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Quotes: Day 10 of Training Camp

Training Camp Practice #10
Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
RB Jonathan Grimes
QB Case Keenum
P Shane Lechler
NT Ricardo Mathews
OLB Whitney Mercilus
ILB Justin Tuggle

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
(on putting NT Ricardo Mathews back to field a punt at the end of practice) "I asked one of the other veterans. I said, 'Who do you think today?' He gave me that suggestion, so it worked out well. One of the things out here, you know, I do believe that we have a long way to go in some areas. We have a lot of things to clean up. But I also believe that these guys are working hard. It's hot out there for these guys and the guys that are out there are giving us everything they have. That is a good thing. Tomorrow is their day off. It's good every now and then to give them a little break. Then they come back, in my opinion, fresh."

(on giving the team the afternoon off and not having an afternoon walk through) "Yeah, we'll meet this afternoon. If he (Ricardo Mathews) dropped it, I said we'd be here until midnight. That's why I kept saying, 'There's a lot riding on this, Rico.'"

(on if today was a rest day for Kareem Jackson) "Yeah. Definitely. He's been going at it for a while so we just decided to back off him a little bit."

(on getting back into pads for practice today) "I thought we came out there and I didn't get the sense that we were ready to go. I just put the ball at the 10-yard line and let's play football, you know. It ended up being a goal line situation. I thought that got the guys going a little bit and we ended up having a decent practice. A lot of things, a lot of situations came up, the guys were practicing hard. For the most part they stayed on their feet and tried to do what we asked them to do. I thought the practice got better after that beginning part."

(on if he does things like placing the ball near the goal line when he is not happy with the energy of practice) "I just think as the head football coach you have to have a good beat on your team. When to back off, when to really push them, and that is part of your job. That is what I am always trying to get better and better at."

(on how the team responded to early part of practice where the team when live) "I thought it was good. I think if I remember, I've got to watch the film, but it looked like the defense got a little bit better of the offense there. But it was competitive, it was spirited, the guys were communicating, and I believe we cranked the music there a little bit. It was good. I think overall it got practice going."

(on D.J. Swearinger's passion and intensity) "He is a guy that since the day we arrived here he is a very competitive guy. He's learning our defensive system and getting better day in and day out. We talk to him all the time about the things that he has to do to improve on, and he's always working on that. He loves football. Football is very, very important in his life. He loves his teammates. He's a really good teammate. Just coming out of the locker room just now those guys were yucking it up in there and that is good to see. You know, those DBs, they're a close bunch. He's a guy that is right in the thick of that. Fun guy to coach."

(on the work the guys will do on their day off) "Again, you know, a day off that is quote en quote a day off. Guys need to get extra treatment, they need to continue to hydrate, they need to eat right, they need to watch extra film, they need to get off their feet, they need to watch Arizona film and they need to watch themselves. I mean it's a day off in the sense that they won't go out and practice and lift weights and things like that. But in the sense of being an NFL football player during the season there really are no days off."

(on if there is anything more definitive leading into the first preseason game) "No. Not yet."

(on Case Keenum's success in college when improvising and if he is struggling with the transition to the new offense) "What I see from Case so far is a guy that studies hard, takes it very seriously, a really, really good guy, a good teammate, a student of the game, when he makes a mistake it really weighs on him. He's a guy that wants to be perfect every time he's out there. Guys like that are really fun to coach. We try to correct the mistakes. At the end of the day with all of the quarterbacks, it's how they do on game day. They're judged by how they perform and help the team and wins and losses and things like that. But as far as on a day to day basis, Case is really working to get better every single day."

(on a miscommunication between Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeAndre Hopkins) "I didn't see that. Let me watch the tape and then ask me that tomorrow. I didn't see that. I don't know which one you're talking about. There were probably 70 plays out there today. I didn't catch that one."

(on if plays called at running back or wide receiver are called with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson in mind) "You can't stop the installation or the flow of the offense just because a couple guys are out. It's important for those guys to stay up to snuff on the mental part of our offense and make sure that they're understanding what we're doing out there. That is why they go over there and do their rehab and sprinting and things during our individual and then they come over during team and walk throughs and things like that, and take mental reps. One of the things about the NFL is you go into the game with a game plan. You better have a backup plan. No doubt about it. If you go into that game and say something were to happen to Arian or Andre or anybody out there, you've got to be ready with either Plan B or some alteration to your game plan. That is really what we try to practice every single day here with what we do."

