Andre Johnson soars up for a touchdown catch in a one-on-one drill during the morning practice session Thursday.
Texans players and coaches spoke to the media on Thursday after the seventh day of training camp practices.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak - morning practice (on how good the team can be) "We've got a long, long way to go. I think we've got a good young football team. We've added some veteran players that are going to make our football team more explosive at linebacker and at running back. I think our whole battle, really what I just talked to the team about, is just continuing to come together as a team. We do some good stuff. We don't do it consistently. We've got to become more consistent how we go about it, and that comes from leadership. (We've) just got to keep plugging. We've had some good days, some bad days. We need some consistency in what we're doing."
(on how practice was today) "I gave them a break last night. I thought they came back ready to work this morning. We had a nice cool morning out there. Offensively we bogged down out there on 7-on-7. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we're working with six wide receivers. I'm very proud of how those six are working. They've done exceptional. When we hit those snags in practice, and when things bog down, as I told these guys right now, leaders need to take care of that. They don't need to wait on me to take care of that all the time. When we get to that point, then we're going to be making some headway."
(on why the Texans continued to practice in the rain) "We may go to Carolina in week 2 and it may rain. As long as there's no lightning, there's nothing wrong with that. I think it makes people concentrate; makes the quarterback concentrate on the ball. The guys hanging onto the football. You gotta be ready to do anything in this business, and you can't be distracted by something like a little cold summer rain."
(on the time he expects to get some of the injured receivers back) "David Anderson looks like we're probably looking at Monday. Andre' Davis, I'm hoping tomorrow. Keenan (McCardell) is the one of the three that will probably be out the longest. Kevin (Bastin) talked to me about four or five days. I don't know, we'll see, but we really need to get him back out there. He knows his body better than anybody, and we've got to get him healthy, so that's where we're at with those guys."
(on tonight's open practice) "We're going to practice the same way we normally practice. It'll be good for the players to have a lot of people out here. I know players have their families come out because they're away from their families in camp and that type of thing. It's just a nice changeup. It gives us a chance to get a lot of meetings done this afternoon, and kind of change our routine. (We're) kind of working towards Saturday afternoon, and giving them a break, to get off their legs for a good day, I want to see us have a good one."
(on Texans linebacker Zac Diles) "He's been something. I tell you what, this kid, he's physical, he'll do anything. He impresses his teammates everyday. (He's) very smart, has picked up what we're doing. He's pushing very, very hard to get on that field early. He's making a hell of a push; we'll see what happens during the preseason games."
(on the kind of training camp tight end Jeb Putzier is having) "He's having a good one. As I think I've said many times, we kind of basically went back this off season and said 'Hey, Jeb, you go back to the weight you feel good at, you make the plays in the passing game you're supposed to make.' We felt like we let him get a little big on us last year, and kind of trying to go back to his strengths and use him the right way. (We) may have used him a little different than I have in the past last year."
(on Texans defensive end Mario Williams' injury to his hamstring) "It's just been tightening up on him and Kevin (Bastin) thought it was best (to sit him out for practice). He actually wanted to go, he had his pads on. I made him go in and take them off this morning. So we'll see how he does this evening."
(on the fact that Williams is eager to get back on the field) "He better want to be out here, we need him right here. It tightened up on him yesterday, and it's just precaution."
(on whether there are any other health issues on the team) "There's plenty of them, I don't have them all in front of me. I need to bring my list over here. Really, other than the things that have been happening, we just got a few of those guys nicked. Trent Bray was not out here this morning; we hope to get him back. We just got some nicks that we've got to fight through and we've got to get them to Saturday and I think we'll be fine."
(on running back Wali Lundy) "He's a better football player. As I've told ya'll, when he lined up opening day, he was fifth or sixth on the depth chart, and he was our starting back last year opening day. That's a heck of a shock for a kid, and he said 'I'm going to be better.' He's a better player. He's a better football player right now. I expect him to be a better pro. He's going to help this football team."
