Texans quarterback Matt Schaub suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in Week 10 at Tampa Bay. He has had to watch from the sideline with his right foot in a cast as the Texans have embarked on the first playoff trip in franchise history.
Schaub has been with the team every step of the way. Including his travel to Charlotte, N.C., for evaluation and surgery, he has missed a total of 4-5 days of practice and preparation. He has been to every practice, every game and every meeting, providing valuable feedback to rookie quarterback T.J. Yates along the way.
"We wouldn't be here if it weren't for him, and our team knows that," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on Thursday. "He's done a tremendous job, and his unselfish work over the course of his injury with T.J. has been exceptional. That just doesn't happen. He's with us. I know it's very difficult for him, but from all of us, we appreciate everything he's done, and I appreciate him continuing to work with us."
In 10 games with Schaub, the Texans were 7-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. They ranked fifth in the NFL with 27.3 points per game. Schaub finished the season ranked second in the AFC and sixth in the NFL in passer rating (96.8) and third in the NFL in passing yards per attempt (8.49). He threw 15 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
On Friday, I talked with Schaub in the locker room at Reliant Stadium about the Texans' season, what he has done to help Yates, his rehab and more. Here's a transcript of the interview:
What has it been like for you to have to watch as the team plays in the playoffs for the first time?
"You know, it's tough to watch. I'm extremely excited and happy and proud of the team and the way the guys have handled this season and handled some of the adversity we've gone through. The coaching staff has done a great job and I'm ecstatic for the city and the fans in the Houston area, but at the same time, it's been very difficult for me to watch my team out there playing and I can't be out there to help 'em. So I've just tried to do as much as I can to help them in preparation and on gamedays with certain things, but it's been tough, really, to watch."
Why has it been so important to you to be around the team so much since your injury?
"As a leader on the team and the quarterback of the team, I find that very important. Despite the injury, I wanted to still be here, be here to be a leader on the team to be there to support the guys and help out in any way I can, because that's important. It's part of the job, and I told myself when I got hurt and I knew I was going to be out the rest of the season that I was going to do everything I could to help out and be a support system to the rest of the guys."
Can you explain what exactly you've been doing around the facility?
"I still come in my same time early in the morning, do my treatment, my rehab that I can for my leg and my foot, and then I'm still in the meetings, still out at practice as if I were playing and doing as much as I can from that standpoint to help T.J. out and to help the other quarterbacks, the new guys that have come in. Just rehabbing, and just recently after six weeks of non-weight bearing (activity) with crutches, I've been able to walk, so this week has been pretty big just to be able to stand on my foot and put weight on it."
How good does that feel to be able to walk again?
"Oh, it's awesome. I can get rid of the crutches and lose the scooter I've been riding around and be able to walk, feel a little normal again."
Are you going to miss the scooter at all? It seems like it took on a life of its own for a while there.
"(Laughs) It really did. It seemed like it created a lot of laughter and jokes from my teammates and coaches, and it got caught on the sideline a few times. But it won't be missed. It'll be remembered, but not missed, and I'm definitely excited to be walking again."
Going back to T.J., what kind of things have you specifically been trying to impart to him?
"Just little things here and there. He's been in the system now this whole year and he understands it. He learned it really quickly. Going back to the offseason when he came in town to work out with us over at Rice and learn the playbook, you could just tell that he could pick things up rather quickly. Just to be there to give him any type of tips or reminders or advice on certain looks or certain teams that I've played in the past, really just be there to help out. You know, you don't want to overload him too much with information because he's getting so much of it from the coaches. So, whenever there's a time when I can fit something in, I try to, but at the same time, I let him go and play and cut it loose and just be there. If he has any questions, I've told him many times, 'Just come over,' and he's been great about (asking), 'Hey, what do you think about this?' and I've given my input, but he's done a nice job from that standpoint."
What have you tried to pass along this week about the Baltimore Ravens, a team you faced in Week 6?
