Notes from the Texans' practice and locker room on Tuesday at Reliant Stadium:
Defense is keyA common refrain since the news came out about Matt Schaub's significant foot injury has been that the defense's success—and continuation of that success—will propel the team to greater heights. But according to linebacker Brian Cushing, don't think that the loss of Schaub will affect, or put more pressure on, the defense.
"The team's haven't changed that we're playing," Cushing said. "They're still on the schedule. We're going to play the same kind of defense and like I said, I think we're only going to get better as the season goes on."
Fellow linebacker DeMeco Ryans agreed, and thinks he and his defensive mates can play even better than they already have.
"Defensively, we're just looking to be better because there's room for improvement," Ryans said. "We're looking to turn it up another notch because there's room to be turned up another level, so that's why we're doing it."
Thoughts on FirstFor the first time in team history, the Texans enter the bye week atop the AFC. Their 7-3 record is a subject of pride, but the players certainly aren't content either.
"It means a lot," running back Ben Tate said. "It means that our hard work so far has paid off, but at the same time, the season's not over. We've still got six games left and we're still going to have to keep grinding away to try to keep that seed."
Veteran receiver Derrick Mason has enjoyed his time in Houston and specifically likes the direction of the Texans at this juncture of the season.
"It's great, but it means nothing if we can't come back and finish it off," Mason said. "I know that's what we will do. We'll take a break, get away from here and get our bodies and minds refreshed to come back and pick up right where we left off. I'm very optimistic and happy about where this team is headed."
Bye week plansWithout a game to play Sunday, and a break from football in front of them, the team scattered in various directions after Tuesday's workout. Some are going far away, some are staying close, but all are getting a chance to relax a bit before the final six games of 2011. Tight end Owen Daniels is headed to New Hampshire, where he'll watch his little brother's Princeton football team take on Dartmouth. Deep snapper Jon Weeks is headed to the Northeast as well, where he'll visit Syracuse, New York.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Kevin Walter is staying closeby, because his wife will soon have a baby. Fellow wideout Andre Johnson will continue to work out as he eyes a return to game action against Jacksonville, but he happily described his bye plans, which involve a woman.
"I'm going to go to my great grandmother's birthday party on Friday," Johnson said. "She'll be 91 years old, so that'll be something good to do for the bye week."
Quotable"Only thing that'll change is that he's just left-handed. That's it. So there ain't nothing wrong with that. You've got to catch it baby." –Wide receiver Jacoby Jones on changing quarterbacks with so much at stake.
"We're just having so much fun right now as a football team. I remember back to that Baltimore game, the last time we lost. We had a guest speaker yesterday, a Navy Seal, and he said, 'When you suffer, that's when you learn the most about each other and yourselves. That's when you become a team.' I remember coming in here Monday after that Baltimore game and we were suffering, everybody was hurting. We felt like that just wasn't us. I feel like we've gotten a lot closer. Every week since then, we've just played really, really good football and come out on top in big ways a lot of time." –Tight end Joel Dreessen on the team's current mindset.