Andre Johnson and the Texans have had many ups and downs since their season-opening victory against Kansas City, and they will look to finish the season on a positive note with a win against Jacksonville.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak spoke to the media following Wednesday's practice as his team prepared for its final game of the season against the 11-4 Jacksonville Jaguars.
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on practice) "We practiced good. We're missing some guys, of course. We've got some issues. It will continue to be all the way until game time with DeMeco (Ryans), Ronnie Dayne, Andre (Johnson). Andre Johnson had the day off today. He should be fine. Eric (Winston) – it's all those issues that we'll solve as we go through the week here."
(on DE Anthony Weaver) "He did not practice today. We'll see. We activated DelJuan Robinson. It will probably be a game time decision with Anthony."
(on QB Matt Schaub) "You know, he practiced today. He took the majority (of his reps) with the scout team. He took some with us. I'm going to go back and look at it. As I said all along, I'm hoping that he is able to play. At the same time, he's only going to play if I think he's 100 percent. We'll decide that. Today, he did a little more than he did last week."
(on how much a rookie can learn after one season) "That's usually where a pro makes his biggest jump. If he's going to be a great pro for a long period of time, they usually make a big jump from year one to year two; just look at Mario (Williams). So it will be a big, big year for Amobi (Okoye). You know (Kasey) Studdard, Brandon Frye and those guys, if they're going to play and be a part of this league, they'll usually make that huge jump."
(on G Kasey Studdard and T Brandon Frye being the future of the team) "I think they have a chance to be. It's going to be very competitive in the offseason with (Mike) Brisiel coming in and playing the way he's been playing this month. Now all of a sudden, there's a guy they are going to have to go get because he's established himself and done a really good job. It all depends, but it should be very competitive."
(on S Brandon Harrison getting a chance to compete in the offseason) "Hopefully, he's taken advantage of the year he's taken to sit around and watch and study and those type of things. You never know. You go back, and we'll see. He's got all the tools and the brain. He's got all that. It will depend on how much he has done on his own."
(on the team's reaction after the loss to Indy) "The reaction was good today, but the reaction that matters most is going to be Sunday. We're all very, very disappointed in the way we played and the way we coached. We need to do something about it. We played with a sense of urgency today, but that sense of urgency will have to be here all week. We need that for us to make it a successful week."
(on if it's a relief to have the season end) "No, I wish we could keep playing some more, but they're not going to let us do that this year. We're doing some good things and had a lot of confidence last week. It goes to show that you are only a game away from getting knocked back down. That was a rough pill to swallow the other day, but you've got to bounce right back."
(on QB Matt Schaub's first year as a starter) "I think he's done a lot of good things. He's made a lot of progress every time he went out on the field. The keys to being a great, great quarterback in this league, as you all know - if you look at them, they are out there all the time and they protect the ball extremely well. Those are two things we've got to go to work on. Not that you can do anything about getting hurt, but we've got to get this guy healthy. He's got to be out there every snap. We've got to protect the ball better as we move forward. "
(on if QB Matt Schaub met expectations) "I expected a lot from him. Just from being with him early in training camp, I thought he would play well, which he did and he continued to play well with some injuries going on around him. We've just got to have him out there for 16 weeks and he's got to protect the ball better."
(on what he learned about QB Matt Schaub) "I don't know if I found anything different. We're very pleased with the guy that we got. We've got to go to work on that. It's not automatic, yet. How many games did he start this year? Ten, maybe 11. Just keeping him out there and keeping his progression going – he's got to become a great player fast. We can't wait three or four years."
(on how hard it will be for QB Sage Rosenfels to return to being the backup) "I hope that he doesn't feel that way. The guy that I know that I've been working hard with this past month expects to be a starter in this league and he knows that he can do that. He's proven that and he's played extremely well for us. I know last week he would have liked to have played better. We'll see how it goes this week, but I would hope that his mindset is that he can be a starter and he's pushing Matt (Schaub) every day. That's going to make Matt better and our team better."
