Jon Abbate (47), a three-time All-ACC linebacker at Wake Forest, has done surprisingly well in his first few weeks playing fullback.
Texans players and coaches spoke to the media on Wednesday after the sixth day of training camp practices.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak - morning practice (on today's morning practice) "I thought we had a good practice, we had some guys falling out today. We're probably physically at a wall right now, but we're going to fight through it and get better, and we're getting a lot of reps for some young kids because we got some guys nicked up. Shawn Barber got a nicked knee today, Mario's (Williams) hamstring is bothering him, our quarterback got hit today, so his knee's bothering him. We just got a bunch of nicks and we just gotta fight through 'em."
(on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub getting hit today) "It was an accident. He's fine, he's alright."
(on Texans defensive end Mario Williams) "He went to about a certain portion in practice, his hamstring just tightened up on him. He couldn't get it loose, so we just pulled him; that was us pulling him out."
(on what Kubiak means by "physically at a wall") "I'm just saying I think it's that point in camp. This is our tenth practice today; we've been getting after it pretty dang good. We're short on bodies this morning; we came out here with seven wide receivers, six healthy linebackers. Really to continue to go with our full load of work, It was tough, let me just say that. It was tough, but we're pushing through it, and we're getting better."
(on how the injuries hamper Kubiak's plan for training camp) "You're trying to get so many things rep'd, and cover so many things with your football team before its time to go play and these things happen. They happen every year. Guys get wore out, they get nicked in practice, but the key is for our football team, one of the things we gotta learn to do is we've got to get over some of these humps. Whether it's on Sundays in the third quarter, or out here on Wednesday, we gotta get over these humps. Like I said, we're mentally tougher. We practiced pretty good at the end of practice just now, we took the pads off of 'em. They know that we've got to get better whenever we're at that point, so it's a good time for us to work through it."
(on the physical conditioning of rookies) "That's what OTAs are for. Nowadays you have those guys, that's really when their first training camp is, when you put 'em through OTAs. Once they get here, I know it's their first real training camp, but they should be a lot further along now than players were back ten years ago. If you don't know what you're doing, its hard to compete, and our guys have been pretty good from that standpoint."
(on Texans free safety C.C. Brown and strong safety Glen Earl) "They're doing well, they're our starters. They're getting pushed extremely hard by some players back there, but they're both holding up well. They're holding up better physically this year than they did throughout camp last year, and I think they're well on their way to having a good season."
(on whether Texans free safety C.C. Brown can be the playmaker the Texans are looking for at the free safety position) "Yea, I think so, and I think Glenn (Earl) is having an excellent camp; we talked about him last night. Together, they've played a lot of games together, they're talking more. Just our overall defense is getting better, so those two are getting better."
(on how Texans fullback Jon Abbate is making the transition to his new position) "It's been special, that's all I can say. You take a kid from defense and put that much pressure on him, and put him on the offensive side of the ball, you've got a short window to try to impress us. He can play in this league at fullback. At this point right now, he's got to be one of the surprise players in this camp. I know one thing, our team knows he'll hit somebody, and that counts for a lot. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and we'll see how the preseason goes, but the kid's made a lot of ground."
(on the mental adjustment needed to be made by Abbate) "That's tough, just from the mentality of playing defense to offense, but as far as the book, and knowing your job, Jon's a very smart kid. We knew that, or we wouldn't have done that to him. When you ask kids to make that switch, it's about their attitude. A lot of players you talk to about that, they say 'You know coach, I'm this or that,' and you gotta respect that as a coach. This kid said, 'Hey, you think I can help the team playing there, I'll go.' So he has had his blinders on, and he's positive in his approach, and it shows."
(on Texans guard Kasey Studdard) "Kasey's a very active player and needs to hone down technique. He's going to always play hard, he's gonna play nasty. He loves to play. He's got to get his technique down, he's gotta understand the game of the National Football League, and guys moving and stunting. When he gets that done, he's gonna have the capability to play in this league a long, long time, but that's his biggest challenge."
(on how difficult it is to play the guard position in the NFL) "It's a little easier to go out there at tackle, assignment wise. To play guard, you have to be pretty dang sharp in this business, because there's so much that goes on inside with those three, but he's got the tools to play. And then you go to (Brandon) Frye, who's the other young kid we drafted, and we haven't really had the chance to look at him. He's been off the field with the ankle now for three or four days. He's got to get back on this field when he's healthy, because we've got to take a good look at him."
(on what the team needs to do to get better) "One thing we're trying to really do, (is) we gotta get better at protecting against the blitz, and making plays versus the blitz. And then our defense, if we're going to go after somebody, we gotta get there, so there's a big emphasis on that in practice. I noticed that the wins go back and forth. Today, I thought the defense had an excellent blitz period. Yesterday, I thought it was just the opposite, so that's a phase of the game we gotta get better at as a football team."
