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Notes and Quotes: Kickoff returns, Reserve List and Christmas

I was trying to think of my celebration, but I think I was just overwhelmed of scoring my first kickoff return touchdown. It was just pure excitement running into the endzone. Seeing my teammates escort me is one of the best feelings ever. Tremon Smith

The Houston Texans kicked off their Week 16 preparation against the Los Angeles Chargers with a Victory Monday, more COVID-19 positives, an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors and a partridge in a pear tree.

Check out some of the top stories and quotes of the week:

Following his 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Tremon Smith earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

"It means a lot, being noticed by my peers," Smith said. "I take a lot of pride in that being noticed around the NFL. It just makes me want to keep working hard and keep getting that same acknowledgement week in and week out."

Smith said he is looking to buy gifts for all his blockers following his first career touchdown. His teammates have been giving him suggestions, not all of which have been budget-friendly.

"Yeah, of course, it's overpriced, so I am telling them to chill out a bit," Smith said. "They got a budget at the same time. Christmas is around the corner."

"If he was paying, I would probably say something outrageous too," QB Davis Mills said. "To maybe save him some money once all the COVID-19 dies down, he could maybe take out everyone to eat at a good restaurant."

Mills says he and the quarterbacks are doing a White Elephant exchange with the offensive linemen.

The rookie quarterback achieved his first career win after completing 19-of-30 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Jaguars. Mills says he is able to recognize looks in-game and adjust accordingly.

"The Jags showed up on the first drive of the game where we got the delay of game when I was trying to get to a cover zero check, just because I communicated a little slower than I needed to," Mills said. "We ran out of time on the play clock, and then immediately once I saw it when they brought it back later in the game, I was able to get to that check and hit a big play on them. Things like that just get deposited into the memory bank, and you're able to pull from that. That just comes with experience."

Justin Herbert, named the starting QB to the AFC Pro Bowl roster this week, has thrown 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions, presents a number of challenges to defenses each week.

"One thing for sure is they are going to throw the football," Head Coach David Culley said. "They throw the ball the fourth most of any team and not just throw it, they throw it very well and they got weapons. That's a very, very good offensive team. Basically, what we have to do is, we have to do it play a 1-11 defense. We got to keep the ball in front. They are going to make plays. They got playmakers. We've just got to make sure we don't give up any of the easy, explosive plays that they've gotten."

The Texans will host the Chargers on Sunday most likely without their best player on offense, WR Brandin Cooks. He joins a growing list of players across the league placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. The veteran WR, who caught two touchdown passes from Davis Mills last week against the Jaguars, is just 55 receiving yards away from his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season.

"We definitely have guys that are capable and able of stepping up and making plays," OC Tim Kelly said. "Obviously, we will have to wait and see who we have available for us and like I said, we're going to put our guys in the best position possible to win those matchups and put us in a spot to go out there and score points. Obviously, we are going to have to see what cards we are dealt and then we will make sure we are adjusting appropriately."

One of those players is WR Danny Amendola, who practiced on Thursday after being Designated to Return off the Injured Reserve list.

Houston's defensive line continues to take the hardest hit, adding more players to the Reserve/COVID-19 List this week: Jacob Martin, Derek Rivers, Maliek Collins, Jaleel Johnson, Roy Lopez and Jordan Jenkins. Defensive linemen placed on the list last week could be eligible to return, like DeMarcus Walker, if they test negative and pass the NFL's new COVID-19 policy.

"We've been playing eight guys there, for the most part, all year," Culley said. "They've been kind of splitting time. We've added some guys to that list that have been on our practice squad that have been with us, adding those guys up. Some of those guys that have been playing maybe 20 plays will end up playing 30 plays now. Instead of splitting the time, they will probably be playing even more just because of the experience."

With K Ka'imi Fairbairn also out for the game, the Texans brought in free agent kicker Dominik Eberle to their practice squad.

"Dominik Eberle's here, so he'll be assuming those duties until further notice," Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross said. "Confident in whoever we bring in, we're going to do our best as a team to support him. No different than if a receiver gets elevated or a linebacker gets elevated from practice squad and played in the kicking game last week. The scheme is going to tailor around making everybody be put in a position where they can succeed. We're going to have a heavy lean on (Cameron) Johnston and (Jon) Weeks to operation cleanly, snap the ball, put it down right where it's needed and make his opportunities as clean as possible. So, we're confident in whatever we do. We'll be good to go."

The Texans host the Chargers this Sunday at noon. Click here for tickets.

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