The Texans wrapped up their final mini-camp practice Sunday, and players and coaches spoke to the media afterward.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on his impressions after mini-camp) "Well, it was a good weekend. Like I said, the whole philosophy behind changing the schedule up a little bit, to me, was that I wanted all these young guys to have an idea after today of the way we do things so they come back on the 19th, when we get started on the 19th, we don't waste two or three days getting in the right mode. It was a good weekend, only had one guy really get nicked so we're ok physically, and, hey, 2008's well on its way. It's fun to get started."
(on letting the players out early today) "Yeah, we cut it off a little bit, but I've liked the way they worked. They've been very professional. I think our guys are learning how to find that button when they know it's time to find another gear, and I told them to come out here and give me a good hour and we'd go an hour today, and they did that."
(on if mini-camp is a reality check for young players) "Yeah, that's exactly what it is, I think not only physically but mentally all the stuff they've got to know. This gives them a chance to go back for a week and get in their (play) book and then come back a little more competitive. The whole idea from a coaching standpoint is you try to get all these young kids to the point that when you go to training camp, they can compete and not think all the time, so that's what you try to do."
(on if any rookies stood out) "No, I would just say that we felt good looking at all of them. I wish (Xavier) Adibi could've gotten all those reps that those other kids had got, but that's part of it. But what we thought we saw when we drafted them is exactly what they are, so now we've just go to get them to fit in with this football team. And they can all help this team. That's the key, so we've just got to get them going."
(on DT Frank Okam getting more reps because of DT Travis Johnson's wedding) "Well, we're impressed with him. I mean, he's a very big man. He's 345 pounds. You normally don't find guys that size that are athletic, too, you know, and he's got a lot of ability. He's very smart, so he picked up what we're doing real quick. Local kid, so it's very exciting for him to be playing in the state of Texas. We're counting on him. Travis's wedding was his gain. He got a lot of reps."
(on if there was a difference in T Duane Brown from the first day to now) "I could tell a difference in him from practice to practice. Like I said, we won't get there with him until he gets all those reps. Going against Mario (Williams) every day, Mario is impressive in this camp. I tell you, he's an impressive young man right now. And y'all can see it, watching him practice and how he's going about it, and if Duane has to see him on a daily basis, he can't help but get there."
(on DE Mario Williams' improvement) "That light went on for Mario somewhere last year about Week 7 or 8. Everybody saw it, and if you watch practice right now you see him at another level. I think the sky's the limit for him. I don't want to sit here and say too much; I just love the way he works. I love the way he handles himself. Football is very important to Mario, and he's working his way toward a big, big year."
(on establishing with players that the team is going to run the football) "Well, it's a message to our whole team. You know, if you go back and look last year, when we outrushed our opponent and when we ran the ball well, we win, and it's going to help us as a football team to get our defense off the field. They're on the field too much. And it just gives you a chance week in and week out to be consistent, to me, when you run the ball. And if you look at our schedule, that tough schedule we have, we better be able to match some people physically or it's going to be very difficult, so the emphasis will stay there. It's very important."
(on his take on T Charles Spencer practicing) "Well, it's just I'm happy for the kid. It's good for the team, and I'm just really happy for him. After a year and a half, you could get discouraged and possibly go the other way as a player, but he has stayed true to his rehab and what everybody's asked him to do and his frame of mind is good. I saw a smile on his face for probably the first time in a long time, and I think he sees himself being able to do this now and make it, and that all adds up to being very good for the team."
(on what that kind of sacrifice brings to a team) "Well, you root for guys like that. Here's a guy who had earned a spot at left tackle on our team as a rookie and then all of a sudden you see that happen to him, so you're looking at one heck of a promising career and all of a sudden you don't know what's going to happen next. I think we're all pulling for him, and everybody's just happy to see him make his way back and everybody, to me, has the same frame of mind right now with Dunta (Robinson). The type of player he is, what he's been through, everybody's pulling for him to get back to where he was."
(on offensive line coach John Benton being underrated) "Yeah. He's kind of, like you said, from an underrated standpoint, the job he did with our guys last year was tremendous, and then Alex (Gibbs) comes here and there's a lot of talk of Alex and the scheme and stuff but if you ask anybody on this team, the job that John Benton has done since he's been here has been tremendous. And to have the opportunity for John to work with Alex and to be around Alex, to me, is only going to add to his resume."