(on whether Texans running back Wali Lundy is fitting better into Coach Kubiak's offense) "I don't know, I think Wali was comfortable with it last year. I think he's a little better conditioned than he was last year. I think he's hungry. He knows the work that has to be put in for him to maintain a job in this league, and he's willing to put it in. He's been out here every snap."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak - evening practice (on Texans wide receiver Jerome Mathis) "Best football practice he's had since I've been here. He's conditioned better, he's out here every day. There's a little buzz tonight, there's some people out here, and you can tell his juices are flowing, and if he keeps this up and stays on the field, he's going to have a special year. Good things right now, we've just got to keep going."
(on the injury to Texans wide receiver Keenan McCardell) "There's concern, because of the strain. I don't know how long it will be. I think it looks like he will probably be a little longer than the other guys. I think David (Anderson) and André (Davis) will be back sooner than him, just talking to Kevin (Bastin). We need to get him back, get him back in our system and those types of things. I know what he's all about, I know what he stands for, and definitely would like to have him out here."
(on the fact that Mathis has been healthy all training camp) "He's been nicked for us, so (it's been) almost a whole week of practice, and with the double days. The thing he's doing is getting better. Jerome hasn't worked at receiver much. Lets face it, he's been a returner. What he's doing now is he's working at receiver, and we've got some guys out (with injury) so he's working even more, so he's progressing. That was nice to see the things he did tonight."
(on Texans defensive end Earl Cochran) "As a young defensive lineman, I'd say that he's been a guy that's flashed on us as a coaching staff. He's made some strides and he's getting a bunch of reps with Mario (Williams) missing some time today. He's definitely a better player than we had last year. He's making a strong push to make this team."
(on the fact that Cochran pulled defensive tackle Amobi Okoye to the side after morning practice to run through some strategy) "He's a great kid. He's really into football, he likes to play. He's one of those guys in the offseason, he'd be down there all day long, and I think it shows right now with what he's doing."
(on whether defensive end Mario Williams will practice in the morning) "I don't know, we'll make that decision. He doesn't have to do anything in the morning, because tomorrow morning is special teams. But hopefully tomorrow afternoon he'll be out here. (He) just (has) some tightness, and (we're) really just being a little cautious with him. Like I said, he tried to come out this morning but I wouldn't let him, so he's doing fine. We just gotta make sure we don't make a mistake."
(on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub) "He's getting better. I think I said a couple of times, the first day of training camp he was nervous; he was on a stage that he's never been on, but I think he's slowly gotten better. He did some things today in the two-minute drill at the end of practice that big time quarterbacks do. He handled some situations to me that were very impressive to me and his teammates, and that's what he's got to do. That's what he's here to do and (we've) just got to keep getting better."
(on the battle for the starting center position between Texans center Mike Flanagan and center Steve McKinney) "It's a good battle. They're both performing very well. I think they're both fresh because of the way we're practicing them. I think there's a place for both of them guys on this football team, but they're in a heck of a battle. We'll play them equally in the preseason, and we'll see what happens."
(on how McKinney and Flanagan are practicing) "They've kind of been bouncing back and forth and actually Mike (Flanagan) practiced this morning, and so that meant he was supposed to be off this evening, but I wanted everybody to practice this evening for the fans, so I brought Mike out. "
(on Texans fullback Jon Abbate) "He'll hit you. I know that. We want a fullback who is smart, can do a lot for us, and that'll thump. He showed his teammates he likes to thump. The most impressive thing is how much progress he's made as an offensive player. Normally they're so far behind, so he's making a big push to make this team."
(on how Abbate is with his hands) "He's got good hands. He does have very good hands."
(on Texans defensive end Jason Babin's training camp) "When we talk about Jerome (Mathis) and we talk about Travis (Johnson), I think you can put Jason (Babin) kind of in that same conversation kind of from the standpoint of I think Jason has committed himself more to football this offseason and our program. He's worked extremely well for Dan (Riley), and I think he's a better player. That's the key, we've got to get everybody better, I know it's redundant, but I just think he's an overall better player right now."
