The Texans hit the field at the Methodist Training Center for an 80-minute practice session to kick off organized team activities on Monday. Rookies and free agent acquisitions donned the Texans' uniform for the first time, while returning veterans looked to pick up where they left off with the team's 5-1 finish to the 2008 season.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on seeing all of the players together on the field) "Well, it's just nice to get everybody in one spot and get back to work. We've got some young players that this team's counting on, and we put them to work right away. But our offseason's been very, very good, and of course today we get started, so (there is) a lot of enthusiasm. Hopefully, we can keep it for a month."
(on rookie LB Brian Cushing filling out his Texans uniform well) "Yeah, he definitely looks the part. He's a good-looking kid, a big, physical guy. Jumped in there with the group and went right to work, so we're excited about him getting going."
(on what he's looking for from the rookies in the first few days) "What we're trying to do, we're going about it a little bit different this year. We're kind of teaching in phases of seven-on-seven or the passing game and then we'll come back tomorrow and get more involved with the team aspect of the game, so we're going to break it up for them. But we kind of teach in an eight-day installment. That's our progression, and what we're trying to do is take two practices and devote it to one day of teaching so these young guys can catch up. We've got them here in the afternoons and we can spend some time with them, so we're just trying to give them a legitimate chance to catch up with the team so they can compete."
(on LB DeMeco Ryans sending a message to the team by being there) "Oh, no doubt. I said this the other day – I can't remember who I was talking to – but DeMeco's upholding his end. 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."
(on if it was hard to keep LB Brian Cushing from hitting people) "He's pretty ready to go, I would say that. But no, we're just excited about him. He's a good-looking young man. That's what you've got to have in this league to be successful. So getting him out here and getting him to work and having him here in the city of Houston is exciting, I know, for everybody, including this guy."
(on what he thought of rookie TE James Casey making an impressive catch today) "Yeah, he's a very good-looking young guy, too. He looks a lot like O.D. (Owen Daniels). Very physical-looking guy. He's got great hands. (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."
(on if it's harmful to not have CB Dunta Robinson going through 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 and stuff. 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."
(on QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson both being healthy) "Yeah, Andre missed some time last year in OTAs. Those two guys have been pretty darned good when they've both been on the field and both been at the top of their game, so a good offseason for them is important. In our meeting this morning, the theme was kind of about the players that are here taking their game to another level and then these new guys making all of us better, so those two guys need to take their game to the next level. And if we're able to keep them out here for 14 days, they'll do that."
(on how important LB DeMeco Ryans' leadership will be to LB Brian Cushing's development this first year) "It's very important, because it's a lot the same. DeMeco got thrown in the lineup the day he walked in the door. Brian got the same thing today, and that's a lot of pressure. But that's what we brought him here for. So DeMeco can help him with those expectations and that workload, and so I think he'll be a big help."
TE James Casey
(on he was nervous and if today felt like the first day of school) "No. I was really excited, but I wasn't nervous about it, because I'm a little older and I've been through some stuff with the baseball stuff. So I wasn't nervous. I was more just excited to finally get out here and finally be able to show everybody what I can do just from being a fifth-round draft pick. My mentality is like every day could be my last day, because it really can, so I'm trying to work as hard as I can out here to make sure I have no regrets because you never know when it's going to be your last practice. So I'm just trying to give everything I've got every practice and try to show the team that I can help them win."
(on if his head is swimming) "It is a little bit. A lot, actually. The playbook is pretty good compared to college, and of course coming in the first day, you're not going to know everything that's going on. No matter how smart you are, you can't learn all those plays. There's so many different formations and personnel groupings. So it's swimming a little bit, but I think I did fairly well for the first day."
(on being from Rice) "That's what everyone says, I guess. If I make a mistake, it's always going to be, 'You went to Rice, so you shouldn't make mistakes.' So I've got to kind of try to be on top of my game at all times."
(on what he is trying to take away from today) "Just getting used to it, kind of meeting everybody and getting used to how the practice goes and how everything's run, and really just learning where everything's at. I'm still learning where the cafeteria's at, the locker room. I just now learned where my locker was at yesterday. So I'm trying to find out where everything's at, where's the coaches' offices are at, just getting familiar with everything. I think as I get familiar, things will start slowing down a lot more."
