The Texans spoke to the media after practice on Wednesday. Following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head coach Gary Kubiak LB Brian Cushing WR Andre Johnson SS Bernard Pollard LB DeMeco Ryans QB Matt Schaub Texans head coach Gary Kubiak(on today's practice) "It was good. Very good. Really locked into what we're doing. This team (New England Patriots) presents a lot of problems for you on both sides of the ball and special teams, and so we're off to a good start. We had three guys miss practice today: (DT) Shaun Cody, (LB Brian) Cushing obviously and then (T) Duane Brown did not practice today."
(on if he expects to get a full effort from the Patriots) "No doubt. This team last year lost (QB) Tom Brady and went 11-5. I mean, this is as deep a team, as good a football team that you'll play in this business. They're the benchmark. If we're not at our best, it won't matter. We'll have to be as good as we can be. So we need to have a great week and we got off to a good start today."
(on if he's more worried about the quick strike or the defense :40) "It's both. They're number two on offense and I can sit here and talk about all the weapons—y'all know who they are. Defensively they're number eight in the league. They're as balanced a team going into these playoffs as you see and (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano) feels like it's the best special teams we've played against, so they're loaded. They've got a heck of a group and the thing—offensively, they can really keep the ball away from you. You'll turn on some films and some teams have 47, 48 snaps. So it's a challenge all the way across the board."
(on if he expects to play Russell this week) "Yeah, I expect him to play. He'll basically take (FS) Dominique's (Barber) place. How much he plays on defense, we'll wait and see, but between he and (FS John) Busing, they'll play a great deal."
(on what he likes about Russell) "He's very smart. He's played a lot of football and he was with Ray (Rhodes) in Seattle so he knows what we're doing, so that's easy for him. He did some good things for (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano) when we gave him a chance. He's a veteran guy. He can step in here today and play on Sunday. That's what we need at this point."
(on four Texans making the Pro Bowl) "That's pretty cool. It says a lot about the job that's happened on defense this year with this football team. Obviously, they're our biggest improvement on the team, and having those three players (DE Mario Williams and LBs DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing) is the example of that. And of course, (WR) Andre (Johnson) speaks for himself. So I'm happy for those guys. I think that's the biggest compliment you can be paid in this business."
(on the recent play of DE Mario Williams) "He needs to play better than he played last week. They (Miami Dolphins) threw the ball 55 times. He needs to show up more in those situations, and he's going to have to do that this weekend. We're going to all have to play even better than we did last week."
(on if he thinks QB Matt Schaub should be in the Pro Bowl) "He had a Pro Bowl year, but you can't argue with the guys that are going. They're tremendous players with what they've done. I think Matt understands that this league usually makes you do that a couple of times, and he'll do it again. He's going to play well, he's going to play here for a long time. He's had a heck of a season, and it'll motivate him."
(on RB Arian Foster) "He practiced well. I'm just trying to teach him the importance of what an everyday player is, not sometimes, and he's responding. He came back today, had a good day, and we need him to win. So hopefully he'll have a good week."
(on if RB Arian Foster will start) "I'll probably play them all. We'll see. He's got a good chance. It really all depends on what we're doing. I'm playing them all and it really all depends on what we're doing, but he's going to play a great deal."
(on if he thinks QB Matt Schaub could play in the Pro Bowl since one of the Pro Bowl quarterbacks will likely play in the Super Bowl) "Yeah, I would think so just because of the nature of the way the game is being played this year, and that's probably going to be true for a lot of guys. There's probably going to be more guys because of the format this year. So we'll see, but like I said, he's had a wonderful year."
(on if he was surprised that DE Mario Williams made the Pro Bowl) "No. Mario's got a lot of respect in this league and he gets a lot of attention week in and week out. We talked about his year—he and I have talked. I think he knows that he probably can definitely reach another level as a player, but the players showed him a lot of respect and he needs to go out there and prove to them that they're right."
(on if this would be a good game for Williams to do that) "Yeah, I'm all for it. That'd be a good one."