(on the interesting story of how Texans defensive tackle Anthony Maddox became an NFL football player) "It's really interesting, and what it tells you is you better have scouts and general managers and people hunting players all the time. We had a revolving door last year in a lot of ways with some of our injuries and some of the things that were going on, and then we end up with a kid like that. And then I think the fact that some of the health issues he had early that we addressed, I think it's helped him as a player, because he didn't even know about it. I just think those things add up to him being a force this year, and he was pretty dang good last year."
(on whether he will pay more attention next time somebody moves his furniture) "It just goes to show, one thing about coaches, we like comfort zones, and the players we work with, and who we're practicing and who we're playing with. When Rick (Smith) or somebody comes to us with somebody like that, you get tunnel-vision and say 'Nah,' but you gotta listen, because you never know, you may find a player like that."
Texans cornerback Fred Bennett (on the advice given to him by Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson) "Just being patient. That's the difference. Out here on the field, being a rookie, you get all anxious because you're in the NFL now. The main thing is just be patient, stay focused."
(on the difference between college football and the NFL) "Everything comes at you quicker. Everybody is faster and quicker. Quarterbacks are more sharp."
Texans defensive end Earl Cochran (on what it was like growing up in Bessemer, Ala.) "It was a pretty fun, different, small town, football atmosphere, kind of like a college town but it was like high school ball. The big thing at my school was football, so pretty much everybody came out on Friday nights."
(on thinking of big dreams since he came from a small town) "Really, in high school we had a lot of great players. So you really just took it one step at a time; from high school to college and college to here. Junior year of college you start hearing people talking about you, so you just do what it takes, keep moving."
(on thinking about someday playing on Sundays) "As a kid, growing up, that's everyone's dream to play on Sunday. Everybody has a guy. Bo Jackson, everybody wanted to be Bo Jackson."
(on the rain at practice) "Business as usual, you keep moving, just the difference is if it rains; no thunder no lightning, we stay outside. But if it thunders and lightnings we just move inside and keep going."
Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu (on what the defensive line has to do this year) "We have to produce this year. There is no room for excuses. We gotta be top five in sacks and we really gotta lead this team because we have it on paper, now we just have to produce on the field."
(on everyone saying that they don't pay attention to stats) "Everyone says that, but the first thing they look at when the want to criticize us is how many sacks you have."
(on where he sees his role this year with all the improvement) "Right, I see it pretty much like last year. Veteran leadership; hopefully back up both end spots and play some tackle, just to give people breaks. Give these young guys some breaks because they are going to be taking most of the reps and when I get in there I just want to make sure the production doesn't slip."
Texans fullback Vonta Leach (on if he is cares that the modern NFL game the fullback doesn't get much glory and doesn't get to carry the ball) "Oh yeah, but that's just part of your job, that's just part of the role, knowing what your supposed to do and help the team. My role is to help the team do what they gotta do to win, to get to the playoffs and I'm happy with that."
(on the fullback being like a lineman; big and strong) "Yeah, the fullback is a big, strong guy who can block. You know, when he gets his chance to catch the ball and touch the ball you do it out of the backfield and stuff like that. But other than that, I get my glory when the running back has over 100 yards and we rush for over 1,000 yards this year. That's how I get my glory."
Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson (on what Texans cornerback Fred Bennett still has to learn) "You've got to play to be able to learn. You can go through practice, you can learn as much as you can in practice, but when those live bullets start that's when you got to get used to the experience. You got to get used to the speed of the game. You got to get used to the way the game operates. I think I get better each season, and that's only going to happen for Fred (Bennett). Now he's just got to stay focused and go out there and help us in any way he can."