(on if DE Earl Cochran would start for DE Anthony Weaver) "Earl would actually step in as a starter, but (Tim) Bulman can play. Bul played last week, so we'll see."
(on DE Earl Cochran) "He can run. Earl (Cochran) plays very hard every down. He plays special teams and was a bright spot in the game the other day, and there weren't many. He was definitely a bright spot. His effort and his want to become a player in this league are very evident, and I think he has a chance to become a good one."
(on how important it is to win against Jacksonville) "We don't have enough time to tell you how important it is. The key is how important it is for these guys that have to go step on the field, and today they showed me it's very important. So let's see what happens, but we want to finish on the right note. We know what that means."
(on if LB Zac Diles would ever switch positions because he plays behind LB DeMeco Ryans) "He plays all the spots in practice, so it's something that he does work at. I think he's sharp enough to play a little bit of anywhere. Sometimes your height for going outside can be a factor, but I think he's capable of playing other spots."
(on RB Darius Walker stepping up) "He's been impressive. He's gotten an opportunity in the past month and he's seemed like he's gotten better each week. I thought the other day he did some good stuff. I think he played every snap, if I'm correct. I don't know if another guy went on the field at the running back position, so that's impressive. He's figuring out what it takes in this league; you know, playing against Tampa, Denver and Indy three weeks in a row, he's seen good people. Darius will know what it's all about. Let's see how he comes back next year and what type of offseason he has and whether he makes a big jump. But he's got a good head start on some of these young kids because he's been out there."
(on Jacksonville) "First off, they're healthy. They were beat up last year and lost a lot of players, so that was a tough thing for them to go through. I think the obvious thing is that they made a tremendous decision going with the quarterback they went with. The kid's a hell of a player. He's been rock solid. He's protected the ball. They play great defense. They run the ball with that kid. For them to be sitting there with that kid knowing he's going to be there a long, long time has to be a big key to their football team. "
(on what he sees in the Jaguars) "It looks like they have a sense of calm. They are very calm in what they are doing. They know what they want to do. They're going to run the ball. Jacksonville is going to play good defense. Their special teams are playing well. One thing they know for sure, is that this kid isn't going hurt them. I mean, he's protected the ball as well as anyone in football."
(on if the team still doesn't have the intangibles) "No, I don't think so. I think there's a lot of things we need to learn to do better to become a playoff football team or a team that has a chance to play for a championship someday. We learned some lessons from this team we played last week. Some of the things they were doing late in the game when they were getting after us as a football team – to watch Reggie Wayne play in the game with 10 minutes left in the game and a 31-7 lead should have taught our players something – to watch some of the things they were doing. We've got a long way to go. There's not a finger on one thing; it's just about us continuing to grow as a group. If we continue to do that, we'll make the stride we need to make."
(on the coaching job of Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio) "I know Jack very well; we kind of played at the same time. I think he stays committed in what he believes in, and that's defense and running the ball. They got off to a slow start this year. It looked like early in the season, things weren't going as well for them. But they stayed committed to what they were doing. They stayed committed to their choice at quarterback, and made their team believe. I think he's done a hell of a job, and they are capable of beating anybody as they move forward."
(on what Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio changed this season) "I think he's been doing a heck of a job there ever since he got there. I played him quite a few times before I got here. He's always had a good football team. They've always come up maybe a game short of making the playoffs or going where they want to go, but it looks like they are in great position this year. They've had a great year."
CB Fred Bennett
(on what veteran players told him at the combine last year) "They were telling me how my rookie year's probably the worst, so I was talking to a couple of guys and they just let me know just get away for a couple of weeks, just rest my body and work my back into it slowly."
(on if he did what he wanted to be able to do this season) "Yes, I'll be very pleased with my progress. I thought I made tremendous progress this year. We've still got one more game left, and I'm going to go out there Sunday and try to get better and make sure it just kind of leads over into next season."
