At day two of Texans mini-camp, several first- and second-year players spoke to the media following morning practice.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on the morning practice) "It was good. We had a good tempo this morning. It's been a good three practices. We'll have a couple more to take a look at a lot of guys. Knock on wood everybody is in good shape. We haven't lost any players other than the first kid on the first day with the hamstring."
(on the free agents fitting in) "That's what you're looking for, you're looking for those guys to see how you do things. We know they're going to fit in. We've done our homework on them as people and those types of things. But you want them to fit in with the group from a work standpoint, and that's what this weekend is all about. But they've done a good job. We'll just sit back and evaluate them really hard next week before we get started again on the 19th (of May)."
(on LB Xavier Adibi's hamstring injury) "It's not going to set him back drastically far, but it is a setback because all of a sudden there's going to be guys that have about 200 reps under their belts before we get through this weekend, and he's just watching. That's part of it, but it's nothing bad. So we expect him to go on the 19th (of May)."
(on the Texans' linebacker corps) "I really think that's a place where our football team can improve drastically. I know that sounds funny, but what I'm heading to is DeMeco (Ryans) and Morlon (Greenwood) have played a lot of football. They've been on the field every snap for this team for two years. They need some help. We've got some good guys out there battling for a job. You start with Zac (Diles). I really wish I would have played Zac late in the year last year and got a lot of reps under his belt. He's battling for a job. With (Kevin) Bentley, (Chaun) Thompson, (Xavier) Adibi coming in, we need to get better as a group in there. We know who our two rocks are. They've been playing a lot for us. They need some help, so hopefully these young kids come along and play well."
(on the Texans' cornerback competition) "The two new faces are (Jacques) Reeves and (Antwaun) Molden. Then we go from there. But it's a very competitive group. A lot of experience back there with (Jamar) Fletcher, and there's Petey (Faggins), who's been a successful starter in this league, but struggled last year. But I see a guy who's very hungry right now and is practicing extremely well. I think he's taken a deep breath and went back to work. I'm expecting him to play well, so it's a very competitive group. We'll see how it all ends up. Of course, the idea of Dunta (Robinson) eventually coming back makes it very exciting."
(on Dunta Robinson watching mini-camp from the sidelines) "I tell you what, he can't stand it. He's right there in the middle of everything watching it. I tell him to get off the field, but he's been impressive with his work and he's way ahead of schedule, as they would say. But we expect him to make it back full speed."
(on the coach-to-defender helmet communication) "We'll start messing with it in May, so DeMeco (Ryans) can get used to it. We'll put it on DeMeco and maybe Will (Demps). They'll probably be our two guys right now who we put it on. It's a great advantage as a coach, but sometimes there are players who don't like that, to be honest with you. You sit there talking to them. So we have to get (DeMeco) used to (linebackers coach) Johnny Holland, or whoever else is going to talk in his helmet. Not bothering him, so to speak, but helping him on the field. We'll start to mess with it here in a couple weeks."
(on the competition at safety) "It really is a very competitive group all of a sudden. (Brandon) Mitchell and (Brandon) Harrison have come a long way, but you add Nick Ferguson abck there, you re-sign Glenn (Earl). When I watched our football team last year in training camp, I thought he was ready to really have a helluva year. Unfortunately, (we know) what happened to him. But he's back healthy. Once again, it's very competitive and it will make them all better."
S Dominique Barber
(on being in the NFL) "I've been dreaming about this since I was a little kid and I'm finally here, and I'm just excited."
(on if he is taking his time in the learning process) "Yes. I mean, this is an important time. Right now, you've got to get in the (play) book. You've got to ask these vets what you need help with in and out, and they're very helpful guys. I'm very excited to be here, and I can't wait to keep things rolling."
(on how helpful the veterans have been so far) "Extremely helpful. Anything I need help on, they're there to ask. And even if I don't need help, they're offering help. So it's great, and I'm happy."
(on if anything has surprised him yet) "No. You know, it's been fun. Talking with my brother (Cowboys RB Marion Barber III), I knew kind of what to expect. The speed's a little different, it's faster, and the pace of the learning system, also. But things are going well, and I'm happy to be here."
