Wide receiver Andre Johnson played with an extra spring in his step Wednesday after the Texans voted him to be a team captain.
The Houston Texans received words of wisdom from the top Wednesday as they prepared for Sunday's opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. General manager Rick Smith spoke to the team after practice about the organization's values and expectations.
Ante up: With the regular season opener just days away, a distinct energy is buzzing around Reliant Stadium. Texans players are kicking up the intensity during practice as they prepare for Larry Johnson and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"You can tell in this business when the price of poker goes up a little bit," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "There's a few nervous guys out her today. But that's why we do what we do. We had a good first day."
Quarterback Matt Schaub said the nerves were to be expected. The players expect a lot of themselves this year.
"I don't think there's any more added pressure that we feel from the outside," Schaub said. "We put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to play well and perform up to our standards that we have inside our locker room. If we just prepare and play to those standards that we have, we'll be more than pleased."
The quarterback also spoke as calmly as he has played during the preseason. Helming a playoff contenting team seems only natural for number eight.
"I've been playing the game for a while now, so I prepared in Atlanta just as if I was going to play," Schaub said. "The only difference now is I'll be out there the first play, so I just have to get myself prepared as best as I can this week, and come Sunday just let it come natural."
And that's exactly what his coach wants to see.
"I just want him to come out and play the way he's played in the preseason," Kubiak said. "He's been very composed and very smart with the ball. He's handled our guys very well. And there'll be a different demeanor on Sunday. I think the other 10 around him on Sunday will be a lot more geared up. So on Sunday, he's going to have to calm them down, and he calms them down with the way he plays. We just want him to continue to be his steady self."
Three captains on deck: The team voted on their season captains Wednesday morning, choosing kicker Kris Brown, wide receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Kubiak had picked those three for leadership positions during training camp because he knew they were the right men for the season-long job.
"From the day we walked in here at camp, our team knew who their leaders were," Kubiak said. "They looked to those three guys. To me, Andre Johnson and DeMeco (Ryans) – they were (captains) last year in a lot of ways. Of course, DeMeco's a young guy. I think kicker Kris (Brown) has emerged as a captain on the special teams because of how well he's doing his job and how hard he's worked."
The coaches will also choose weekly game captains for the offense, defense and special teams.
Rushing around: The Texans defense is getting ready for one of the league's toughest rushers. The only thing that can slow down Kansas City running back Larry Johnson is the chunk of change he's carrying around after signing the franchise's heftiest contract in Chiefs history.
"He's one of the top back in the game," Kubiak said. "He's a big guy. He wears you down. He's hard to tackle. And he's got a coach that's going to make sure he touches it quite a few times. We know that, and that's a big challenge for us. They're a veteran, playoff football team that's well-coached. We're going to have to be as good as we can be."
For defensive end N.D. Kalu, being that good means getting as many bodies as possible on Johnson.
"Anytime you see him, it's like a highlight film," Kalu said. "We thought the coaches put together a highlight film, and it was just one regular game that we were watching. He's one of the top three running backs in the league, and we've got all the respect in the world for him, and that's why we're going to try to gang-tackle him.
A gang tackle may not be the move the Texans are executing in practice, but the defense is going all out this week. Defensive end Anthony Weaver is playing at full force and will be ready to start on Sunday, which is bad news for Mr. Johnson's neighborhood.
A clean bill of health: There are no injuries to report this week. Weaver is back in the starting lineup, and no players have been added to the reserve/injured list. Of special note, Kansas City head coach Herm Edwards said he misses close friend Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano.
"Joe's a good guy," Edwards said. "He's from back in Philadelphia. He was in Philadelphia when I was playing there, and then we went down to Tampa with Tony (Dungy) together. We spent a lot time together, Joe Marciano and myself. I miss the guy."