"Just understanding looks, understanding their blitzes and how we protect because it's a little different with their three-down alignment, and then who their bigs are that we're going to block, just understand how they might play Andre (Johnson) and certain things like that – certain looks that they're going to show to try to confuse him, and read body language, things like that and just how to handle the environment and what he's going to have to face up there."
For being a fifth-round draft pick and third-stringer, getting thrown into his situation and now starting in the playoffs, how impressed are you with what he's done?
"I thought he's had a nice progression. He's really picked it up quickly. He goes in, he's very calm in the game. If something does happen negative, he bounces back from it, and that's a sign of maturity and composure out there on the field. The thing that's helped him is guys around him have stepped their game up and he's got a good group, a good defense around him to work for him and just managing the game, and he's done a great job."
One of the guys who obviously has helped him has been Andre Johnson, who's back and healthy now from his hamstring injuries. Andre said before the Bengals game last week, he told you that he loved you, and after he scored in the third quarter he sought you out and gave you a big hug. What did that mean to you?
"It meant a lot, because we've been here a while together now, and that receiver and quarterback relationship is a special one when you're trying to accomplish some good things. And we've done a lot of great stuff together, but to have him come over and say that, it really, really meant a lot because he knows how hard it was for me to not be out on the field and he wanted to express that he understood that and he wished I was out there with him. So it was big."
As hard as this process has been for you, how happy are you for Andre to have the opportunity to finally be on the postseason stage?
"I'm ecstatic for him. It's been a long career for him here, battling through things, sticking with it. He knows we were knocking on the door the past few years, but to finally get to this point and for him to have the type of game last week he did, have a touchdown to kind of seal the deal, I was extremely happy for him because he's really been the face of this organization since he walked in the door, and he's really stuck it out and he's a true sign of a pro in this business."
What do you think it is about the team that has allowed it to succeed through all the injuries and adversity this season?
"I think just that. I think being able to handle adversity, handle situations that arise and keep moving forward. Don't hang your head. No situation's too big, or you don't make things too small. You just stay on an even keel, keep moving forward, keep your eyes focused on what's the next thing in front of you and not look back and just keep moving forward to the next goal."
How much of that has comes from your coach, Gary Kubiak?
"I think it stems from that directly. Ever since we've all been here, you know, you walk in the door and how you handle adversity is the name of the game, and he stresses that to us and really hammers that home. And I think the way he's handled it over his career here has really shown and it echoes throughout the team and throughout the locker room, and so I think we really exemplify his way he approaches the game and I think we've all made that a part of us."
Have you learned anything from your injury?
"I think not to take anything for granted. Not that I did, or not that players that get injured do, but you've got to embrace every moment you're out there. You've got to take advantage of every opportunity and realize what you have when you have it and not take those things for granted. I'm going to bounce very quickly from this injury and be ready this offseason, but it's tough to, at the point of the season that we were in, to have to stand on the sideline. But I think that's one thing I took away."
What sort of timeline is ahead for you in your rehab?
"It's going to be a few months here because I'll have to go in and get some hardware removed out of my foot. I'll most likely be ready to participate in OTAs, definitely training camp be full-go. But the fact that it's going to be the offseason, I want to make sure I'm doing it right and not do too much too soon. But it feels great and we're a couple weeks ahead of schedule, but just need to keep working at it so hopefully this offseason, we'll be fine."
You were playing some of the best football of your career before your injury. This almost goes without saying, but next season probably can't come soon enough for you…
"I've never been more excited for OTAs and training camp ever in my life. So, yeah, I'll be counting the days until then, so I'm excited to get back out there with the guys."
A lot of people have been counting this team out all season – even before you were out, but especially since you went out. What do you think this team's capable of doing in the playoffs?
"The sky's the limit. As long as we focus on our football, take care of our business, we can go anywhere, we can play anyone and we can win. It's that belief that we have and that perseverance through adversity that's going to carry us through this thing, and I think we can definitely take it all the way."