(on if he expects Jacksonville to be as physical as usual) "Of course; that's Jacksonville. That's what they do, and we've just got to bring our hard hats."
(on the Jaguars being more run-oriented than the Colts) "I think you kind of prepare the same. This is the NFL. They're both playoff teams. Jacksonville's a playoff team, and like you said they're going to come in here and their mentality is to run the ball, run the ball, just smash-mouth football and a very physical team. We've got to come to play. We've got to bring our big boy pads."
(on QB David Garrard) "I'm very impressed with him on film. He has a nice touch on the ball. His receivers are making plays now. Every throw he makes isn't perfect, but the way his receivers catch the ball and the things he does, the way he runs the offense, like you said, he doesn't turnover the ball, he takes very good care of the ball, so that's amazing."
(on if that gives me extra motivation to get an interception) "You know, I'm just going to go out there and play and if it happens, it happens. I'm just going to go out there and play the way my coaches want me to play and just play hard."
TE Owen Daniels
(on if the last game of the season is still important) "Extremely important. Even though it's the last game of the year, we've got a lot at stake. We have eight wins, the most wins in franchise history, at stake. We've got a chance to beat a playoff team. We've got a chance to get our first win in division. Unfortunately it's taken this long to do that, but (there are) a lot of things we still are able to do with this game."
(on what makes Jacksonville so tough) "You know what, I think they just play pretty hard-nosed football. They're a pretty physical team. They run the ball really well with two really good running backs. They're pretty solid up front on the defensive side of the ball. They haven't been making a lot of mistakes lately, and that helps out with the wins, for sure."
(on what they picked up from the Colts) "Well, they're always working hard. We took a look at the film, and even when they're up big, no matter who they're playing – obviously, we got a chance to see it first hand – and still blocking downfield, receivers still blocking; they're just working hard and they just do such a good job of executing all the time, no matter what. They don't make many mistakes, and that's what it takes to win."
(on if they learn something by watching the Colts) "Absolutely. For me, at least, I see that kind of thing and it's pretty much a blueprint for winning, of success in this league, and they've been doing it for a while now and obviously they've been pretty successful."
(on what he hopes to accomplish individually in the last game) "You know what, I think just playing a pretty consistent game, catching the ball well, helping out blocking. I just want to play the best game of the year so far, and the good thing is there's one more opportunity to do it, and I'm going to do my best there."
WR André Davis
(on the importance about bouncing back after last week) "It's very important to us. I think more then anything else, it's just to see what we have inside. We really did, we got out butts whooped last week and we want to make sure that we're definitely not handing it in right now. We've got one more game against a great team, another playoff team, and we have to treat this like our playoff. We're going to make sure that we prepare just as hard as we do any other week and try and go out on a winning note."
(on if he's liked how things have gone for him in his first year in Houston) "Oh definitely. Once again, it's just a game of opportunity and, of course, it didn't start the way I wanted it to, but just to be able to come in here and help the team out in any possible. Whether it was on offense when (WR) Andre (Johnson) was down or on special teams now, it's just a matter of trying to help the team out. It would be nice to come back here, but I also realize this is a business. Everybody's trying to look out for the best interest of the team and right now, my best interest is trying to get this last win. Once we do that, I can worry about the offseason later."
(on if this game is a little more important to guys that have one-year deals) "I don't think it's any more important then any of the other games we've had. It's another opportunity that you have to put yourself out on tape. That's the most important thing, to make sure whatever they see of you on tape is something positive. Once again, with this being another opportunity, it's definitely another positive chance to really get out there and show everybody what you can do."
WR Andre Johnson
(on if there is a rivalry with Jacksonville) "It always feels like that when we play against them. I said before, sometimes it feels like that big college rival you play against when you're in college. I don't know what it is about that game. Whenever we play against them, it always has that type of feeling to it."
