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Players continue 2009 preparation


Defensive end Connor Barwin is dealing with the Texas heat while preparing for 2009 training camp.

Since the Texans have concluded their organized team activities and mini-camp schedule, not much has changed around Reliant Stadium.

Although the coaches are in and out of the office, players continue to stream into work every morning during the week to participate in strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright's grueling workouts. There are no morning rounds of golf or lazy days spent lounging poolside for this focused group of players.

Starting left tackle Duane Brown might find a few days to visit Miami. Aside from that, he wants to finish off a productive offseason where he's lost 10-12 pounds thanks to his dedication in the weight room and on the field.

"I really don't want to take too much time off from working out, because it's really crunch time right here and it's last-minute preparation for training camp," Brown said. "I feel 100 times better (than last year), physically and mentally. I'm in better shape than I was and I have a better mental approach than I did last year. So everything is a lot better than it was a year ago."

{QUOTE}Rookie center Antoine Caldwell, a third-round pick from Alabama, will attend the NFL's annual rookie symposium next week. He then plans to visit friends and family in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery for the last time before he begins his first professional season.

Caldwell is happy with his fitness level.

"These last three days of running we've had have been pretty brutal, but it's really helped me out," Caldwell said. "I feel like I'm starting to get some wind back and right now I feel like I'm in really good shape. Competing with the rest of the guys, too, that really helps you out a lot. If training camp were next week, I feel like I'd be ready to go."

The conditioning that the players have endured is not glamorous. Running sprints in 100-degree weather is not fun, even if you're being compensated generously for doing so. But Wright taps into the players' competitive spirits to motivate them.

Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins, who has made tremendous strides in the past few months, sees how players are responding to Wright's drills.

"A lot of guys are bending over and everything because he's pushing us to the limit and some people aren't used to the heat," Jenkins said. "He's just being creative and making us compete against each other and putting us on teams. Mentally, you're trying to win, and he's really getting the best out of us. The winning team always gets a rep off or something, so everybody is trying to give it their all every rep."

Jenkins certainly looks like a different player going into his second season.

"I've gotten much stronger and much faster running with these fast guys every day," he said. "Now I'm lifting with some of the bigger guys and I'm putting on more weight. Everybody tells me that I look like I'm 200 pounds, but I'm only 189."

Defensive end Connor Barwin and fullback Boomer Grigsby are trying to play catch-up before training camp. Barwin missed all of OTAs because of his college graduation date, while Grigsby joined the team midway through the offseason on May 12.

"I'm going to continue to study film," Barwin said. "There are a few things I learned in training camp from (defensive line) coach (Bill) Kollar that I want to work on. I'm also going to be working out with Coach Wright. I still have a lot of work I want to do before training camp begins."

Grigsby views this as his last opportunity to make an NFL roster, so he doesn't plan to get too far away from the game like he has in previous years before training camp.

"I'm literally going to work out all the way up to two days before (training camp) just so on the day that we start I can hit it running," Grigsby said. "I feel like I'm in a little different situation than a lot of people. I went from literally starting to the street last year (in Miami), so I feel like I've been blessed with another opportunity here with the Texans and it's up to me to take full advantage of it."

One of Grigsby's closest friends is Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. They live together during the offseason in Arizona, where Allen does Mixed Martial Arts training and has a yoga instructor. Grigsby will spend a few weekends working out with Allen, but will be in Houston weight training and running the rest of the time.

"I feel like physically I'm in good enough shape that I can train very hard," he said. "I have one more go and I'll regret it if I don't give it every single thing that I've got."

That attitude is symbolic of the entire team's mindset heading into the season. After consecutive 8-8 campaigns, every player knows that there's no time for relaxation. July 31 is quickly approaching.

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