(on how Benton was hired) "Well, actually, I didn't know John when he was at Colorado State. He sat in some of our meetings at Denver. I shouldn't say I didn't know him; I knew of him and had met him a couple times, but where I learned more about John was when he was with the Rams, coaching with the Rams, so that's kind of where I found out more about him and then got him and (Mike) Sherman together at one point in the Chicago airport to talk football for about four hours and Sherm came back and said, 'You need to hire this guy.' So he comes with a very good resume, and he's done a great job."
(on if RB Steve Slaton will have to change the way he carries the ball) "No, he carries the ball correctly. He's got the pressure points and stuff. You know, he's small in stature, and a lot of the contact with him is around the ball, whereas some guys it's around the legs. So it's been a rude awakening for him these last few days. We're constantly trying to strip the ball. But I have confidence in him that he'll try to protect the ball. I thought he did some very good things this weekend."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson
(on the team improving with the addition of Alex Gibbs) "Yeah. You know, this is my first time really meeting coach Gibbs. I've heard about him, but the run game plan he's putting in, I love it. I think it's great. I think guys on the team love it and I think it'll make our team better, but at the same time, it's not just making us better because he's here. We have to work at it and keep going forward."
(on if an emphasis on the run game opens up more opportunities for him) "Yeah, definitely. You definitely don't want to be one-dimensional, and I think that if we were to get our running game going this year, that's definitely one thing coach Kubiak wants to do. He wants to run the ball. And you look at all the successful teams, they're able to run the ball. So if we can run the ball, I think we'll be a lot better."
Tackle Ephraim Salaam
(on being back at mini-camp) "It's exciting to get out here and be around the guys again and football. We've been working out together for about a month-and-a-half. To stop all the running and lifting and stuff and just getting out here and playing, it feels good even to my old body."
(on his goal for mini-camp) "I wanted to see how far we've come. We had a lot of injuries last year. Some of those guys are back working with us and it's good to have them back part of the fold and just see what we need to do to put this thing back together and keep everybody healthy and start the season the right way."
(on the team's conditioning) "Well, we always stay in tip-top shape and all of that, but just being out here practicing is enough conditioning by itself with all of the one-on-one drills and all of the individual stuff."
(on his impression of the rookies) "I'm impressed with the young guys, especially Duane (Brown) with the way he's come in and worked hard. Being put under pressure and put in there with the 1's, he's done a good job. There are a few technical things he needs to work on, but I still have technical things I need to work on."
(on his feelings on Duane Brown playing with the first-team offense) "It took me a couple days, but I am a competitor, and this is what I do. This is my job. This is what I do for a living, and I've been starting in this league for a long time. And it took me a while. I understand where they're coming from. I didn't like it, but I understand what they need to see out of him to see how far along he is and what they need to work on with him, and I'm OK with that. The competition starts when training camp comes around and I'm up for competition. I've been competing for my job for 11 years, so it's nothing new to me."
(on if he's going to help Brown) "Of course, I'm not the guy to sabotage the team. That's not me. I'll never be that guy because this is my job. Things don't work in your favor all of the time, especially in this business. I'm a professional. My dad taught me a long time ago to have character, be professional and just do your job, and that's what I do."
(on how Brown is adjusting to the pro level) "I asked (Duane) yesterday after practice, 'Did you guys practice this fast in college?' He was like, 'The games weren't even this fast.' So the new terminology and the speed of practice, it's heavy, it's tough, especially for a left tackle in this league. To just come in and get all this thrown on you, plus to be on the edge by yourself – he's handling it alright. There are some things he needs to work on, but that's what we're all here for."
Tackle Duane Brown(on the vets helping him out) "They've been helping me out tremendously. I understand that they've all been there before, so they're trying to bring me up to speed as quick as possible."
(on if he feels like it's information overload) "Not yet. This is as bad as it gets, just throwing a lot of stuff at you in three days. The rest of the offseason I think it will slow down for me and I'll be able to digest the information at a slower pace."
(on the final practice of mini-camp) "This is a great day. The weather is beautiful. It's easy to run around in. We finished up early and we worked hard, so that was our reward."