(on whether he's worried about the injury to Texans wide receiver Keenan McCardell) "No, because he tells me he's going to be fine. He's got a strained quad. That's usually the position in this league where you get thin pretty quick in training camp because those receivers are running so much. I tell you what, from the standpoint of reps, like today, this Harry Williams kid has come out here and made some plays. And Jerome (Mathis) needs some reps, so he's getting a ton today. Bethel Johnson's got the talent to play in this league, he needs the reps. Though I like to have all 11 of them, when we come out here with seven of them, all those kids got better, so that's what's important."
(on why the defense will be better this year) "I think just the fact that they're playing together for another year. We got more team speed right now at the linebacker position as a group. We got another kid inside that helps us. We've got some high-effort defensive linemen that have added to our group, and I'm talking about players like (Tim) Bulman and (Earl) Cochran. I think just the energy level of them playing together understanding Richard's (Smith) defense just makes them better."
(on the AFC South division) "Well, we've got a very tough division. We're going to play the World Champs twice. We got a very physical team in Jacksonville that pounds on everybody in the National Football League. Then you got Tennessee with the great young quarterback, so we've got our work cut out for us in our division, but that's just the way it is in the National Football League. You're going to play good people every week, you gotta be consistent."
(on Texans cornerback Jamar Fletcher) "It was extremely important, because we thought about in free agency. There were some other corners out there, and Fletch (Jamar Fletcher) was on our radar. Our team was in a situation where we were probably only going to be able to afford a few of the guys that were out there, and we weren't sure if we had a chance with him. When we got him in here, he knew some of our players, and it ended up ticking for us, so we're very fortunate."
(on quarterbacks coach Kyle Shanahan) "He means a great deal. They all mean a great deal, but he's in an extremely important position because he's got number eight with him around the clock. I think that's extremely important. Kyle's a very sharp young man. He studies the game, understands the receiver position, so when he's talking to quarterbacks, he's not only talking about their job, he's talking about receiver situations. It's just been really good. He's got a big time job on his hands this year, and I'm expecting him to do a hell of a job."
(on whether Shanahan has the ability to become a head coach some day in the National Football League) "I don't think there's any doubt about that. He's got the work ethic, he's got the brains, he's also got the fire. He's just like his dad from that standpoint. Tough as nails, and probably the biggest thing he's got going for him (is) he's sitting there working with a great coach (Mike Sherman), who is a coordinator and been a head coach, everyday that can keep him in line, so to speak, and tell him how to do things. That's only going to make him better."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak - afternoon practice (on the punters kicking before practice) "We're just trying to create some competition for them. We don't want to put them in an environment right now as far as full pads and rush. We're going to do that here in a couple of days down the road. Today, we just wanted them to get out here and know that there are fifteen punts in same environment, same situation and just take a look and see how they did."
(on how the punters did) "They both did some good things. I don't think you can really get your answer out there without everything going on with the other ten guys on the football field, and we'll do that down the road."
(on the injury of Texans linebacker Shawn Barber) "It checked out fine. We think it's just a sprain, so I imagine he'll be day-to-day. Hopefully (we can get him back), maybe Monday."
(on any other injuries) "Mario (Williams) has a tight hamstring, did not finish practice. Trent Bray, we x-rayed his ribs, he's fine, he should be back tomorrow. Other than that, the receivers that have all got little things going on, David Anderson, Keenan (McCardell), and of course, Andre (Johnson). Andre actually checked out fine, so everybody's okay. We just gotta get them a days rest and bring them back."
(on the injury to Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson) "He's got a bruised knee from a collision he had the other day."
(on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub) "He'll be back out. We actually x-rayed him just to make sure, but he's fine, he'll be back out."
Texans fullback Jon Abbate (on his switch to the fullback position) "Yeah, it's definitely different, but I'm loving it. I really am. It's a nice change. Whatever I have to do to make the team and help the team out. And I really think that that's at fullback, and I'm just trying to learn the offense as fast as I can."
(on learning the playbook for offense) "You know it's definitely different. I haven't really seen offense plays in about five years, so it is different studying. It is more memorization. Hearing the different lingo, putting it together, and then figuring out where you're going to line up off that call. So, it is a definite change, but it's coming along good."
(on if the playbook is intimidating) "It is definitely big. So the first time I saw that, but it's really starting to sink in. I'm really starting to figure out the groupings of the calls and stuff, so that makes it a lot easier."
(on if it is a big difference if you don't know the playbook) "Oh yeah, definitely. If you don't know what you're doing than you can't play fast, and if you don't play fast than it's hard to impress somebody. So you really got to know what you're doing and come out here and compete and play fast."
(on thinking about making the team or is it just practice to practice) "I think it starts every day. Practice to practice. I can't get to tomorrow until I get through today. So I think the biggest thing is just looking at the install that I have for each day, learning it, coming out here, competing, playing fast and just hitting hard."
(on moving from defense to offense) "Right now, I'm loving it. I really like the change right now. It's fun. Just, you know, being able to go out there and know where you're going, know who you're hitting and just hitting theme as hard as you can. I'm really liking the fullback position."