(on the difference between college and NFL players) "Obviously, it's the NFL, so guys are bigger and stronger and faster than they were in college. But I really can't worry too much about how big and strong everybody else is. I've just got to worry about myself and getting myself the best I can be and try to do the best I can. I can't worry about everybody else, so I'm just going in treating it just like any other football game. It's still football, even though the guys are a lot bigger and faster."
(on his full layout catch in front of head coach Gary Kubiak not hurting his cause) "It might've, because he told us right before that we weren't supposed to lay out and get on the ground at all. 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."
(on if he the coaches have told him to focus on the tight end position or to keep his mind open to other positions) "Right now, I'm trying to learn as much as I can at all the positions, but right now it's just tight end. 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. So 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."
(on what he thinks of QB Matt Schaub) "Pretty much all that I really know about him is what I've seen on TV watching their games. I think he's a great quarterback, and I haven't even really – you know, I might have said hello to him so far because I've only been here one day. So I haven't really got to meet him and talk to him much, but I'm hoping to build a good relationship with him, obviously, because he's the one throwing the passes. But I think he's a great quarterback, a great guy, and I'm excited to work with him."
LB Brian Cushing
(on his first day) "It went well. I'm just trying to come out here and compete the best I can. Getting a grasp on the playbook and just flying around."
(on his speed helping him adjust to the speed of the pro game) "I'm trying. I'm trying to keep up with the guys and, like I said, make an impact as soon as possible."
(on if anything surprised him today) "You know, I had a lot of expectations for this team – the speed, the talent of this team – and it lived up to it. I'm excited to be on this team, really looking forward to help this team become a playoff-bound team."
(on what it was like to actually be in uniform) "Absolutely. Coming out here and finally actually being with the guys is a lot different than actually talking about it. So I got the opportunity to come out here, show them what I'm about and hopefully help everyone as fast as possible."
(on LB Demeco Ryans saying he would help him and if he will try to lean on Ryans) "Oh, of course. He's been generous enough to do that. It's been a privilege already to play next to him. 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."
(on if it will help that Ryans was in the same situation of having to start right away) "Absolutely. He came in, he was a highly touted linebacker, and he's just lived up to the expectations and more since being in this organization."
(on if he talked to any of the other veterans today) "Oh, all of them. Especially the linebackers, just helping me out with every little thing, wanting me to get better. You could tell it's a tight unit and everyone wants the best for each other."
(on if today was nerve-wracking or similar to a first day of school) "I mean, I think the older you get with the football experience and everything, there are kind of things you're going to expect. You're always going to have nerves. They say that once the day (comes) that you don't have nerves, you shouldn't be playing the game any more. The first day coming out here, it was a great experience. Like I said, I'm just looking forward to helping this team."
(on if the veterans have told him that the weather will always be as good as it was today) "Yeah, right. I've heard this is probably the nicest day I'll be here. This is exactly like California. But I'm expecting some tough conditions."
(on if he had to hold back and not hit anybody during practice) "No. No, I mean, I know where to unleash it and where to calm it down. This is my own team. But at the same time, I do have to make a reputation, I do have to prove myself, and I'm going to try to do that with just getting in the playbook and leading by example."
(on if he has set any goals) "Short-term. That's all I can do. Day-by-day right now. (It's) just OTAs and we're just wearing helmets. 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."
(on if the coaches outlined how they want him to progress each day) "Well, as of right now, I'm really trying to get the base defense down. 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. And on top of that, doing what I do and hopefully just proving myself."
(on if he got into the playbook at all before today) "A little bit. The day I came after I was drafted – I flew down the next morning – I was able to talk to (linebackers) coach (Johnny) Holland a little bit and go over the playbook. He gave me a little first-day install. So it's a lot different than looking at it on paper than actually coming out and practicing against All-Pro guys. I mean, I felt the first day went well, and I'll continue to learn."