(on if he has good speed) "Yes, I'm trying to run with these receivers, but they're fast, too. So you've just got to get in the book and you've got to be at the right place at the right time and make some plays.'
(on what he brings to the table) "I'm a smart player and each day I just try to get better, and I know that's something that we all try to do here is get better. And, as you can see, each day we're getting better and better and I'm just excited to keep things going."
(on if he is a big hitter) "You know, I try to think I'm a big hitter, but I guess we've got to see when we get the pads on."
CB Fred Bennett
(on his mini-camp experience this year compared to last year) "I think mentally you are prepared for what's going to happen. I think going in as rookie you don't know what to expect. Now, with a year under my belt, I know what to expect. I'm still learning. It's still a learning process for me, but mentally it's easier."
(on if he feels he has to carry a load because CB Dunta Robinson will be out most of the season) "Not at all. I'm up for the challenge. Kubs (head coach Gary Kubiak) called me over the offseason and he let me know that I'm the number one corner, so I'm just ready for the challenge and, hopefully, I can spread my knowledge that I got from Dunta and the other older guys."
(on his first impressions of CB Jacques Reeves and CB Antwaun Molden) "Jaq, I think is a great player. I think with a little work with our DB coaches that we have that if he is willing to learn and work hard, that he'll be all right. Molden, you know, I was talking to him earlier today, teaching him some stuff that I learned last year as a rookie. I think that's important. I say older guys, this is my second year, but I can kind of say I'm an older guy. I can spread my knowledge to him as well. I think he has the chance to be a great player."
(on what talked about with Molden) "I was working with him on his technique basically. Technique-wise I saw some good things that he did today at the line of scrimmage."
(on if the game feels slower in his second year) "Yes, the game's slowed down tremendously. This is my second year, man, and I'm still learning. I'm still young, I'm still learning, but it's slowed down tremendously. Like D-Rob (CB Dunta Robinson) said, he's trying to spit his knowledge, so I'm trying to spit the knowledge that he gave me last year to these younger players, as well."
(on if he's growing up really fast now) "Yeah, it came at me quick. It's on my shoulders now. I don't have D-Rob here to help me. I mean, he's still mentoring me and tutoring but on the field-wise, he's not able to do that right now, so the weight is all on my shoulders. I feel like I'm ready for that."
(on the secondary) "I'm real excited about our secondary. I think we've got a lot of young, great talent, as well as the old talent back there. We've got guys that are willing to compete and want to play, want to get out there and play, and that's the main thing about them. If you're willing to put yourself on the line and want to get out there and play and help the team in any kind of way, I think that'll help us tremendously."
(on senior defensive backs assistant Ray Rhodes) "Ah, great guy, man. Coaching-wise, he's giving me little tips here and there. When I mess up, he pulls me off and he talks to me and he lets me know, 'Hey, we're going to take your game to another level,' and I'm ready to accept that."
(on if the whole team is buying into Rhodes' message) "Yes, everybody's just buying in to what he's talking about; him and coach (Jon) Hoke back there. Two great DB coaches. When you have two great DB coaches and both of them are spitting their knowledge at you, you don't have nothing to do but get better."
(on if the team did enough this offseason to improve) "Yes, tremendously. We got Jacques Reeves by free agency; I think he's going to be a great player for us. Antwaun Molden in the third round, I think he's going to be a great player. He kind of reminds me of myself. He's still learning, the learning process, so I think we did a pretty good job in the offseason."
LB Kevin Bentley
(on what attracted him to the Texans) "Good young team. They're up and coming. They would've made it last year, I think, in the playoffs if they didn't have a couple of their key guys get banged up there in the middle of the season, and the opportunity to start and play again full time."
(on what he brings to the team) "Well, versatility is one. My smarts. I'm an aggressive player. I'm a downhill-type backer, and I can cover pretty well."
