Rick Smith, Texans executive vice president of football operations and general manger, met with the media Thursday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The following is a transcript of his time with the media.
(Who are you going to draft in the first round?) "We're going to hopefully draft an impact player in the first round, that's always the goal."
(On Texans' needs) "Our football team is a growing football team. When you look at the way the season ended, we did not make the steps, or the major step we wanted to take, but we improved. We've got a good core group of players and there are always areas of your team where you need to add playmakers and that's what we'll do. That's the way we'll approach this draft like we do all the others."
(Is the Texans' second inside linebacker only a base D guy?) "Obviously you want the best players you can find, a guy that can stay on the field. You make a mistake if you try to limit yourself just to trying to fit a particular player in a particular role. I think what you try to do is you get the best football players and you let it sort itself out."
(On Texans' nickel defense) "What I think is it gives him some options. If we have two inside backers who can stay on the field in passing situations and matchup better against [tight ends] I think that's a positive. If he wants to employ a three-safety system in other situations whether it's longer distances or a blitz package or whatever it is, if he wants to employ those, I think the more you have players who can stay on the field and impact the game I think that's the option, that's the ultimate for him because it gives him the flexibility that he likes."
(On OLB Whitney Mercilus in year two) "I am excited about his future. We never thought he would be there (at our spot last year), we don't draft for need, we put value on players and we try to stay consistent with the board. When he was there last year we were very excited. I think he had six and a half sacks in limited playtime, but when you look at him production per play, it's up there. He adds explosiveness, he's adds pass rush, he adds speed to our defense and I'm excited to see him. That jump from year one to year two as I talk about very often, has to be exponential. He understands how important this offseason is to him and his development as a player. And I'm excited to watch that."
(On priority of re-signing OLB Connor Barwin) "It's high. I talk about all the time about our core players and Connor certainly is a part of that. We attempted to sign Connor last year, if you look back last year, last offseason. We did a lot of that. We signed our left tackle, we got Duane done. We got our running back done. We got our quarterback done. Even though Chris Myers made it to free agency we were able to sign him back. We were unsuccessful with signing Connor, but that doesn't mean he's any less important to what we're doing. The thing about this league at this point in time is that you've got to continue to draft well, you've got to continue to develop players because the opportunity and possibility that you will lose players is a real one. And that's just a function of the salary cap system that we are in now and we understand that but we certainly place a high value on Connor. His contribution to this football team, not only on the field but in the locker room and in the community, he's a top notch guy and we'd love to keep him."
(On right side of Texans' offensive line) "Obviously I think we got some real benefit from last year with the young guys being able to play the way that they did. I think Derek Newton has all the ability in the world to be a good right tackle. With the two young guys at the guard position, I'm excited for Brandon Brooks, he's an explosive, big, unique athlete in our system. I think he's got all the athleticism to execute what we need him to do. It'll be exciting to watch him, again very analogous to what we just talked about with Whitney. His jump from this year to next year is going to have to be significant and I think he's capable of doing that and so I am excited about that for both of those guys and Ben (Jones) as well."
(On preparing for all the possibilities of what can happen before your pick?) "You model. You just have to do more modeling. And keep yourself available and open to all the options that come to you. Because you're right, again, we find our self in a particularly (inaudible)-heavy draft where very often you see people either wanting to get back into the first round or we want to move up we've got some ability to do that. You just try to model and be as prepared as you can be."
(On WR DeVier Posey) "I was as proud of anybody this year probably I was proud of DeVier, just the way that he worked. Every work day during the course of the week he was literally the last guy to leave. He put in extra work on the Jugs machine. He put in extra work running his routes and honing his craft. And I think you saw the result of that as the season progressed and he continued to improve and get better and I think you saw that toward the end of the season. I think the injury is something that he's going to have to work through. But very similar to our football team and where we are right now, it takes adversity to build the mettle and the character that you need to win a championship and I believe that DeVier has a work ethic to get back from this. It's something that I saw all last year. It's something that we researched and thought we knew about him from Ohio State, it's something that we were able to witness this year and I am confident he will be able to come back from that (Achilles)."
(On WR DeVier Posey's hand) "He had a little fracture, he got that taken care of."