(on how demanding the mental part of the game was before he even went out on the field today) "You know, from the playbook, it's been pretty simple so far. It hasn't been too hard. I'm sure it'll get more complex as the camp goes along and as we get further into the season, different schemes we play against. The biggest thing right now is understanding what I have to do. I can't be coming in here screwing up every single play. There's a lot expected of me. I understand that, and I have to know the insides and outs of the defense."
(on wanting to make an impact and be aggressive but also knowing he has to be under control as he learns the defense) "Right. You know, you can't be too wild out here. You have the responsibility of doing your job. All 11 guys, each one has a job, has a specific objective on the field in what to do. And I know what I have to do."
WR Andre Johnson
(on if missing some of the offseason last year affected his timing with QB Matt Schaub early in the 2008 season) "Well, you know, when you don't play the whole preseason and you're not practicing and things like that, you really don't have the timing and things down like that. So when you get back out there on the field, you're not going to be one the same page at times, and it shows at the beginning of the season. I'm just glad we don't have any guys injured. Everybody's out here able to practice."
(on what he saw out of Schaub today) "He's very comfortable. I think everyone's comfortable. A lot of confidence. We feel very good about what we have here, just excited about the season, especially about what we did last season. The biggest thing that we know that we have to do now is become more consistent as a football team, just eliminate the turnovers. Those are things we have to work on. I'm pretty sure guys'll put a lot of pressures on themselves about it. We're just out here working to become great."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on the first day of practice) "It's just fun to get back out here. It's always fun when you're first starting. Everybody's anxious to get started, and I think we had a good day of work."
(on how important it was for him to be here on the first day) "I think it is important. I'm one of the leaders on this team, and I think it's important that the guys see me here. This is what I do. I love to play football, so I'm just excited to be here."
(on if he has called CB Dunta Robinson to tell him to join the team) "No, 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."
(on what it tells the rest of teammates that he put his personal contract issue aside to be here) "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. 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, and that's what I'm all about."
(on if skipping OTAs was ever a consideration for him) "I think everything was up in the air. But we hashed everything out, and I'm here and excited to be here."
QB Matt Schaub
(on what it was like to get everybody on the field together) "Well, it's always exciting this time of year to get back out and start up OTAs and have all the young guys and start assembling our team and putting it together for the season. We started working out weeks ago, but to get all the young guys and everyone in, it's just great to come out here and start playing ball."
(on the team adding a couple of new tight ends) "Yeah, we've brought a couple of guys in here that I think can help us, and we just need to keep bringing them along. It's a lot for them here early on when you throw the whole playbook at them, so there's some growth periods for them, but it's exciting to get everyone together and start working."
(on how they finished last year and not having any key pieces missing this season) "It gives us a lot of confidence, especially how we ended last year in December. If we just keep everyone healthy and keep moving in the right direction and clean up the things we need to clean up and just keep playing ball and fighting, we're going to keep getting better."
(on not having to go through shoulder surgery or worry about his knee this offseason) "It was wonderful. It was great not having to worry about coming into the training room every morning. I got to spend time with my wife and travel, and I got to play golf early in this offseason, so that was fun."
(on WR Andre Johnson being healthy and not having any injury problems on the team) "Yeah, (it helps) to have everyone starting off healthy and no one coming off (injuries), other than Zac Diles and a couple of other guys on defense. Offensively, anyway, everyone's pretty healthy except for Chester (Pitts). So just to have all the pieces there and healthy, we can just go full steam ahead and not worry about bringing any guys along."
(on if any of the new faces caught his eye today) "You know, it was hard to tell. It just goes by so fast. We only did 50 plays and all in seven-on-sevens, so it's kind of hard to see. But it's something we can look back at the film here in a few minutes and really pick up on it. But it was just nice to see that there wasn't anybody that didn't really know what to do. Everyone got in there. Even the young guys got in there and knew where to line up and what routes to run. We kept it simple today, so we'll see as time goes on."
(on what he hopes to accomplish as far as building chemistry with WR Andre Johnson) "Just to keep it going. If we can stay healthy and not get nicked up at all, the sky's the limit with the weapons we have and Andre starting everything off. Everything's going to go through him, and then we're going to work Kevin (Walter) and Owen (Daniels) and Steve (Slaton) in there. So if we can just stay healthy and keep moving along, we'll be good."