After Monday practice, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and several players spoke to the media with only six days remaining until the Liberty White Kickoff against the Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium Sept. 9.
Two new faces:Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith have now brought in two new players since final roster cuts. Safety Michael Boulware, acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in a Saturday trade for defensive end Jason Babin, was out on the field Monday for his first practice with the Texans. After practice, Smith announced the signing of offensive tackle Rashad Butler from the Carolina Panthers.
The acquisitions address concerns at two positions where the Texans have been struck by injury, with the loss of starting strong safety Glenn Earl and the uncertainty surrounding the nagging injury to second-year tackle Charles Spencer.
Boulware, 6-3 and 220 pounds, was a linebacker at Florida State before converting to safety in the NFL. He should be a force against the run for the Texans, and Kubiak expects him to be an immediate factor on special teams this Sunday. Having started every game during the Seahawks' 2005 Super Bowl run, Boulware is looking forward to a clean slate after seeing a drop-off in playing time last season.
"I do think it's a fresh start and a new beginning for me," he said after practice Monday. "I'm really excited about the opportunity. I thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity and for being patient with me."
Butler, 6-4, 293 pounds, is a second-year pro from the University of Miami who Rick Smith says is oozing with potential.
"He's got great quickness, great feet, great length," Smith said. "He's got 36-inch arms, so he's got some tools that transfer favorably in our league at the left tackle position. And with us trying to develop youth at the offensive line, I think it was a nice opportunity to acquire a player who has tremendous upside."
Butler was drafted by the Panthers in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the same round in which his Miami offensive line teammate, Eric Winston, was selected by the Texans.
"When you've got familiarity in our locker room already with Eric Winston and Andre Johnson, they know this guy and they stand up for this guy as a man, as a worker," Smith said. "And he has the type of athleticism that he has, then it makes it pretty easy to make the choice."
It's 'go' time: With the offseason in the books, Texans players are eager to kick off the regular season against Kansas City.
"I'm ready," running back Ahman Green said. "We got through the hard stuff, which was training camp, and getting beat up and getting your body acclimated to football season. So now we're ready to get this thing started."
Some of the veteran starters got an early look at the Chiefs in the week leading up to the Buccaneers preseason finale, but Houston's defensive players didn't have to watch much film to know that the Chiefs will be handing off the ball all game long to running back Larry Johnson, who had more than 400 carries last season.
"He's one of the best running backs in the league," safety Jason Simmons said. "It's one of those things that you know that you have to tackle this guy. You have to get him down. I know it sounds simple, but it's not an easy thing to do."
"It's your will against his, or is the man in front of me going to beat me?" defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "It's a question if you're going to let the man in front of you out work you."
All clear for Weaver:Perhaps no Texan is more anxious to get back on the field Sunday than defensive end Anthony Weaver, who missed the entire preseason while recovering from a surgically repaired knee. Weaver has been recovering steadily over the last few weeks in preparation for the regular season opener. And while he said he's still feeling some rust, he's more than ready to work out the kinks.
"I'm ready to go," Weaver said. "(And) you can see by the way (my teammates) are playing in the preseason that they are ready to go. Hopefully, I can just come out there and help the defensive line a little bit more and maybe get us going to a whole new level."
Kubiak said that Weaver is full strength, but the team will work him back into the lineup carefully.
"He'll play this week," Kubiak said. "We could have played him against Tampa Bay. We decided to hold off. It looks like he's holding up fine. We have to be smart as coaches on how much he plays."
New season, new attitude: Ever since the Governor's Cup win over the Cowboys, a new attitude has been evident in the Texans' locker room. The bevy of new talented players on the roster combined with the entire team feeling more comfortable in Kubiak's second season has given the team an injection of confidence and high expectations that some of the Texans never have witnessed previously.
"The attitude has changed around here," Andre Johnson said. "Just being around here, you can tell it's changed. Guys expect more from each other, and when you have an attitude like that, it'll take you a long way."
"I think one of the big feelings is we always worked hard," Simmons said. "The thing is, now we go in expecting to win instead of wanting to win. That's one of the things that all the good teams do."