(On Posey's timetable on leg) "It's typically an eight to nine month, and don't quote me on this, rehab process for him, typically speaking with that injury. I don't know where he is or how that works."
(On Texans' mental toughness) "I think we are a mentally tough football team. I think what I am seeing is you look at our team and we've grown up together. You look at this football team and we've been able to keep our players for the most part, together. You look at this group, the offensive line, our receivers, our tight end, our quarterback, our defense, we've got guys who have been in some battle-tested situations. What I am saying is in order to win in this league, you've got to go through something in order to develop the experience to, whenever you need to in those situations, make plays. And that's how I look at it. Because I've got to look at this thing big picture. When I look at our football team and the evolution of our program, I see a group of players that have continued to get better, we're continuing to improve, we're going to continue to add players which is what this weekend is all about. But I see a group of men that have gotten the experience that's necessary to go make a real run at it and I think that's where we are right now."
(On if it's possible to franchise S Glover Quin) "Any option that's available to you, I think you need to keep it available as long as you can. So that's the way I would answer that."
(Do athletic quarterbacks change what you look for on D?) "We always want speed and athleticism on the defensive side of the football. Look at our defense and probably the biggest characteristic of our defense is effort and intensity. We want guy that play hard, we want guys that are smart football players that do things the right way, execute, and that gives us a chance to be aggressive."
(On Colts GM Ryan Grigson's first year) "I've got a lot of respect for Ryan, and Ryan and I have a personal relationship that dates back a long time, so I've got an affinity for him that way. But he's in our division so you don't want too much success for him, but I can't stand here and not say that I am extremely proud of him because I am."
(On competition committee discussing low blocks: Are you in weird position with zone blocking line paired with Cushing injury helping start this conversation?) "I'm not in a difficult situation at all. Because I don't think that what we do with respect to the way that we execute blocks is illegal. Our system is totally legal…."
(Is there maybe a movement toward making making stuff like that illegal?) "It's been a very productive week from that standpoint. Coach John Madden and Ronnie Lott chair a committee, a player health and safety panel. Patrick Kerney sits on that panel and we started this week with a presentation from Patrick about shop blocks, about low blocks, cut blocks and that, so we've had good conversation. We moved to the head coaches sub committee, coach Coughlin, coach Andy Reid, as well as coach Harbaugh [dunno which] came and we continued that conversation. Yesterday we met with the NFLPA for the same conversation. The thing that we want to make sure is that guys have the ability to protect themselves. Will Montgomery came in there and made a presentation about field goals and extra points and some of the things that are happening that we probably need to clean up and get out of the game. We've had good conversations all week.
"That block [on Cushing] is already illegal. Where we've had conversation with effect to that is, in the box, it's legal. The question that we've got to answer is, should it be? And I don't think anybody thinks so, so that's something
that we've got to talk about and think about."
(Will NFL implement change soon?) "We'll get together in a week or so and kind of continue to work on those things, work on the language, work on the proposals that we think we need to take to the membership late in March and that's when the proposals are made."
(On what he is trying to learn about prospects) "I've heard a lot of talk this week about how important medical is, and that's A-Number-1 and how the interviews are important and I agree with that. But I do think that the other piece, the on-field workout, is significantly important as well. Do you draft a player on height, weight and speed? No. But it's a critical piece to the evaluation process, particularly when you have guys that are the best of the best. We've got 333 of the best here this weekend and you want to see them in competitive environments, you want to see them compete. So that's a big part of it. The medical piece is certainly important. The interview portion, where you can look a man in his eye and talk to him and get to know him a little bit, albeit it's a short amount of time. All those things are important, but again it's a piece to the puzzle of the evaluation process."
(If he could add one thing to the combine as evaluation tool, what would it be?) "Jeff Foster and the national group, I think they've done an excellent job or organizing the days here. We changed the format over the years. But I think we've got it to the point where in the four days he's here, he gets all of the evaluations that you've want. I think in any situation you'd like a little more time with the guy personally. You've got your interviews. Your opportunities to bring guys to the facility for that, and obviously our scouts have been getting to know these guys over the course of the fall. So I think if anything, if you could have more time. I don't advocate that because I think it's set up the right way at this point. But in the grand scheme of things I think as an evaluator if I had a little more time with a guy it's probably be good."