Mini-camp report: Day 1


The Texans began their three-day mini-camp on Monday with several new players in the fold, namely quarterback Rex Grossman, defensive end Connor Barwin and running back Jeremiah Johnson. Not in attendance was tight end Owen Daniels, who signed a one-year tender over the weekend.

Barwin exceeds expectations: The Texans knew they got a hard worker with a ton of athleticism when they drafted defensive end Connor Barwin in the second round. They had no idea how he would look when he showed up for the first day of mini-camp on Monday after missing OTAs because of his college's late graduation.

Well, Barwin looked good - exceptionally good, according to head coach Gary Kubiak.

"He's obviously faster than everyone today," Kubiak said. "He and J.J. (running back Jeremiah Johnson) were the two fastest players on the field, because all of these other ones have been at it pretty hard. The thing I was impressed with today was watching his strength for a tall, wiry guy like he is. Watching him hit the sled and those type of things, he carries a lot of punch for a 263-pound guy."

Barwin spent the last month in constant communication with defensive line coach Bill Kollar and watching DVDs that highlighted the run techniques, pass-rushing moves and defensive stunts that the Texans run. He also had been hitting the weight room and working on his conditioning and foot speed.

"It was fun to be out working with guys, have a helmet on and actually be playing football because I've just been running around, jumping, lifting weights for the last four or five months," Barwin said. "It's good to finally be out here on the field with other guys.

"I know that my role when I got here was to play as fast as possible all the time, so that's what I'm going to do."

Grossman's battle begins: Monday marked quarterback Rex Grossman's battle for a spot on the Texans' roster. Grossman, who signed with the Texans as a free agent on Friday, joined the team for the opening day of mini-camp and will compete against Alex Brink for the third quarterback spot behind starter Matt Schaub and Dan Orlovsky.

"It's another opportunity for me to be in this league and get to where I want to be," Grossman said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.

{QUOTE}"I'm 28 years old. I've got a lot left. I'm hungry to get back up, to start at some point in my career and get back to the Super Bowl. So I'm extremely motivated."

Schaub enters the season as the entrenched starter, so Grossman's focus for now will be making a team that usually carries two quarterbacks.

"I have carried two; I've been a product of a two-quarterback system," Kubiak said. "But we have a long way to go and a lot of players to evaluate."

Grossman lost his starting spot with the Chicago Bears to Kyle Orton last season. A 2003 first-round pick, Grossman spent his six-year career in Chicago and led the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006. That season, he threw for a career-best 3,193 yards and 23 touchdowns.

He has been a free agent since being released by Chicago this offseason, and Grossman looked a little rusty at the start of his first Texans practice. Kubiak said that Grossman got better throughout the workout, but he still has a lot to learn about the team's scheme.

"I think he's a pocket guy," Kubiak said. "I think he has the ability to move around. He can make plays off-schedule. I see him being a productive guy in our system. The key is: He's got to make up months of work here in about four weeks to get in there and legitimately compete with these guys."

O.D. a no-show: Tight end Owen Daniels signed a one-year tender with the Texans over the weekend but did not show up for the team's mandatory mini-camp on Monday. Most of the veterans are not required to attend the three days of practices, but they must go through strength and conditioning workouts at the stadium.

"I think everyone understands the rules," general manager Rick Smith said. "I'm not going to talk about our conversations, but I think everyone understands that it's a mandatory mini-camp and that everyone is supposed to be here.

"We have a lot of goals for the football team this season. And every time you are with your teammates, you are getting better. From that standpoint, I think he would have been better served being here today lifting and meeting with his teammates."

Daniels could receive a fine for his absence.

"This is a mandatory mini-camp, so there are ramifications for him not being here today," Smith said.

The Texans maintained that they are counting on the Pro Bowl tight end to be a key player for them next season and are continuing to negotiate a long-term deal.

"Our situation is that Owen is a big part of what we want to do," Smith said. "I want to get a long-term deal done. I am very motivated to get that done. That has not changed."

Quotable: "It feels really good. I wasn't anticipating the sun. The sun kind of beat my butt a little bit. I just have to come back tomorrow. I pretty much know how the practice is, so I know how to pace myself through the whole practice (now)."
- Running back Jeremiah Johnson on his first day of mini-camp

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