On a night when the Houston Rockets were playing in Game 7 of Round 1 of the NBA playoffs, the Houston Texans are just eight days away from the first kickoff of the NFL season.
Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien began his press conference with fellow head coach Mike D'Antoni and the Rockets on his mind.
"First of all, I'd like to start off by wishing the Rockets and my friend Mike D'Antoni good luck tonight in Game 7," O'Brien said. "Rockets got it all the way, I want to wish them luck."
The Texans held their second intra-squad scrimmage on Wednesday night at NRG Stadium. The team held its first scrimmage on Thursday night with an emphasis on fine-tuning communication between the coaching staff and players. The second scrimmage was a more "controlled" practice, according to O'Brien as the team takes one last look at its current 80 players ahead of Saturday's roster cuts.
"Last week was a little bit more game-like when it came to substitution," O'Brien said. "This week, we controlled it a little bit more, but we still got a lot done."
The Texans practiced for about 60 minutes, enough time to see several players stand out. Outside linebacker Jacob Martin, traded from Seattle one year ago, has shined in camp and in both scrimmages, according to O'Brien. Wide receiver Steven Mitchell and undrafted rookie running back Scottie Phillips also made plays in the scrimmage.
In a year when professional sports have had to adjust every aspect of the game in order to just be able to play, O'Brien is watching as his team successfully wraps up training camp and two scrimmages with no positive COVID-19 tests and no major injuries.
However, the tough decisions of assembling the 53-man roster and practice squad won't be any easier, especially with limited film, no preseason action and a short week to start the season. Teams usually have one week before the start of the regular season to trim their rosters, but even with a Week 1 Thursday night game, the Texans and Chiefs will have the same deadline to begin game preparation with the remaining players.
"It's always hard, especially like with a group like this during such a crazy time, really bought into everything, worked really hard," O'Brien said. "But you have to get the roster down to 53 and then you have to get a 16-man practice squad and we'll try to do that. So, you know, the majority of our team is here. But, you know, it's definitely some tough decisions over the next couple of nights for Jack, myself and Matt (Bazirgan)."
The 2020 NFL deadline to cut rosters to 53 players is Saturday, September 5 at 3 p.m. CT. The waiver claim period after cuts ends at 11 a.m. on Sunday, September 6. One hour after that, teams can begin signing practice squad players beginning at 12 noon on Sunday.