(on taking the physicality of defense over to offense) "I like taking that physicality from defense and bringing it over to offense. At fullback, you really realize how tough that position is. Just the dynamics of it; you gotta be fast, you gotta be able to catch, you gotta be able to hit, you gotta be smart. So, it's just a tough position, but I'm really liking it."
(on playing special teams) "Whatever it takes. That's all it is, whatever it takes."
Texans cornerback Jamar Fletcher (on if he talked to other teams before he came to Houston) "Yeah, Yeah. I went on a few trips, talked to a few teams. Like I said, I told everyone before, I just felt that Houston was overall the best fit, being that I saw growth. What they did bringing in guys, myself included. I just thought this was a perfect situation for Jamar Fletcher."
Texans safety Brandon Harrison (on how going to Stanford has helped him learn the playbook faster) "Yeah, it's tough being behind everybody, not being here in the summer, so I'm trying to catch up as much as I can. Really, I'm doing a decent job and I'm almost back up to speed all the way."
(on if it was intimidating trying to learn the playbook) "Yeah, it was pretty intimidating getting out here and realizing just how far I really was behind. Coach Hoke helped me out a lot; I had few meetings with him before camp started to get a little head start in the playbook, and some of the stuff that the did in the summer to help me get a little caught up before I got here and got thrown in the fire."
(on if his Stanford education is helping him) "I hope so. I hope I didn't go all the way out there for nothing. I think it definitely is. Hopefully, I keep putting it to use and learn this stuff pretty quick."
(on what he is doing on his own to get caught up with the playbook) "Just trying to get in there, in some of the few breaks we have, watch a little extra film, get into meetings a few minutes early and just getting the playbook a little extra on my own. You know, just the little stuff I can do to just gain a little bit of an edge coming out each day."
(on having to grasp the playbook quick) "You definitely do. They understand I wasn't here in the summer but the grace period is all done. They expect me to come out here and perform 100 percent and get everything right, and that's what I'm trying to do."
(on having to carry the veteran's pads after practice) "Oh, it's nothing. It's kinda like being a freshman in college all over again. You get all the grunt work and all the dirty work. You expect it, you come out and you're willing to do it; we gotta pay our dues."
Texans wide receiver Bethel Johnson (on some of the work he has been doing in this first week) "I feel that I can help, any way coach needs me to help him out; I'm ready to do. This is an up and coming team and it's a great thing to be a part of. So, anything you can do to help the team get better. Because the guys want to be good, they want to be great, so they have an attitude. It's an attitude that trickles down. So, all the guys pick up on it, we all want to be successful. Whatever it is that you have to do, you have to do."
(on the talent of the receivers and how they can contribute in different ways) "Absolutely, it was the same way when I was in New England. We had guys, but guys new what their role was, so they new what they had to do to contribute. The guys have the same attitude here. Do what you can, the more you can do that can help, the more you can do to be successful."
(on new guys coming in) "Yes, it is very exciting. Like I said, it is an up and coming team. It is a great thing to be a part of. Guys are young, guys are experienced, and it is a great thing to be a part of. It is a really good feeling."
(on if he is used to the Texas heat) "Look at me, I'm drenched! But I'm getting used to it again."
Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones (on if he is grasping the playbook) "I'm good with it now. I'm comfortable with my concepts and everything."
(on how he goes about learning the playbook) "Every morning during the install period, I go over it, and every morning I'm up at seven o'clock going over it with coach and learning the scripts."
Texans cornerback Dexter Wynn (on how the weather is affecting his play) "It's kinda hot our here, man. It's real humid down here in Houston. This is my first camp down here in Houston, so everyone is out here hurting. We are just pushing through it together and just playing and trying to get better."
(on how his previous play is contributing to how he is playing right now) "Just being around a lot of guys with a lot of experience. You know, coming from Philly I played with a lot of guys like Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard; a lot of guys that made it to the Pro Bowl and a lot of NFL experience. So, just coming from there, I'm just trying to carry that over there, the things that they taught me. We are just out here having fun, we are a real close group out here with the secondary and we are just trying to work hard and get better everyday."
(on his secondary position) "Yeah, just going out here everyday just trying to get better. (I'm) going in the meeting rooms, trying to learn from mistakes and trying to get on the defensive side of the ball. This is my fourth year going in and I have returned the ball for three years, just trying to get on the defensive side of the ball as well as special teams. I'm just trying to help this team any way I can."
(on interceptions) "Oh yeah, it's really exciting. Any time you get your hands on the ball, it's really something, especially as a defensive back because you don't get to touch the ball too many times. I'm just trying to go out there and make some plays, trying to turn some heads, and just do the best I can every time I come out."
(on going up against Andre Johnson) "Yeah, I went up against Andre a couple of times last year. Andre is a great receiver, one of the best in the league. Big guy, he's got a lot of speed for his size. Like I said, it's just guys out here getting each other better, competing."