After Day 6 of OTA practices, the Texans spoke to the media about the progress the team has made thus far.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on what LB DeMeco Ryans means to the linebackers) "He means a great deal. A couple of the linebackers that we brought in are older than he is but, still, his presence and what he means for our football team, I think those guys understand that and his work habits. It means a great deal to everybody on the team."
(on RB Ahman Green missing practice) "He's sick. He was really sick this morning and he came in and we took him to the doctor. We think he may have food poisoning. But he's fine."
(on S Dominique Barber) "He's a big, physical presence. It looks like he's going to have a chance to be a big contributor on special teams, and now we have to catch him up defensively. All the tools are there. The thing you notice with guys like that, you can tell he's been around pro sports with his brother. Nothing is too big for him. He's fitting in really quick."
(on DT Frank Okam) "There's a chance for this kid to play very early for our team. He's got a big body. I think he has kind of played the game with his size being an advantage to everything he's done, but we also think he's got some athletic tools to work with movement-wise, so we are trying to add to his game from that standpoint. But he's a guy that could help this team very, very early. I think we all know that, so we are trying to push him along."
(on LB Kevin Bentley) "I think he's getting better each day. He's pushing those guys. I think it's going to be a good battle. I think Zac (Diles) really had a nice day today on the practice field, but it's going to be a nice battle to see who is going to be the other linebacker on the field. Morlon (Greenwood) and DeMeco (Ryans), of course, do their job every day."
(on FB Jon Abbate) "You can see a difference in his comfort zone with what we are doing offensively. The problem you've got is that I think everybody in this league is staring at 80 players, and we're no different. So we are really trying to evaluate the fullback position right now with him, Jameel (Cook) and Vonta (Leach). We may have some tough decisions to make before we get to training camp, but he's had a good offseason. He's a worker. He'll hit you. Jon shows up more in pads than without the pads because he likes contact a great deal, so we'll see."
(on if the ability to play special teams will affect the fullbacks) "Well, I think it's going to play a big factor before it's said and done. With that number of players going to camp, having to cut back – what is it, eight to 10 bodies – those guys are all going to have to be big special teams players and contributors during the preseason."
(on Abbate's experience on defense helping him make the team) "I don't know about that. He's a good tackler from all those years, but knowing Joe's (Marciano) scheme and being able to contribute to the scheme, we'll see how it goes."
(on making cuts this year) "It's going to be very difficult this year. It's the first time since I've been in the league where there will be some difficult decisions to make going into training camp. Normally, you are set with your numbers and your guys and you go. We've got problems right now with who we are going to take to camp. We are actually going to have to get down, and I think everybody in the league will have to do that. So there are some tough decisions to make before we get going."
(on a surprise player this year) "There's always things like that that happen. The biggest reason those things happen is because guys get nicked. When guys miss time, players get opportunities. Probably no better example right now is when you look at Kasey Studdard. If you looked at the depth chart when we got started here a few weeks ago, he was in for one heck of a battle and all of a sudden he's been our starting guard for the last four practices and just gets better every minute he's on the field. I think players emerge because of situations like that, but it's up to them once they get an opportunity to play well enough that you can't take them off the field."
CB Fred Bennett
(on having higher expectations from coaches this season) "It feels good, but at the same time, I really don't worry about that. There's a lot of good competition out here, man. We've got a lot of good DBs out here, and I'm just out here competing."
(on knowing that some players will be cut) "It's just part of the business. It's a big business. I know these guys out here know that. It's a big business, and I know they're coming out here and giving it their all, and may the best man win."
DT Frank Okam
(on learning from DE Mario Williams and DT Amobi Okoye) "You know, watching is the most impressive thing. You see the kind of passion they have for the game and how well they do at it, and (the two of them) in the film room just coaching me up has been very valuable. I mean, you can probably see a little bit each day as I'm learning and catching on and see what (we're) doing, things you can and don't do in this league to be successful."
(on if he has lost weight practicing in the heat) "Oh, my gosh. You know, Austin's hot, but this is definitely humid here, and I've dropped about five pounds here (in the last couple of weeks)."
(on his current weight) "I'm at 330."
(on what his desired playing weight) "I may try to get down to 325, but when you want to be a big guy in the middle, the weight doesn't hurt too much unless you're just sloppy with it, and I'm going to try to not be sloppy."
(on if it will be easy to drop five pounds in training camp) "Yeah, that's what I hear. Everyone keeps telling me that."
(on his biggest goal as a rookie) "With so many guys out here, I think, as a rookie, the most important thing is to try to make the team. And once you do that, you try to help out. They brought me in here to try to help stop the run, so that's something I'm definitely focusing on and making sure I can help the team with. And then anything after that would be an added bonus."
(on how much he looks at the playbook) "Especially now, since they've really picked up the pace a whole lot, I've definitely made sure that I'm in my book every night at least 15 or 20 minutes and checking out everything that they're doing."
(on if it is sometimes difficult to remember things) "When you're on the field and they're going 100 miles an hour, checking about 1,000 plays in different formations, different schematics, your head's going pretty fast. And when you're comfortable with the material, it's alright, but when you're just learning it the first day and you're out here running it the same day, it's a little bit difficult."
(on if that is humbling) "Definitely humbling. It's something, especially when you pride yourself on being a smart guy, that you take a little while to learn the material. So it's just (something) that makes you get your head back in the books and learn some more."
(on how he would grade the defense) "We're getting better every day, so I'm going to give it an 'A.'"
(on getting the hang of things) "I'm getting to it. We're putting a lot more defenses in, so I'm having to learn a whole lot. This is a learning phase for me right now."
(on coming from a big-time college program) "The thing that's probably helped me the most is that I had three defensive coordinators in four years, so I saw a lot of the defenses that we're running now throughout those defensive coordinators in college. So that's helped me adjust to it somewhat. But the difference between that level and this level is that the variations you run in between on the same play that you have to know is the biggest challenge for a rookie."
(on the Texans' scheme) "It's another one to learn. This is game is really all about learning, just trying to find the edge any way you can, so that's the one thing I'm definitely taking from this OTA's and mini-camp."
(on who he has befriended) "All the rookies have been teaming up. We've been trying to study a whole lot. Amobi (Okoye)'s really been in my corner and really trying to help me out and help me learn the material, so that's probably one of my good buddies right now."
(on which veterans have helped him) "Travis (Johnson), since he's not practicing much, has been in the film room next to me every day, telling me, 'OK, you have to watch these things and do these things,' and those things like that. And Mario (Williams)'s definitely been a help out there, as well."