Nick's Notes: Rookie standouts, vegan talk

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Notes and quotes from the Texans' first day of 2012 Training Camp presented by XFINITY at the Methodist Training Center:

Outside in: The Texans were outside for the first hour and 15 minutes of their 8 a.m. morning practice, then spent the final hour of practice inside the Methodist Training Center. Head coach Gary Kubiak Kubiak indicated they will follow the same routine for the next few days, which is not surprising considering the Texans have the hottest average training camp temperature in the NFL. "I think right now, my focus is getting us to two hours and 15 minutes on the field the right way in the heat, so we're going to stair-step it here the first few days," Kubiak said. "I'm really trying to pay attention to who came in here in great shape. I saw a few guys that I don't think were in the type of shape we need to be in, but we'll get them there. I told the players after practice, the new wears off real quick. We're here to be good for six months, not 3-6 days, so we just need to stay focused and get to work."

Light afternoon: In the afternoon, the Texans had an hour-long practice inside the Methodist Training Center. Because of new Collective Bargaining Agreement rules that prohibit full two-a-day practices, the Texans' afternoon sessions will be "jog-throughs" focused on teaching and bringing younger players up to speed. The Texans will rest 7-8 veteran players in every indoor session, including quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster, tight end Owen Daniels, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

Right-side questions: One of the Texans' biggest question marks is the right side of the offensive line, where they are replacing longtime starters Mike Brisiel (right guard) and Eric Winston (right tackle). Guard Antoine Caldwell and tackle Rashad Butler got the first staters' reps on Saturday, but second-year pro Derek Newton also worked with the first-team offense at right tackle and as a third tackle in jumbo sets. Rookie guard Brandon Brooks took first-team snaps as well. "Gump (Caldwell) and Butler operate as starters right now, but Newton's splitting reps, kind of, with Butler," Kubiak said. "Our young guard (Brooks) is getting a ton of reps. It's going to end up right down the middle. They're going to both work with the ones and the twos, but hopefully, that's something we've got settled by Week 3 in the preseason."

Brooks slims down: Kubiak was critical of Brooks' weight during OTAs and mini-camp, but the third-round draft pick from Miami (Ohio) reported to training camp in great shape. "He weighs 337," Kubiak said. "He's a totally different animal right now. He looks good. He had a really good practice this morning. A guy like that needs to become a pro real quick for us to be as good as we can be. Today was a good start for him." Brooks was listed at 6-5, 346, in the spring.

Mercilus, rookies impress: Kubiak said outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Texans' first-round pick from Illinois, stood out on his first day of NFL training camp. "Boy, it was impressive," Kubiak said. "Very good athlete. In pass rush today, I thought he looked very, very good. We're resting Connor in the afternoon, so that's more stuff for him to do. How quick Whitney comes along, that's how deep our defense will be and how much production we get from those guys rushing the passer." Kubiak also said wide receiver Keshawn Martin, a fourth-rounder from Michigan State, "made some plays" in the morning practice, and that wide receiver DeVier Posey, a third-rounder from Ohio State, and quarterback Case Keenum, an undrafted free agent from Houston, have "come a long way." He said running back Jonathan Grimes, an undrafted free agent from William & Mary, "has been impressive since we've had him."

Haircut talk: A day after Barwin reported to training camp with a flat top that he called the "Kubs Cut," Kubiak was asked about being the inspiration for his fourth-year linebacker's new hairdo. "I don't know, famous for a haircut?" Kubiak said, smiling. "I walked in the building yesterday and somebody said, 'You seen Connor, Coach?' I said, 'No, why?' They said, 'You got to see him.' I didn't see him until we went to the meeting last night, but oh well, I guess it's something to talk about for a couple days." For the record, Kubiak said he does not think he will shave lines into the side of his head like Barwin.

Much ado about veganism: Much was made Saturday morning of Foster's offseason decision to go vegan, which means he won't eat any products with ingredients derived from animals. Of the 24 questions asked during Foster's post-practice interview, 12 were about his diet change. "Nobody asked me what I ate last year," Foster said. "Why is everyone so concerned about what I'm eating? It's really not that interesting. It's not interesting at all, actually. It's just the flavor of the week. Y'all will forget about it in a month." Foster has been vegan for about a month, said he doesn't think it will be hard to maintain, said he thinks it will affect him in a positive manner and said he is not losing any weight because of the diet change. "I don't know why it got so much attention," he said. "There's other vegans in the NFL. I think if you improve your health, you will improve your performance. That's what this is about."

Quotes of the Day

"I texted him about three weeks ago and said, 'Hey, Vegan, you in shape?' He texted me back and said, 'What the heck does that mean?' That's been our conversation, but he looks great… I'm focused on the football, not on what he's eating right now." – Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, on RB Arian Foster's diet change

"I expect greatness and nothing less. I want to be the absolute best I can be, and I want to be one of the best defensive ends in the game. But I want to win a Super Bowl; that's it at the end of the day." – DE J.J. Watt, on his personal expectations

"Not many. A lot of them have statues that did it." – Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, on how many players have a knack for making plays like Watt

"We just have to keep it short-term right now and work towards being the best we can every day. Our goal right now is to go 1-0 against Miami, and we're just in full preparation for that." – ILB Brian Cushing, on the Texans' goals for this season

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