'm just trying to learn everything that I can. I'm just trying to be a sponge and suck up everything I can from those guys and just try to make myself a better player."
(on the advice he has gotten from the veteran linebackers) "Any questions that I have, they are very down-to-earth and they help me out a lot. That's one thing that I like about this whole team – everybody's really cool and will help me out with anything I have questions about."
(on his older brother being friends with André Davis) "André told me if I have any questions to feel free to come to him. I haven't really had a chance, especially with him being on the offensive side I haven't really been around him that much. But I've seen him around and talked to him and he told me that everybody is real cool around here and if I have any questions I shouldn't hesitate to ask him or any of the other guys."
(on what he brings to the competition at linebacker) "A lot of speed. I'm somebody who has a constant motor. I'm always going to be around the ball and I'm somebody that can come up and stop the run as well as go back into coverage and cover anybody I can cover."
Running back Chris Brown
(on the Texans' zone scheme for the run game) "It's real comfortable. It just brings back the old memories (from college). I know all of the terminology, the protections. It's not too hard to learn. It's not that big of a learning curve for me."
(on if he's worried about sharing carries) "We plan on controlling the clock and running the ball, so there will be plenty of runs to go around between me and Ahman (Green). We're going to get the job done."
(on the competition in the backfield) "Competition doesn't do anything but make everyone better at every position. I see great competition around (with people) just pushing each other. The running backs, we have a lot of room (for improvement). We're all working hard and everyone is going to push each other to be the best."
(on his personal expectations this season) "I expect to be effective, to help this team win, do what I'm supposed to do and help out."
Offensive tackle Duane Brown
(on his first NFL practice) "I was just trying to get adjusted to the speed. It was very up-tempo. It went pretty good. I'm starting to get the assignments down and everything."
(on being the starting left tackle) "It was great. They threw me out there in the fire with the 1's going against Mario (Williams) and the first-team defense. It doesn't get any worse than that, just going against them. It can really bring you up to speed really quickly."
(on the speed of the game) "It's very up-tempo, a lot different from college. You have elite competitors out here. But it's good to get this one down and come out here for the second practice and do much better."
(on how he's adjusting to the speed) "You never realize how it is until you get out here. You go in the meeting rooms and see all the plays and everything, but until you go on the field and go against them, you really don't know how it is. I'm glad I got this one under my belt and I'll come back out here later and improve."
(on the speed of the game) "These guys are grown men out here and this is their livelihood, so the speed of the game, I have to get adjusted to that and I'll be fine."
(on how he's being treated by his teammates) "Some guys treat you like a rookie. Some of them take you in and show you things. Some of the things you just have to learn on your own. I kind of expected that."
(on if he's leaning on anyone for advice) "I don't really ask people too much. I just watch more than anything. Ephraim Salaam, Eric Winston, Jordan Black, Rashad Butler, all the tackles. I'm learning a little bit from all of them. (Charles) Spencer, he's helping me out, too. So everybody really is helping me out a lot, so it should help me."
(on facing Mario Williams now compared to four years ago) "It's a way different Mario than I lined up against four years ago. He's a beast out there. Like I said, it's good going against him. It can really help you out on Sundays."
(on improving each practice) "Definitely, I know I can't have many bad reps. After one practice, they'll let you get your feet wet, but after that they expect me to pick it up, so I have to come back next practice and show what I can do."
Running back Ahman Green
(on how he feels after two practices) "Feeling good. Just trying to come out here and get better. It's the first day of mini-camp, so it's a long way to the regular season. We're where we want to be. We kind of want to just get better and work hard."
(on if he has any physical limitations) "No. I just know I've got to watch myself. Not only if I was injured last year, just because I've been going at it 11 years and I don't need much to get myself back in the game, so I've got to be more of a governor on myself when I'm out here practicing but when I'm in there, though, give it all I've got."