(on if his preparation is at all affected by whether or not he thinks Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will rest some players) "No, it doesn't because this team, like I said, is so deep and so good, and they've been good when they've lost players. It's not like when some guys haven't been there they haven't been successful. They were just as successful last year. So we'll have to play excellent. This team is loaded with people, and that's why they've been winning on a consistent basis."
(on if his message to the players is any different this week) "No, not really. I'm sure the message gets louder as we get to Sunday, but these guys know how important this football game is and I really liked their attention to detail and they've picked up right where they left off last week."
(on the comparison between WR David Anderson and Patriots WR Wes Welker) "Same type of player. Welker right now is doing things that are just off the charts as a receiver, and if you watch their film and how hard this young man plays, how hard he blocks, and just every snap—a great model for David to study, because we use David a lot in the same ways. But a tremendous player, and hopefully David gets there some day."
(on how his previous postseason experience helps him get the team prepared this week) "Are you talking about me, personally? I don't know. You've got to play the game the same way. It's like this weekend—there's nothing different about our approach and what we have to do to win. We have to have some amazing things happen for us to get lucky and get in, but stranger things have happened. But we need to be sitting there at 3:30 on Sunday having played a good football game, and we'll go from there. We've got to take care of our business."
LB Brian Cushing
(on how he felt when he got the news that he'd made the Pro Bowl) "Just really happy. Just kind of ecstatic about everything. I got the call and was just thrilled. It's something that I wasn't really expecting and it's just great news."
(on how he celebrated the Pro Bowl news) "Celebrate? I just went and told my mom and dad. Celebration will be after the season, so we'll take care of it then."
(on what it says about the defense's improvement that they're sending three guys to the Pro Bowl) "It's special. That's definitely something to build upon. We know we all have the capabilities and like I said it's special and we'll just continue to grind, continue to do what we're doing, hopefully get more next year and be one of those defenses that we know what we can do."
(on if he'd rather play against Patriots starters or backups) "You want to play against their starters, no question about it. You want to play against the Patriots for who they are. You don't want to play against a team that doesn't want to play their guys but if it is, so be it. We're game planning the same no matter what. We're planning to play against whatever 11 they put out there."
(on going to the Pro Bowl with fellow LB DeMeco Ryans) "He was actually the first guy I called. Just really excited. It's his second time, my first time and I owe a lot to him, no question about it, about me going out there and doing everything I'm doing. I'm just real fortunate in every aspect. To go down there with him, that's something really special, a guy in my own room. Hopefully this is something for years to come."
(on if he still learns from LB DeMeco Ryans) "He's got four years on me. He's been in this for a while and of course I continue to learn every single day. He's a captain of the football team, he's a linebacker on the defense and there's no limit I don't think ever to the stuff I'll learn from him. He's one of the smartest football players I've even been around on top of one of the most physically talented."
(on what he sees when he watches the Patriots' offense on tape) "An offense that executes. There's no question about it, they do a great job and they've got a lot of good receivers and maybe the best quarterback in the league behind a very well-schemed line and a very, very well coached team—in every aspect. I'm sure their defense is the same. They're a very disciplined team, they know how to execute and they've been doing it for years."
WR Andre Johnson
(on how much it means to still be playing for something) "It means a lot. We've never been in this situation before. We know what's at stake and we'll have to find a way to go out and win. That's the biggest thing."
(on if it makes him proud to see QB Matt Schaub get some recognition) "Yeah it does, I've said that before. He's taken a lot of criticism and I think this year by what he's done he's kind of shut some people up. In this league it's about being consistent and things like that so he has to come back and hopefully have a similar year like he had this year and hopefully we can go out and win more games and he'll get the recognition that he deserves."
(on if it matters to him whether or not the Patriots play their starters) "It doesn't matter. You look at that football team, they have a lot of depth and they have a lot of good players. Our main focus is winning to try to get to where we want to be so we're going to do everything we can to try to win."
(on being voted to the Pro Bowl again) "It's a great accomplishment. It'll be in my home town so it'll be a little different. I would love for it to be back in Hawaii to get the vacation but it's a great accomplishment, it's great to be around all the great players and I have three teammates going with me this time so that makes it even better. Hopefully this will be the best one."