(on the unspoken rule of claiming waived injured players and on the Texans' philosophy on that) "Well, I'll tell you it is probably something that we determine on a case-to-case basis. I think at the end of the day what we always try to do here is be very respectful to the league and the rules, follow the rules, but make sure that we are doing the best for the Houston Texans. What we're always trying to look to do is improve our football team. So if there is something out there or someone out there that can help us improve our team, then we're going to look in that."

(on if anyone is ruled out for Saturday's preseason game with Arizona) "Not yet."

(on if it is too early to gauge the progress of the secondary) "No, it is not too early. Those guys are getting better. Even the guys that aren't the so-called starters, the guys behind J-Joe (Johnathan Joseph), the guys behind Kareem (Jackson), like A.J. Bouye, guys like that. The guys that are backing up the safety position: Chris Clemons and Shiloh (Keo) and Eddie Pleasant. I see improvement on a daily basis. I think that is a very competitive position, and so as we move on down the road here toward the 75 cut and the 53 cut, those are going to be some tough decisions because I see guys out there competing very, very hard."

(on the linebacker competition and moving players around) "Again, it goes back to what we talk about a lot. It's the more you can do. Whether it is being a contributor on special teams or having the ability to learn all four linebacker spots. To me, if you have a guy that can play inside and outside like a Brooks Reed, that is good for your football team. That is good on game day. Some guys are just outside backers. You won't see (Jadeveon) Clowney too much in a 3-4 defense at inside linebacker. I mean you might, but probably not. Other guys are; guys that can play inside and out. We try to look at that and put guys in spots where it takes advantage of their skill sets."

(on using Ricardo Mathews at nose tackle at defensive end) "Yeah. That is the same type of question related to the defensive line. We look at a lot of guys down there as versatile players. Timmy Jamison is a good example of a guy that we think can play nose, play tackle, play defensive end and do some different things, be an inside pass rusher on third down. Ricardo Mathews is another example of that. Guys that can do, you know, a little bit of both."

(on if having versatile players give more roster flexibility) "That's right. At the end of the day when you can only have 46 guys on game day, those are the rules, you've got to make sure you have guys that can play more than one role."

(on if the inside linebacker position is the most open competition on the team) "The linebacker position as a whole is very competitive. I believe that the linebacker position as a whole is really competitive. You look at guys like (Jeff) Tarpinian, (Mike) Mohamed, those guys have come in here, Justin Tuggle, they've played pretty well. They're being coached very well by Mike (Vrabel). That inside linebacker position is a very competitive position."

(on how he evaluates the secondary based on how many turnovers they force) "I think it is partly that. I think a lot of it has to do with knowledge of assignment and instincts within their assignments, within their coverages, understanding what we're trying to do, playing within the scheme, and then obviously, guys that have that knack for getting their hands on the football and intercepting the ball or batting it down or whatever it is. That is part of the evaluation too."

RB Jonathan Grimes
(on what things his dad told him about the Texans) "He was all into the depth chart and everything. He was like, 'I don't know, these guys might need a running back here and there.' So he would keep me uplifted; just talking to him about anything, not just football, just life, it really helped me."

(on using last year's momentum in this year's camp) "I don't really look at last year going this year because It's two different years, different coaches, different teams; every day is different and you just have to take it one day at a time."

(on preparing for game-like situations in practice) "We try to cover everything: move the ball, two-minute, and four-minute because these are all situations that are going to come up and we just want to be on our A-game in all of them."

(on learning and preparing in time off between Tennessee and Texans) "I'm learning a lot, just more about the game in general as far as defense, offense, special teams, just all phases, and really just working my craft and trying to be the best teammate that I can be."

QB Case Keenum
(on if his confidence in the system has gotten better) "You know, it's getting better. I think one of the things coaches try to do is try to push your limits and make you uncomfortable a little bit that the more and more you do that the more comfortable you feel being uncomfortable. Does that make sense? Just pushing the limits and trying to find some continuity with the guys you're playing with. So, it's getting better. It's getting better every day. Still making mistakes every day which you know I don't like. But I think that's what makes you better; not making the same mistakes. So we're getting better"

(on if this year is the biggest challenge for him so far in his career) "You know, any challenge you're going through at the time feels like one of the biggest ones you've gone through. But I've been through a lot and each situation makes you a better person and a better player. If you attack each one with everything you've got I think things will work out and it'll make you a better player. So that's what I'm doing. I'm attacking every day with everything that I've got."