(on what was rehab like this offseason) "Just like if I was healthy. I was going at it regularly. Olympic lifts, squat, deadlifts, hand clean, running, cutting, everything that I'm going to have to do as a running back, so there was no governor in the offseason rehab. It was just full-go, and I feel pretty good. I feel real good. I was really nervous coming out here, because it's been a while, honestly. It's been since November of last year that I've been on the practice field, let alone on the game field, so it was like the first day of school for me – real nervous, could barely sleep, but got out here, was excited, had a lot of fun."
(on having the whole offense healthy) "Yeah, I mean we knew that we had the injury bug last year. If we just could've kept key guys healthy that we would've probably gotten two more games to get into the playoffs, but we know regardless of what happened last year, we finished 8-8, but that's behind us. That's behind us. We've got to focus on tomorrow, which is the second day of mini-camp, and then go on from there."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson
(on how it felt after the first mini-camp practice) "The first day seems to go by pretty fast because everyone seems excited to be back on the field, playing and competing for balls and things like that. So I think the tempo was excellent. Hopefully, we can just keep up this tempo and just keep working to get better."
(on everyone returning from injury) "Yeah, it is good to see all the guys back. Hopefully, we can just keep everyone healthy this year."
(on the rookies and new players) "Today was the first day, so a lot of the guys were just trying to find their way through the playbook and things like that. So right now they're just asking a lot of questions. They will find their way. It's just their first day and they will get settled with the system and then they'll be able to go out and make some plays."
(on how this offseason is different coming off an 8-8 season) "I don't really think it's any different to me. It may be different for some other people, but I looked at it as, 'Yeah, we went 8-8, but at the same time we packed our bags at the end of the season.' I've been doing that since I've been here. Hopefully, I won't have to do it this year."
Cornerback Antwaun Molden(on the difference between a pro practice and a college practice) "It was much different with the speed of it. There's all the X's and O's with them throwing the playbook at you the first day. It was pretty tough."
(on the speed of the game on film) "It was nothing. That's just film. Out here live, it's much faster."
(on the intensity of defensive backs coach Jon Hoke) "It was coaching on every level. On every level, you have to adapt to the environment, and it's a hostile environment out here. It's very up-tempo, very up-beat and that's how it is around here. It's a great organization and a great coaching staff and you have to adapt to that."
(on the advice he's gotten from veterans) "They just told me to stick with it."
Cornerback Dunta Robinson
(on his status) "I'm feeling good. (I'm) pretty much running pretty good now; still got a little pain that I'm trying to kick, but I feel good. I'm a lot further than I was when I first reported back probably last month. Every day is progress, so it's coming along well."
(on if he feels the need to rush back) "No, not really. I just I want to make sure I feel as best as I can, so right now things are going good. Coaches aren't rushing me, and I don't want to rush myself. (I'm) just going to continue to take my time. (I've) still got to get a little strength in my quad, because it's weak right now, so I've just got to keep working and I'll be back sooner or later."
(on what he can do at this point) "Sit on the sideline, watch, learn and teach. I've got some young guys out here, so I'm just giving them a little bit of my knowledge on how to play the game because I remember when I first came in and I see these same guys wide-eyed just like I was. So just teaching and trying to make them feel as comfortable as possible."
(on his rehab) "Actually, I'm about to go in and do some strengthening. Like I said, my quad is still kind of weak, so I go in the weight room and get on the leg pressing machine and do a lot of agility stuff, a lot of balance stuff. That's kind of what I'm going to get in before this second practice."
Quarterback Matt Schaub
(on his surgically repaired left shoulder) "I did everything. It didn't hinder me or bother me at all out here today. Obviously, it would be a different thing if one of those guys came through and hit me, but time will tell with that once we get to training camp. But I felt good. I can't give you a percentage. That's hard for me to do that, but I felt really good."
(on coming back from injury) "It's great to get back out here and be healthy and to be out here with the guys. That was probably the worst part about being injured – just not being out there on the field practicing and in the games playing out there with your guys, especially for four games. So that was really tough to swallow. But it's part of the game, and I had to rehab and come back so I could be out here today."