(on if the linebackers are a tight-knit group) "Oh, yeah, definitely. You know, there's some places where you go and you're competing so guys aren't as friendly, aren't as open, but it hasn't been the case here. We've all been tight-knit. We've gone to dinner together and stuff like that. It's a good mix. We've got ZD (Zac Diles), who's a young guy. We drafted a guy (Xavier Adibi) this year, and then you've got DeMeco (Ryans) who's young but's played a lot of ball early in his career, so I would call or consider him a veteran at this point as far as what he's seen and how many snaps he's taken. Then we've got the older guys like me and Morlon (Greenwood). We're like ancient right now."
(on if he knew any of the Texans before arriving here) "I was with Chaun Thompson in Cleveland for three years, so that's a good face, especially (since) he's in my (meeting) room so we can interact and stuff like that. André Davis (too). So I've got a couple of guys that can help me adjust."
(on if that helps the transition) "Oh, yeah, definitely, because I can talk to Chaun, I can talk to 'Dré, I can talk to Ray Rhodes if I have any questions or concerns and they can kind of use my mind a little bit. And I'm here if they need to lean on me."
(on the importance of mini-camp) "It's huge, because it's getting my feet wet. Learning the defense and seeing what the offense does, those types of things, and just seeing how they do things in general around here, you know. Coming from Seattle, a little different program, a little different speed, stuff like that, so it's just been getting used to how we run things here."
RB Chris Brown
(on his first impressions of the team) "Everybody's real nice. Everybody's working to the same goal, so I think we're going to be a real good team next year."
(on the offensive scheme) "They run my same blocking scheme that I ran in college. I love that zone scheme; it's one cut and get up the field, and that's why I really wanted to come here."
(on mini-camp) "It's real good. It's real important bcause I've got to get in here, understand how everybody works, all the little things so when I come back for training camp, I'm not new to it."
(on what his role will be the team) "You know, I'm just coming in to do whatever coach asks, come in and help out. There'll be plenty of runs – we're planning on running the ball a lot – so just come in and give Ahman (Green) a break whenever he needs one. Just go out there and do what I'm supposed to do."
(on running backs coach Chick Harris) "Chick's a great, great coach. He really keeps things loose and fun, but he expects you to go out there and get the job done, and that's what we do."
LB Zac Diles(on if he wants to make a second-year leap like DE Mario Williams did) "I'm just always trying to get better. Every time you get on the field, you are trying to get better and be consistent in doing it. Yeah, Mario had a great leap and I would love to make the same jump, but you've go to go out there and stay consistent and get better."
(on if he feels more comfortable in mini-camps) "Yes, I'm definitely more comfortable. Last year, I was running around here like a chicken with its head cut off. Now, I 'm more calmed down and relaxed and I'm able to have more fun because I know what I'm doing out there. Last year, I wasn't really sure at some points about what I was doing, but now I'm more into the playbook and in the same system so I know pretty much what I'm doing out there all of the time. It's a lot easier in that aspect."
(on getting more reps with the starters) "You've just got to take it in stride. If coach is confident enough to put me in with the No. 1's, then I have to feel confident that I can do the job. So that's what I'm doing right now and right now it's my position to take, so I'm just trying to - I just want to say I'm hungry right now. I just want to go out there and have fun and get some wins."
(on what makes LB DeMeco Ryans a leader) "He's a really big student of the game. He's smart. He thinks of the defense conceptionally. Instead of thinking, 'What do I have to do at this point,' he's thinking of the defense and where everybody has to go. He's an Academic All-American. He's very intelligent about football and he's a great athlete on top of that. It seems like everything just comes really easy to him."
LB Morlon Greenwood
(on the linebackers calling themselves "playmakers") "That's our natural breakdown every day. We say, 'Playmakers on three,' because you have to drill it in your mind to be a playmaker in order to do it on the field. Definitely, it's our natural state of mind."
(on rookie linebacker Xavier Adibi) "Unfortunately, on the first day he pulled his hamstring. But actually before that he showed good quickness and good reads and everything. I think as long as he continues to work hard, he'll continue to get more fundamentally sound.'
(on if they give Adibi a hard time) "It's already tough making that transition from college to the pros. We want to make it as easy for him and help him out."