(on saying last year that he won't want to play in it because he hopes he'd be in the Super Bowl ) "Hopefully that can still happen. Like I said before, we only can control what we can and that's us trying to win this game on Sunday and hopefully it will all work out."
(on if the team can play well for a full 60 minutes) "Playing against this team you'll have to play a full 60 minutes. They're very explosive. As an offense they can put up a lot of points and defensively they're going to go out there and just take you out of your game and shut you down. We have to be on everything—offense, defense and special teams and as a team we just have to lock in and everyone has to be focused on their job and getting their job and not focus on everybody else. You have to focus on your job and getting your job done."
(on Patriots WR Randy Moss) "I think Randy had an effect on a lot of kids growing up, especially like in high school and stuff. When I saw him when I was in high school he was definitely someone that you watched and the way he played the game and just the plays that he made, and then him coming to the NFL and what he did as a rookie in the NFL was amazing. I have never seen a guy that can turn it off and turn it on like he can. Some Sundays you go home and watch highlights and he looks like he's playing with guys making one hand catches and stuff like that so I've always been a big fan of Randy Moss. I still am."
(on if it would mean more to have a winning season or a playoff birth) "If we win the game on Sunday and everything works out then both of those would be accomplished. I'd love to have a winning season and be in the playoffs, that's what you play for. You always want to win. You don't want to play and then be packing your bags at the end of the season. I've been in the league seven seasons now and hopefully I won't have to pack up after this weekend."
SS Bernard Pollard
(on about playing New England and QB Tom Brady) "Well, it's football. You can't try and rehash old things, but at the end of the day, we have to come out and play because we're trying to go somewhere."
(on if it bothers him to talk about his hit on Brady) "No, it doesn't bother me. It happened in the game and when the game is over, I leave everything on the field. It was nothing intentional. Me and him (Brady), we've talked indirectly and I'm pretty sure we'll speak on Sunday, but like I said, it's football you take the good with the bad. When stuff like that happens to any other quarterback, I'm pretty sure if (QB Matt) Schaub would've gone down with something like that, it wouldn't be as big as it was with Brady. You understand the monster you're dealing with. Like I said, this is a game and we're getting ready to go play it."
(on if he prefers to play New England's starters or backups on Sunday) "I could really care less what they do. Our objective is to go win. Whomever is on the field, they are put there to gain a win as a New England Patriot so I could care less who they put on the field. Our team, we don't care. We know where we're trying to go and it takes a 'W' to get there. That's what is in front of us and we're going to bite at it."
(on what is similar from his past playoff atmospheres and right now in Houston) "You can tell that everybody is on the edge of their seat because it would be the first time in franchise history to go to the playoffs, but the playoffs are a whole different season man. You talk about the emotions. You talk about the excitement and just the game speed. Everything changes because everybody knows 'one and done'. Everything here, everybody, we're excited. Everybody is honed in. Everybody is ready. Everybody is hungry. The biggest thing we need to just keep knocking into each other's head is that it's one and done. This is the playoffs for us. I believe that it's in everybody's head and we're all looking to go forward."
(on if he has offered any of his old Kansas City teammates incentives to beat Denver on Sunday) "No, I'm not offering them nothing. They all understand. You've got a lot of guys in the NFL that are just ready for the season to be over with. You have guys that have packed it up a long time ago. Talking to them, everybody is hungry. Everybody wants to go out and win, because that puts another 'W' in the column for them. I can't get too involved with them. We've got to let the chips fall, but it's crazy because I know guys on that team so I'm able to call and talk."