(on his goal for mini-camp) "Just to get better. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of young guys, (so we want) to integrate them into the system and into how we work out here on the practice field and to just get better as a team. We took a big step last year, but we can't regress and go backwards. We want to keep climbing that hill and get better."
(on if he's spoken to the rookies) "Oh, yeah. I'm trying to get as much out of them. They're still a little 'deer in the headlights,' it's their first day out here and in the meetings, but it's good to meet those guys and see who your new teammates will be and the young guys on your team."
(on digesting all of the new information) "The coaches like to throw a lot at us in the first mini camp, so we just get back in the playbook and digest the new terminology that they might have put in and the new plays. So we were itching to get back out here after five to six weeks of just working out."
(on rookies that stand out) "It's hard in the first practice. You see some guys' skills. There are just so many guys and there are only so many reps to go around. It's hard to really get a feel for what they really can do. It's hard to tell, especially when you're out here on the practice field. It's something in the meeting room watching film and watching the practice tape that you can say, 'You know what, that's guy's got some potential.'"
(on the new zone run scheme courtesy of assistant head coach Alex Gibbs) "Well, there was a difference in our run-game install this morning. There's definitely another voice, a louder voice, out here getting after the guys. He brings a high level of intensity and knowledge of the game that's unparalleled."
(on if he watched the 2008 NFL Draft) "I wasn't one of those guys that just sat in front of the TV all weekend, but I definitely paid attention to who we were getting and who the other teams in our division and our opponents were getting. I'd leave the TV on and walk by to see who the last 10 picks were, but I wasn't going to just sit there and stare at the screen."
Running back Steve Slaton(on his first practice) "It went well. There are still a lot of things I have to learn. Throughout the day, I'm getting them."
(on if he got a good feel for the team) "Sort of. I think a couple more days will help me out."
(on how he felt about his play) "It felt good. I haven't played football in a long time, so it felt good to get my legs under me and run.
(on being compared to Tiki Barber because both hold the ball high) "I think it's a good comparison because later in his career he found a way to hold the ball better. He had less fumbles. I hope I can have none."
(on the Texans' zone blocking scheme) "I think this is a great fit. (Assistant head coach/offense) Alex Gibbs is in here running the zone scheme, and I ran a lot of that in college. I think it's just a good fit for me and I'm happy to be here."
(on his goals) "Just being a good third down back. I'm trying to fill whatever they need."
(on if he wants to be the every-down back) "Not now. It takes time to learn everything, and I'm taking that time now. I'm still getting my feet wet a little bit."
(on the speed of the game) "Yeah, everybody's fast here, down to the d-linemen, the linebackers, the corners. The speed is there, and you just have to adjust to it."
(on if he's worried about being chased down by defensive linemen) "Hopefully, I don't have to look back and see them chasing me."
(on his first day of mini-camp) "I feel good now. I had a chance to get my feet wet. Now I know what I need to do tonight and tomorrow to prepare for the next day."
(on what he did to prepare for today) "Off the field, I was just learning the playbook trying to learn things before I had to run them."
(on learning from the other running backs) "I'm just looking at what their technique is. They've been doing it for a while, so I'm trying to learn what they're doing so I can go in there and make an impact."
Tackle Charles Spencer(on being on the field again) "It feels good, man. I had a chance to get out there and do some of the drills and do one-on-one, and it feels good. I feel like giving a little more effort this afternoon."
(on if he had butterflies in his stomach after being out for so long) "No. I don't get butterflies, man. I ain't scared of nobody. I just gave it my all today, and we'll see later this afternoon."
(on if he is 100 percent) "I think I can do a lot of things, (but) as long as I play football, I don't think I'll ever be 100 percent. I'm close. I'm close to it."
(on the importance of offseason workouts) "This is huge, because I went from a starting role to not playing to playing behind guys right now, so I've got to work hard to get back in that starting lineup. I can't sit on no bench."
(on if he is limited in any way) "No, not at all. I can get in my stance. It feels good. I'm looking forward to contributing."
Running back Chris Taylor(on if he was hurt on the first day of practice last offseason) "First day, second practice."
