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OTAs practice report: Day 1


The Texans returned to the field Monday for their first day of organized team activities (OTAs), and now coaches get to evaluate the rookies and free agents they signed this offseason. Most eyes were on first-round draft pick Brian Cushing, who lined up with the first team at strongside linebacker. The glaring absence was cornerback Dunta Robinson, who is holding out from the non-mandatory workouts because of contract disputes.

Cushing looks the part: First-round draft pick Brian Cushing looked the part when he lined up with the first team at strongside linebacker. Cushing was the biggest linebacker on the field and moved fluidly as the team began its defensive installs.

"He's pretty ready to go, I would say that," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're just excited about him. Getting him out here and getting him to work and having him here in the city of Houston is exciting for everybody, including this guy."

The Texans have set high expectations for Cushing, and he is poised to meet them. Right now, the players are wearing just helmets and shorts – no pads. That means Cushing has time to master the playbook and learn his assignments before he starts hitting people.

"I'm really trying to get the base defense down," he said. "I'm sure as camp progresses and the more I learn, I can also work in the nickel a little bit. The biggest thing for me right now is to get out there and run around. I'm not going to know everything, but the biggest thing is effort.

"I'm going to try to learn this playbook inside and out, know what every single player's doing on the field, and like I said, help this team as best as possible."

Cushing also is finding a mentor in middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, another high draft pick who was thrown into the starting lineup as rookie.

"It's been a privilege already to play next to him," Cushing said. "All-Pro linebacker, just an unbelievable talent, so I'm going to try to get everything I can from him. He was in the same situation and he's just been doing a great job since day one."

Ryans makes a statement: Ryans missed several weeks of offseason workouts while negotiating a long-term deal with the Texans, and there was talk that he might miss OTAs. But Ryans, one of the team captains, was back at his MIKE position and sending a message to the team that he is one of their defensive leaders.

"It just lets them know that I care about them and I'm here to win games, and that's what it's all about," Ryans said. "We're here to accomplish the goal of winning games. With me being here and all the other guys seeing me here, that just lets them know that that's what I'm about. I'm about winning, winning first. That's what's it's going to take for us to move forward as a franchise is to start winning games."

Ryans' presence on the field earned praise from Kubiak.

"DeMeco's upholding his end," Kubiak said. "He's busting his tail. He's out here leading his team, which everybody expected him to do. We understand the issue he's working through and those type of things – that's part of football – but the thing that's always been impressive about him and continues to be is that he's going to take care of his business, and everybody out here knows that he will do that."

But Kubiak was careful to avoid criticizing cornerback Dunta Robinson for not attending OTAs.

"Well, obviously, I'd like him to be here and getting the reps with some of the new things we're doing with (defensive coordinator) Frank's (Bush) scheme," he said. "But we understood it from the start. Dunta said he would not be at the OTAs. He's a man of his word; I didn't expect him to all of a sudden pop up out here today. But we're all counting on him, which he told us we could do. But this group's got a lot of work to do, so we need to keep the focus right here."

{QUOTE}Casey goes all out: One of the rules Kubiak made on Day 1 of OTAs was that he didn't want players making diving catches. Rookie tight end James Casey had trouble holding back and made a spectacular grab in front of his head coach.

"(Kubiak) told us right before that we weren't supposed to lay out and get on the ground at all," Casey said. "I just couldn't help myself; got the competitive juices flowing out there playing football and I wanted to go get the catch. He probably got mad at me a little bit because I wasn't supposed to do that, but I'll stay off the ground tomorrow."

The play didn't seem to downgrade Kubiak's assessment of his fifth-round draft pick.

"He's got great hands," Kubiak said. "(Tight ends coach) Brian's (Pariani) very impressed with how smart he is, but I think we all kind of knew that one before we got started. He's got a chance to help this team very quickly. I won't put too much pressure on him too quick, but I'm excited to get him going."

Casey can play several positions on offense, but he's working out with the tight ends and learning the various roles that will be asked of him in the multiple tight end sets that the Texans run.

"They have different personnel groupings where they have two or three tight end sets, so you've got to learn multiple positions just within the tight end sets," Casey said. "I can't really just be thrown in there and start learning multiple different things. It's hard enough just to learn one position. So I'm just trying to focus on all the tight end's things, and that's completely the coaches' decision where they play me, so I have no control of that at all. So wherever they put me, I'm just trying try to go out there and play as hard as I can and be relentless out there."

New blood: On Monday, the Texans signed strong safety John Busing, who spent four years with the Cincinnati Bengals, and guard Adrian Jones, a sixth-year pro.

Quotable: "I haven't talked to Dunta yet, but I'll let him know we had a good day today. We're missing him, but Dunta, he's going to take care of his business and he's going to show up ready to go whenever he gets back, and we're going to welcome him in with open arms." – DeMeco Ryans

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