(on challenges the Patriots present with their offense) "You talk about people moving. You talk about athletes playing. You talk about a quarterback, receivers and running backs—this team is as good as it gets. The coaches have been saying they've been getting ready for a playoff run a couple weeks ago and you see it in their play. You see what they're doing. You see the running backs are running the ball. They've got five running backs that can start for any team in the NFL. You have a quarterback that is a top-five quarterback in the league. You've got receivers that are just putting up numbers. I really believe we have to come in and have our A-game, because we're dealing with a monster. We're dealing with a lot of monsters. That's what you want in this league. You want to compete and you want to compete day in and day out with the best. If we want to consider ourselves a playoff team and if we want to go out on top and want to get the respect that we want, a lot of people aren't going to give it to us. So we've got to take it. Going out and playing in this game on Sunday, do they respect us? I don't know. If you wanted to ask me if everybody else wanted to give an honest answer, you know, they probably don't. A lot of teams probably don't respect us, but like I said, a lot of people don't give it. You have to take it."
LB DeMeco Ryans(on if he's excited about making the Pro Bowl even if he might have expected it) "You never take that for granted, it's awesome. It's a huge honor. It's a special honor and even more special to be able to go with (LB) Brian (Cushing) and (DE) Mario (Williams) and (WR) Andre (Johnson), that's the most guys we've ever had here in Texans history. It's a huge honor and I'm proud. I'm proud of my teammates and proud of the way the guys have fought this year and it wouldn't have even been possible without those guys."
(on what it says about the defense that they have three Pro Bowers) "It shows our dedication and hard work paid off to get things right. We got things fixed around here. After that third game we started to play a lot better defense and we've got a couple of guys getting recognition for that."
(on if this is the biggest game in franchise history) "Yes, this is our biggest game because this game means a lot for us. This is our test to stay alive in the playoff run and hopefully we'll get some help from a few other teams but we have to go out and handle our business against the Patriots. We've never been at this point before in Texans history so this is big for us."
(on if he said anything special to the team this week as one of its captains) "There's not much talking that needs to be said this week. Everybody understands what we're fighting for. I know it's important to everybody here so there's no words that need to be said. We just have to go out and execute better than the Patriots."
(on if they worry about whether or not the Patriots will play their starters) "That's something you can't worry about: who they're going to start, who they're going to play. Because we can't control that so it's not going to do us any good to worry about who we're going to be going against. We just have to prepare for the Patriots. They're going to run the same offense, same defense. It's not going to change because there's different guys in there. We've got to go out and still we've got to execute and play better than they play."
QB Matt Schaub
(on the game against the Patriots) "It's a huge game for us. It's a chance for us to get to 9-7 which we haven't been able to do the past couple of years and finish off strong at home in the month of December and, you know, have a chance. Keep ourselves in the hunt. Obviously we'll need some help the rest of the day but we can only control what we can control against the Patriots."
(on if anything is different with so much riding on this game) "No, you go and prepare the same way, each game. Obviously there's a lot on the game and a lot of meaning towards it but you prepare the same way. You can't change anything that you do, you just go out and execute. It's a playoff game in our minds, much like last week, a must-win game to stay in the hunt."
(on if he notices a different atmosphere) "No, not really. Guys are very business-like, our team likes to keep it loose and have fun but at the same time get out stuff done and then compete and just get ready to go and that's what we're doing."
(on being on the cusp of playing in the Pro Bowl) "It's a compliment that your peers give you in that light but it means that our team is doing a lot of good things and that's all that is."
(on if it feels good to see his name listed with some of the NFL's great quarterbacks) "Yeah, it does. Especially where we've come from the past few years and leading up to this point and being out there every week. We have a lot of weapons to use on this offense and it's just my job to distribute the ball and get it in their hands. We have a lot of playmakers."
(on the Patriots defense) "They're very multiple in what they do. They line up in a variety of fronts and coverages and it's all about recognition and from week to week they change their plan up. But they're a stout up front seven much like last week, they rush the passer well and their coverages coordinate well with their pass rush."
(on the team knowing what they need to do this week) "Absolutely. We've been in this position here now for a few weeks and our team has responded well and it's just about going out and preparing and getting ready to go and then playing well on Sunday."
(on if he can still learn something when he plays against Patriots QB Tom Brady) "Yeah, it's much like going against (Colts QB) Peyton (Manning). To play against those guys and to beat them you have to play a near-flawless game and play really well and take care of the football and take advantage of opportunities. That's the key against guys like this."