(on the quarterbacks on the team) "I think we have a great quarterback group. I think we've all been pretty good about staying on top of things and how to help each other out and studying and watching film together. So Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) has been in this league a long time and is a fountain of knowledge. He knows what's going on and has a lot of great things for us."

(on trying not to scramble as much) "I think most quarterbacks don't like getting hit. I don't like getting hit and I like throwing the ball and getting the ball out of my hand and into other guys' hands. But as far as that goes that's just something that—kind of instinctive stuff that takes over. Just training your body to go through your reads and know your checks, and know situation, know blitzes, know coverages, and get out of bad plays, that'll help me deal with that situation."

(on how he trains his body to not scramble) "It's not necessarily changing your instincts. It's being a better football player and being a better quarterback. Being on time with things and having a way out of certain plays—you know your check-downs and not being quick to run."

(on if he can still pull out his improvisation when in trouble on the field) "It's definitely not usually the first option for a quarterback to run. But we've got a lot of good plays and a lot of good things to get the ball in the hands of guys that can do more with it than we can."

(on how this year compares to previous camps) "You know the more you've played in preseason games or even live games the more experience you get and the more confidence you get. Just being in my third preseason I kind of know what to expect when it comes to a little bit. But any time you come to a game there's a sense of nervous excitement. It's not nervous scared but it's nervous excited. Ready to get out there and play which I know all of these guys is ready and itching and out there to play."

(on if he feels confident in what coaches are asking of him this year) "Yeah, I am. I'm feeling more and more confident every day. I get out here and we're making plays. I'm throwing to guys who are making plays and getting continuity with the receivers and the backs and tight ends. That's what builds confidence is being out here and getting extra stuff and seeing our guys work hard so it's growing each day."

(on being in the film room with Quarterbacks Coach George Godsey, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Tom Savage) "Godsey is obviously running the meetings and he's doing a great job so we're learning a lot. It's a good room to break down stuff we did wrong and learn from it and, you know, pointing out things we do well and to keep doing it and maybe improve those things."

(on if he is still absorbing the playbook on the iPad) "Yeah. It's something that always pops up new it seems like."

P Shane Lechler
(on how special it is for Ray Guy getting into the Hall of Fame) "It is. I am proud of Ray, man. He waited his time, way past due for him. He kind of put us on the map as far as punters and the position. They drafted him in (1973) in the first round and he went 14 years in Oakland. I've known Ray for a while, I've worked some of his camps; he is a good person, good man. I thought he did a great job on his speech and I'm really proud of him."

(on being an all-around athlete) "It just helps you. Anytime something can happen, where you're going to have to do something other than punt. I've dropped a snap before, you're going to have to learn how to react to things. I hold for the kicker. Sometimes that whole deal doesn't work perfectly. You have to learn how to react to stuff and I think with that background, it helps out a lot."

(on being a unique leader on the team at punter position) "I think that also comes with how many years I've been in this league. That part of the special teams, I feel like as long as I've been around it, I can pretty much answer 90 percent of the questions that the young guys may have, whether it be about any part of the special teams: kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return. If they have a question, I've probably seen it or heard it and I can help those guys out, so that's just all I'm trying to do."

(on special teams becoming progressively more respected aspect of the game) "I think so because as tough as it's become with all of the new rule changes and stuff to play defense now, the better the field position, the better you're going to be. I think with special teams kind of controlling that field position, that's a big key. It's become, I'm not going to say more important today than it was 10 years ago, but I think it's just become a little bit more recognized."

(on how long it's taken to master punting inside the opponents' 5-yard line with the 'rugby kick') "I still look at that ball, I'd still like my percentages to go up. I'm probably only at 70 percent right now on a good day. I learned that kick back in 2002 from Darren Bennett down in San Diego. He was a rugby guy and he taught me that kick in pre-game when I was in Oakland playing San Diego. I've worked on it that long and it's still a work in progress. I love doing it because it's not just going out and banging balls. If you put it in golfers terms, you're kind of down to the wedge and you're going to figure it out.

(on putting a reverse spin his rugby kick) "Yes, it comes off of my foot, kind of like a kickoff."

NT Ricardo Mathews – Mathews was selected by Head Coach Bill O'Brien to field a punt at the end of practice. He caught the punt, which got the entire team out of going to afternoon walk-through.

(on if he has ever fielded a punt) "A punt? Like in practice? I don't even know. For real."

(on what the guys would have done if he dropped it) "I wasn't going to miss."

(on if he thought he was going to miss on the bobble) "No."