(on what he sees in Bennett) "He's been making plays. Whether it's intercepting the ball, knocking down the pass, being physical with the receivers. We don't have a lot of big corners. He brings the element to us in the secondary as corners; another physical guy. What I've seen from him so far, I'm not just saying that because we're standing right beside each other, but he can really help us win football games."
(on whether he changed anything in his off season preparation) "I just worked harder. I think I'm a good player, but I want to be better than that. I've got a lot of goals that I want to achieve personally. I know that I've got to play a lot better in order for this football team to win. It's just my goal; I want to go at Andre (Johnson) every practice. I want to go up at who I think the best receiver in the game is every practice. It's just a point of me coming out here and competing and going as hard as I possibly can. When the receiver catches the ball, I'm starting to take that personally. Last year and the years past, it was a hand clap, and I moved on to the next play. Now it means a lot to me if a receiver catches the ball, so I'm just working a lot harder than I have."
(on whether his rookie year was his best year in the league) "Oh, by far. I would say just because I got tested a lot. My rookie year, I probably got the ball thrown at me probably 75 percent of the time. Had a guy like Aaron Glenn on the other side, he was already established, got a young rookie out here, so teams came at me a lot more. Now, I think its kind of that respect factor, they respect me a little more, and they don't come at me as much."
(on his leadership role) "I'm basically trying to lead by example. Not by coming out here talking. You got to back up your words, and I just try to come out here and do it in practice every day."
Texans tackle Ephraim Salaam (on coming in this season as a starter opposed to as a mentor like last year) "The difference for me was when I got here, when I signed; I was actually the seventh tackle last year. And as camp went on it dwindled down, the season started, Charles Spencer he got hurt, and he is still hurt. I played well last year and now the spot is there, I played well last year and I'm back to capabilities."
(on what it is like to block Mario Williams) "Mario is young number one, so that is an added plus. He is extremely fast, he is strong, he weighs more than me, same height as me but it is definitely a challenge every time going up against Mario. He is very strong and very fast. And there are not a lot of defensive ends like that. You know, you get a Dwight Freeney, he is small, he is quick; you get a Jason Taylor he is small and skinny, Mario is tall, big, strong, and fast, so he is the whole package."
(on what he plans on contributing to the offense and what he is most excited about) "Winning attitude and relentlessness on the offensive line. Giving up sacks is not okay, you know not running the ball is not okay, and that's the mindset we have to have every week, and I'm exciting because the guys are out here working. The offensive line is out here working hard. The quarterbacks are doing there job the running backs are running good and the receivers are catching the ball. I'm definitely excited about the direction the offense is going this year."
Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans (on how nice it was to have a night practice in just helmets) "Oh, it's great to get that break. You come out here at night time out of the heat for a change. It's good to have the fans out here today, you know, showcasing for the fans running around a little bit. You know, it's a lot of fun out here tonight."
(on the defense finding an identity) "Oh definitely. We are gelling together now. You know, last year everyone was pretty much learning the system on the go, but now we got a pretty good hold of it and everyone knows their assignments and everyone's capable of just flying around making plays. And that's the fun part about playing defense."
(on having an interception tonight) "Oh yeah, a little pick. Nothing big."
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (on night practice) "It's nice to have an evening practice. It's a little cooler and you got the lights on. It gives us a little break from our normal morning and afternoon practices, so its fun when the lights get turned on and we get to come out and play ball. It's an exciting time. We just wanted to get one shot deep and get some of the fans excited."
(on his impressions of camp so far) "We have been working tremendously hard. Guys are focused and coming out each day with a purpose and something in their mind that they want to work on and as a team we want to get better at, with special categories. Like today we did two minute, so we want to get better in all facets of the game and be a smarter football team. So, the work is really paying off for us."
(On getting stuff out of practice even without pads on) "Exactly, you know that's the thing about this league, it's a marathon, it is a long season. And to be able to come out and work hard and fast without pads is huge because it saves our bodies for when we get toward the later part of the season."