(on what makes this game different) "I think it's probably because when we play them, the games are pretty close. My first year I got here, the first time we played against them, we beat them on a fourth-and-one at the goal line when (QB) David (Carr) jumped over the top to score a touchdown. I think that's probably what it is, the games are close and it just has that little rivalry feel to it."
(on if he likes playing against the Jaguars) "I don't look at it like that. I just look at it like another game. I approach every game the same. I don't know, they may not like us."
(on his knee bothering him today) "It was just sore from the game on Sunday. It's been sore ever since I injured it. Playing on that turf, it really bangs it up pretty good. We practiced on the turf today and I sat out of practice. But I'm fine. I'll be able to play on Sunday."
(on the offense having a record season despite all the injuries) "It's been an up and down season, but injuries happen. You can always say what if guys didn't get injured, where would we be? I think that even though we had injuries happen, I think we learned a lot about our team and I think that's going to carry us a long way. We are going to go out and try and win this game Sunday and hopefully we get our eighth win. Then coming into next season, we've learned a lot about ourselves and we'll see what happens from there."
(on how much further along this franchise is from this point last year) "I think that we're taking steps towards our goal. Like I said after the game Sunday, after what happened, everyone was pretty upset, but something we have to learn how to do is go to Indianapolis and win if we want to win our division. We're just trying to take steps to get where we want to be."
QB Matt Schaub
(on how he felt at practice) "Felt pretty good. I got a harness or whatever you want to call it on there, but it feels pretty good. Getting a lot of strength back in it, so it felt good. It felt good to be practicing and back out there with the guys."
(on how he feels about possibly playing on Sunday) "As a competitor, I definitely want to be on the field. I wanted to be out there with the guys the past three weeks, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. I've just got to get myself best prepared to play and be able to go in there and compete and play hard."
(on if he agrees that starting quarterbacks should play all 16 games) "Oh, definitely. I definitely do. You've got to be out there with your guys every week, week in and week out in this league to be successful, to get in the playoffs and to move on and get to where you want to go as a ball club and as a team, so I feel I'm right on the same page with coach (Kubiak) in that respect."
(on if he needs to play in the last game to earn more respect from his teammates) "Well, that's something that you earn throughout the whole year, in the offseason, by your work ethic, how you handle yourself week in and week out, through the adversity of whether you're injured or not, whether there's a good game or a bad game within the game, certain plays, from play to play, how you handle yourself and carry yourself through everything. That's what earns the respect."
(on other players saying that he has already earned their respect) "That's huge. To hear your guys and your teammates say that about you, that's a huge thing and I like to hear those things, but at the same time we have a job to do and we have something we want to get done around here. And unfortunately this y ear we fell a little short, not making the playoffs and winning our division, but we've set a standard here and we've gotten a lot better as a football team throughout the offseason and then throughout this year. So we just have to look at this last game and go and get win number eight and finish 8-8, leave ourselves with a good taste in our mouths to end this season and move into the offseason and prepare for '08 and getting better next year."
(on how he's grown in his first year as full-time starter) "I feel like I've grown a lot, dealing with just everything you have to as a starter in this league, whether it's the game plan week in and week out, talking with the coaches, getting on the same page with your guys and putting a tough loss behind you or an exciting win and moving on to the next one and dealing with all of you and talking to the media. No, it's been a learning experience and one that I have learned a lot from and am ready for for next year."
(on if he has been surprised by anything this season as starter) "No, not at all. I've had the chance to observe Michael Vick for three years when I was with Atlanta, so nothing really surprised me."
(on how his shoulder is) "Still attached."
(on if it bothered him at practice today) "No, it felt good. I was out there last week practicing; I've got a little harness on there, so it felt good. I've really been working hard with the trainers to get the range of motion and strength back, so it's really helped."