(on if he's still catching his breath during practice) "Right. I'm just now getting my wind back."
(on if he is totally 100 percent) "I'm 100 percent. I was out there running today and felt pretty good."
(on the high hopes that general manager Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak have for him) "Well, that's great to know that they have a lot of confidence in me. I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I've been working hard this offseason to get back 100 percent and I'm just ready to play. I'm glad to be back out here playing football again with the fellas, and I'm just hungry. I'm ready to play."
(on what he can bring to the table if he stays healthy) "I feel l can bring speed. I'm a hard runner. I want to win; I'm a winner. That's what I feel like I can bring to the table. I'm just glad to be back out here. Sitting out for a year was just painful, being a spectator, not actually participating out here on the field, and I just want to be better than I was when I left off and I'm excited about the season."
(on if he can he pick up where left off) "That's the plan. That's the plan, to do that and more. That's the plan."
(on why he fits the zone scheme) "That's just my style of running. I'm a one cut then get north type of guy. I don't do all the shaking and baking. In college, we ran more of a spread offense; that really wasn't my style. But this is my style, and I feel that I can be successful in this offense. "
(on if he feels he has to show he's completely back from the knee injury) "Well, a little bit. I don't want to go out there and just try to overdo it; might reinjure it again. But I'm feeling good out there. And I just want to put on a good show, but at the same time be careful."
(on if there's competition at running back) "Well, I guess you could say that. Competition is nothing new. Playing the game of football, every year they're going to bring guys in that you have to compete (with) and all of us want to be the number one guy. We don't play to be the number two, number three guy; we play to be the number one guy, and that's what I'm playing for."
Defensive end Mario Williams
(on if he was at a different speed than everyone else out there) "Ah, you know, I'm just trying to start fast. That's our motto, basically, is to get out here and start fast for 2008, and there's no better way to do it than amongst your teammates, trying to push one another."
(on what he thinks of the rookies) "I mean, this is their first time going out there. They didn't even know some of the terminology when we were out there. We had to kind of tell coach, you know, 'Slow it down; explain it to them when we're out doing drills,' because he'll just say, 'Do this drill,' and then guys get down and then the kids line (up wrong). So, pretty much, it's just one of those things that you've got to catch on while you're going at it, so they've just got to stay focused with it."
(on if he saw some athletic ability out there) "Yes, I mean, it looks pretty good out there as for the young kids. As long as they just stay focused and keep chopping wood, that's all we can do out there is get better."
(on his first impressions of T Duane Brown) "Ah, I mean, I think he's a pretty good offensive tackle. The one thing I would say, you know, it's just going to take time and he's just got to catch on, you know. Especially, it's hard for offensive tackles just to come in the very first day and wreck shop, but I have a lot of faith in him. I believe he'll be alright."
(on if it's good that the team is on the field together) "Yeah, most definitely. I think it is. I think it's a good thing for us to see each other out here working and being able to push one another, critique one another and just go forward from there."
Guard Fred Weary
(on his mindset at mini-camp) "Right now my main focus is getting healthy and playing football."
(on his feelings on re-signing in Houston) "It feels really good. It feels great. This has been home for me for the past six years, and going into my seventh year I'm excited about coming back here. And when they called with the opportunity to come back, I couldn't say anything because I was so excited."
(on his return from a broken leg) "I just really started rehabbing toward the end of February. I had another surgery right in the middle of March. That surgery actually helped the healing process a lot. So it's moving along really fast. The doctors have been surprised how it's healed up. I'm probably a month away from getting out and doing all the stuff that I was doing before. That's good because I'll be prepared by the time training camp comes around."
(on his exact injury) "I had a tibia fracture, but I broke the tibia in two places. So it was a segmental fracture. Talking with the doctors, they were telling me that's not your ordinary football injury. It's more like being in a car accident."
(on if he has doubts about returning better than before) "None at all. The doctors are really pleased the way everything is healing up. Again, it was a bone break. There wasn't any ligament damage or anything like that. It was all bone. Once the bone heals up good, and once that gets done, I'm going to be ready to go."