WR Jacoby Jones
(on having a year of experience under his belt) "I come in and I'm a lot more mature now, and I know the offense. I know what I'm getting myself into with the heat and everything."
(on a deep group of receivers) "As a group, we are very deep, but we all have a certain thing we bring to the table. That's why we push each other. For myself, I hope I'm going to get better. I have guys like Andre Johnson and André Davis around me and that will help me get better."
(on where he needs to improve his game) "I want to be consistent – a drop here or there – I want to clean that out of my game period."
(on his punt returning) "I want to take something to the house this year. I got hot in preseason and cooled off in the regular season, so I want to put something in the end zone."
(on what words of wisdom he has for the rookies) "Keep grinding, baby."
C Chris Myers
(on how the similar offensive philosophy helps his transition) "Helps it tremendously. Coming out here and having the same scheme, same offense and just a few different calls here and there just helps out with the transition, makes it smooth."
(on what he's seen so far) "I think we're coming along good. Been a lot of fierce competitions the first three practices, and we've got one more this afternoon, one more tomorrow morning. There's (guys) battling for spots and having fun with it."
(on the best part about this mini-camp) "Just getting to know everybody. Being in the locker room, hanging out with guys, on the weekends being out here and just getting to know everybody. It's different coming out not knowing everyone, but luckily, I was able to have some background with a few of the guys on the team, so it's been nice."
(on if the linemen have been joking around with one another) "Yeah, we crack some jokes on each other. It's definitely going to be that way during the season, too."
DT Frank Okam
(on if he expected to be drafted higher than in the fifth round) "You know, it wasn't as high as I wanted, but the only thing that you can do to show that people made a mistake is going out there and playing, and that's what I plan on doing."
(on if that was a wakeup call) "Definitely. I think sometimes, as a player, you think you're good and everything and take things for granted if things don't fall as you think they should or as they may, but that's in the past. You can only move forward."
(on if it's humbling to be a rookie) "Definitely. One thing at Texas is that we did have a lot of talent, but the talent is way better across the board here so it lets you know very fast you've got to grow fast; you can't take a day off. Each practice and each play you get is a precious play because you can learn so much in it, so that's the big thing I'm taking from this and the big thing I'm really trying to use to motivate myself to be good here."
(on growing up in Dallas as a Cowboys fan) "It's not a big deal at all. My friends up there say they're still going to root for the Cowboys or whatever, but hey, I'm a Texan now, so I've got something to prove here in Houston."
DT Amobi Okoye
(on his mini-camp experience this year compared to last year) "For me, it's just coming in more comfortable. I have a year under my belt in the system, so it was quite easier than last year. Last year, I didn't know what to expect. I came out here kind of cloudy, but now everything is kind of mellow."
(on defensive line coach Jethro Franklin getting in his ear) "That's his style of coaching. He's always going to be in your ear, but we are just out here being coachable and just out here listening to what he has to say and being coached."
(on advice he would give DT Frank Okam) "I would tell him to keep his ears and eyes open whatever he does – just be aware and be alert."
(on making a big jump from his rookie year to his second year) "I expect a lot. I expect a lot of great things. The Pro Bowl is my goal. The Pro Bowl was my goal last year and I didn't make it, so it's going to be my goal every year."
CB Jacques Reeves
(on what he likes most about this mini-camp) "Getting to know the teammates, getting to know the system, just learning how things work. Learning how we do things around here."
(on the opportunity to start) "Oh, yeah. Big opportunity. I'm loving it, man. I'm with a group of young, hungry guys that try to get better every practice, man. I'm loving it."
(on if the secondary is ready to step up this year) "Oh, yeah. From what I've seen, like I said, they're hungry, man. They want to get better. They're ready to get better, and they're working to get better. So we're trying to get there, man."
(on if the scheme here is similar to what he ran in Dallas) "My first three years in Dallas, yeah. Last year, we kind of got into more a zone scheme, but I'm used to it, I'm used to it. I'm loving it, though."
(on if this scheme fits his skills) "Oh, yeah. It fits my skills. I like to be up, get my hands on the receivers, and that's what we're doing here."