(on if he would favor his shoulder if he played) "Well, I haven't gotten hit since then, so that's the thing to be determined is to take a hit. But from once I get in there, you've got to play and be aggressive and be a competitor, so you can't really worry about any injuries. You've just got to go out there and cut it loose."
(on how hard it would be if he has to wait until next season to play) "Yes, that'll be tough because I've tried to get myself to where I was eyeballing last week to try and be ready and that wasn't the case, and this week I'm going to do the best I can to be able to be out there with my team, but if that's not the case, it's going to be a while before next September comes. It's going to be one that we're going to get after it this offseason and get better as a team."
(on what he takes away from his first year as starter) "It's a grind, it's a marathon is a season, and you've got to deal with the good and the bad and the ups and the downs and just keep plugging away and keep working at things, and good things will happen for you if you remain positive and keep that mentality and that mental toughness."
(on if starting is what he thought it would be) "It's different once it is you and you're not watching someone else, but it is what I expected. I tried to keep an open mind about how things would go, but you make things how you want them to be, and as a team I felt like we really were positive all year and maintained a good outlook and good things happened for us. There were some that got away from us, but it's how we handled those situations and learned from them for the future that will define our team."
(on if he took these wins and losses more personally than he did in Atlanta) "I was part of that team, too. I wasn't out there week in week out, but any time you're a part of a team and you lose or you win, you feel the same way whether you're out there or not. But definitely I think if you're in there playing, it hurts a little bit more when you lose, and you feel a little more frustrated, I feel."
(on if playing Sunday would help his psyche) "Well, from a competitive mindset, you're part of a team and you play this game. If you're a competitor, you want to be out there playing. You don't want to be standing there watching."
(on if he would feel differently about the season if he plays in the last game) "I think definitely, that's what we're looking to do as a team is go out and play well and win, leave a good taste in our mouth, achieve something here that no team has done yet – being 8-8 at the end of the year. So we want to leave that good taste in our mouth to propel us into the offseason."
(on if he would feel better if he played Sunday) "Definitely. If we go out there and I play and we win, or if we win as a team, that's going to leave a good taste in my mouth and everybody else's."
(on if he has discussed scenarios with the coaches about when he would go in) "We haven't discussed that; we're just trying to get to where I can have enough strength in practice and my preparation to where I can go out there and play."
(on what one person helped the most with his transition to Houston) "It's too hard to pick one guy because coming from a different city, I wasn't here and it wasn't like I was the backup and moved up to the starter here. Coming from a new city, it's just a whole bunch of guys in this locker room. I can't single out one of them or else it wouldn't do the other guys justice, because coming in and guys that have been here like Andre (Johnson) and other guys of his stature, they've just really helped me get adjusted to the team and the guys made it a smooth transition for me."
(on if he's going to play on Sunday) "I don't know. That's up to the head coach. I've just got to go out as a player and prepare myself to go out and play."
(on what it's been like not to be able to play) "It's definitely very frustrating because injuries, you hate when they happen and they keep you out of games. And you want to be out there with your guys so bad because they're sweating and bleeding out there on the field, and you want to be a part of that because we've gone through so much in the offseason and training camp and been through some good times and bad times and you want to be out there and experience them."
(on if he will have surgery in the offseason) "Well, we don't have anything set in stone, but it's pretty much something that's going to happen."
(on why he has made that decision) "Well, I've heard multiple doctors tell me that it was the best option and the way to go, so they know more about it than I do."
(on when he would have surgery) "I want to get it done as soon as possible, obviously, so I can start my rehab."
(on the timeframe for his rehab) "Well, I haven't gotten into that. I want to finish the season first."
(on if he is nervous about the surgery) "Well, I've never had surgery so that's something, yes, I've been asking all types of questions about it. But it's something that guys go through, and it's good that it's my left arm."
(on if it will be rotator cuff surgery) "I don't think it's rotator cuff."
(on if the doctors gave him a name for the type of surgery) "I don't know any of the – even if they told me, I probably wouldn't remember or be able to pronounce the word that they use."