(on if he borrowed WR DeAndre Hopkins' gloves) "O yeah, I needed somebody's gloves. Definitely."

(on if there was anything on the line on fielding the punt) "Definitely. The rest of the day, basically. Yeah."

(on if they are off the rest of the day) "As a team, but we're professionals so we'll still probably be in the building. It's not mandatory. I'll put it to you like that."

(on if there was pressure on him) "Not really. No pressure."

(on why there wasn't pressure) "Because I had everybody behind me. Right on."

OLB Whitney Mercilus
(on Brooks Reed saying the sky is the limit for him) "It's one thing as a player. You've got to be confident in yourself and pretty much just have everything come to you just second nature and all that and after that it's pretty much lights on a full go."

(his impression of the front seven and his opinion of Jadeveon Clowney) "The front seven is great with the addition of Clowney. He brings a lot of great things to the table. We've just got to be able to play as a unit. That's it. And definitely we have guys who can get into the backfield and just create havoc. Clowney's one of them that we just added."

(on being coached by Mike Vrabel) "He's teaching us just pretty much to be a smart football player out there. Go hard every day. If you make a mistake go 100 percent no matter what. You know, get it corrected in the film room. So we come back out here and we don't make the same mistakes again. And just overall being smart, understanding what we see from the offense, things like that, so we can get a head start on the offense before the ball snaps and stuff like that."

(on how Romeo Crennel's defensive scheme is different from the past regime) "I don't get into anything like that with comparisons or anything like that. But Romeo definitely brings a different element. There's only so many things you can run at his defense and things like that, like switching formations and stuff like that, you know, changes and also outside linebacker has to drop. Simple things like that. Everybody has to be able to communicate, get the calls, and just be able to play smart football."

(on why he was running laps) "Jumped off-sides, unfortunately. That's just something O'Brien said we're not going to have any type of stupid mistakes or anything like that. So if you jump off-sides or somebody's going to get a false start you just might as well just take a lap right now."

ILB Justin Tuggle
(on any advice he gets from his father) "Yeah, me and my dad, we watched a lot of film together, when I was back home this off-season. Any little thing he could pick up on, he would just give me a tip, 'You need to this better, you need to that better,'  so I really appreciate when he sits down with me and goes over little things, just takes his time to go over things. He's seen so much football over all of the years he's played, so I just try to do the things he tells me and just put it on the field."

(on off-season being a good time to tap into the mind of his father and Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel) "Over the off-season, I went home, I got with him and we would go over stuff each and every day. I am fortunate for having him in my life and for having him at the house; that's the resource I have that a lot of people don't have, so I just try to take advantage of it and use it the best I can."

(on how different this year is compared to last year in terms of training) "It's very different; like you said, last year was more of skill, like speed-stuff type training. It wasn't really position-specific training, so this year, I did a lot of position stuff, I did a lot of stuff to get my body back right. I understood what it was going to be like this year, how long the season is, and I knew how to prepare this year, having a year under my belt, so I feel like I came into camp in good shape and I just have to keep it going right now; it's early, so I just have to keep on rolling."

(on the playing field being equal, due to new defense) "Yes, I feel like it definitely evens the ground. I feel like it's better for everyone, you see where everyone is at. Everyone has an equal opportunity, and I'm just trying to take mine and run with it every chance that I get, every rep I get. I know I have to make the most out of it because chances don't come around that often. I'm just trying to do what I can."

(on controlling energy in the first game) "Everyone wants to make plays, but you know you have to play within the defense. When your chance comes, you can go and make the play, but every play is not for you to make. As much as you want to make every single play, you have to play within your limits on the defense, within your position, and per your role. We're all here to win games; we're not here for one person to shine, so you have to play within the system so we can all win, that's the ultimate goal."

(on playing quarterback in college being beneficial on defense) "I feel like it does help; I've seen a lot of these offensive sets on the other side of the ball, so now I'm trying to see them and mirror them, and try to put my knowledge from playing quarterback into linebacker, so see things. Any quick read I can get, I feel like it benefits me and what I'm to try to do."

(on being a physical quarterback) "I feel like I was pretty physical when I was playing quarterback."

(on playing other positions growing up) "I played a little bit of defense in high school, mostly rec-league. Growing up, I played all positions, so it wasn't anything that I was too unfamiliar with, it just has been a while since I've had the chance to do it. When I first made the switch, I had little growing pains at first, but I started picking it up and feel more and more comfortable. I'm heading into my third year now, I'm feeling really well, and I just have to keep building off of that."

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