(on if that's why the Texans said they signed him) "Oh, yeah. They like my speed. They like my aggressiveness. The coaches have talked to me a lot about that, and that's why I'm here."
CB Dunta Robinson
(on his status) "I feel good. I'm not actually out here practicing, but I'm running around a little bit. The knee's feeling better every day, and coming out here being with the guys again, it makes you feel good. It's a good feeling to be back out here."
(on if he has a timetable for his return) "No. You know, my timetable is the way my knee feels day-to-day. I'm not rushing anything; I'm just coming out here. It's actually getting better day-to-day, so if it continues to progress the way it has been, I'm going to go off that. I'm not going to set a timetable and then not be feeling as good as I think I should by that time, so it's just day-to-day right now."
(on his role off the field) "Well, you know, Fred (Bennett)'s still (young), he's going into his second year. Then we have a lot of young guys still out here, a lot of guys that are fighting to make the team, so just sharing my knowledge with them. That makes me feel good. Just showing my face out here. I get a lot of mental reps. I put myself out there in the one-on-one situations, I put myself out there in the seven-on-seven situations and also the team situations and just envision myself making plays over and over again, so that's doing a lot of good for me just to be out here watching."
(on if this is the biggest challenge of his football career) "Oh, no doubt. You know, I thought being robbed was going to be a challenge, but tearing that knee up and having to deal with that every day for going on six months now, that's an even bigger challenge. It's been tough, but it's made me a humble person, realizing that you can't take your health for granted. You know, you look out here and see all these guys running around and sometimes you can take that for granted, and you can't do it, and it makes you realize those types of things."
RB Steve Slaton
(on adjusting to the speed of the game) "Yeah, everyone understands that it's faster now. In college, you had a few fast guys, but not everybody. But as a team, the overall speed is more (on this level). You just have to learn to get upfield."
(on if he's been surprised by anything at mini-camp) "No, not really. I really didn't know what to expect. The first day was a lot, and now I kind of have a feel for how practice is going to be, so I'm trying to keep up."
LB Chaun Thompson
(on his first two days of mini-camp) "For me, it's going real good. The linebacker corps and defense as a team, we're all pretty tight. The new guys come in, they bring them in them in as a family and I really appreciate that, and it's working out real good."
(on if that helps with being a new guy) "Oh, yeah. I think it helps a lot, because we all have one goal: We just want to win. And whatever we've got to do to win, we need everybody. So if somebody comes in new, we have open hands, open arms (and) welcome him on in."
(on if he will have a lot of opportunities to rush the passer) "Shoot, I don't really know too much. It's kind of early right now and I'm still new, but at the same time, whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to be willing to go all the way out for it and try to do what I can to help the team win."
(on if the defensive scheme fits his skills) "I think it does. I think it fits a lot. But, you know, football is football; what everybody's going to do is just run to the ball."
RB Darius Walker(on the difference a year makes) "It's been a complete turnaround, like a 360-turnaround. It's been crazy. Coming in last year, I really didn't know what was going on. I think the biggest thing for me this year is that I'm comfortable with the system. I'm comfortable with the plays. I don't have to go through that whole learning curve, as far as getting the plays. Now, I can just work on my craft."
(on the experience he gained by playing four games last year) "It's a tremendous help to have a chance to get in the game. I'll tell you, the game is so much more different than practice. You can get out here and practice all day, but when you get in that game, that whole atmosphere and level of play, it's completely different. To have a few games under my belt with that will be very, very big for me this season."
(on the team being crowded at running back) "I just want to get in and showcase what I can do. When I got in there last year, I got to chance to play and play very well, in my opinion. So that went good, as far as last year goes. I just want to bring that to the table again. I think there's a lot of different running backs that we have and a lot of different styles. So it really depends on what they are looking for, I guess."
(on how he will fit into a zone blocking scheme) "Beautifully. What's great about this system for me is that I've been watching this system growing up. I am from Atlanta and I got a chance to watch Gibbs' system with Warrick Dunn and all those guys when I was growing up. So I kind of know the system."