(on if knowing he'll have surgery causes him to lose sleep) "No, it causes me to lose sleep not being out there playing (laughs)."
(on if he would be OK if he weren't a football player) "It depends on what I would be doing, but it's not hurting me just standing here, no."
RB Darius Walker
(on how life is) "I wasn't expecting that kind of question on the intro. Life is good right now. It really has been, I guess, a journey for me individually to get to this point, but definitely trying to stay focused. The season isn't over yet."
(on what he has learned in his two starts) "Oh, man, that guys are really trying to kill you out there. I do mean literally, man. I tell you, that football is a rough sport. It really is tough sometimes. Some of those guys, they'll talk trash and stuff to try to get in your head, especially I know being a rookie they think that they can intimidate and everything like that. So I think the biggest surprise for me, which I already knew, is that they're really trying to kill me out there."
(on what the team is playing for in the final game) "Just the fact that we're trying to finish up as strong as we can as an organization. This'll definitely be, we want it to be, the best season that this organization has ever had, so that's our focus. So as far as playing for, well, we may not be playing for the playoffs, but we still have a whole lot to live up to as far as our own expectations go."
(on what his play has done to the front office in terms of their offseason decision about him) "(Laughs) I have no idea. You know, I really have just tried to get out there and play my part and do my part and to play as well as I could and take advantage of the opportunity that I have."
(on starting off fast against the Colts) "Yeah, I think that definitely just goes to show you that the game of football isn't just played in the first drive. It's definitely played f our quarters, 60 minutes of ball, and you've got to be able to play the entire game. Speaking of last week, we came out hard, played strong. The first drive, we were thinking the game's going to go like that, but if you think too soon, you'll be dissatisfied in the end."
(on how good it feels to make the most of his opportunity) "It definitely feels good. It's been a lot of work for me leading up to this point; I think I went about 10 or 11 weeks before I even got moved up on the roster. So my whole deal was just trying to make the 53-man roster, and to have the opportunity to be able to start two games my rookie season and to play well has really just been a blessing."
DE Mario Williams
(on the jump from the first year in the league to the second) "It's very important to work hard and make sure that you're not regressing and just working on things that you know that you need to improve, whatever it might be, just trying to pinpoint those things and getting after it. And then feeling more comfortable is going to come with it regardless."
(on if players have to be their own managers in the offseason) "Yes, it's all about taking care of your own self. You could have everybody sitting here trying to say you need to do this, do that, but at the end it comes down to how hard you're going to do whatever you were supposed to have been doing. So it's pretty much you've go to take it upon yourself and do what's right for you and what you know you need to work on."
(on if he had a goal for a number sacks going into season) "No."
(on if he is happy with how many sacks he has) "No. I'll never be happy, man."
(on what he hopes to do in the final game) "Just play hard. I'm just out there trying to do what I've been doing and just fix the mistakes that I've been making and just try to play better."
(on how much better he feels at end of this season as opposed to last) "I feel a lot better. Like I said, my comfort level is a lot better. I feel a lot better physically. The first year, it's a long season and I felt like everything was beating up on me and I just was tired. I feel a lot better just overall."
(on Texans owner Bob McNair praising his play) "It means a lot. Mr. McNair's a great guy, and the things that the franchise and he obviously had to go through last year pretty much just wasn't fair. So for me to come out and play better and to produce and have some numbers, it feels great to have him say some things like that."
(on if it's hard to hold back and not say 'I told you so' to critics) "Yes, but it's something I can't control so really I don't worry about it, because people are going to say what they want to say whether if I'm doing bad or good. Even if I'm doing good, they've still got bad things to say, so it is what it is. I'm not really worried about it."
(on having a chance to lead the NFL in sacks) "I mean, anybody would like to lead anything. Whatever position they're playing, they would like to lead something. So I don't know; we'll just see what happens."