The day after capping off 2009 with a 34-27 victory over the Patriots, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and his players answered questions from the media at Reliant Stadium. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head coach Gary Kubiak DE Connor Barwin LB Brian Cushing TE Owen Daniels RB Arian Foster WR Andre Johnson WR Jacoby Jones SS Bernard Pollard CB Dunta Robinson LB DeMeco Ryans QB Matt Schaub DE Antonio Smith T Eric Winston
Head coach Gary Kubiak
(on what he did as the playoff scenarios unfolded) "Probably the same thing y'all did: Sat around and watched the games in the afternoon. They were really going our way there for a while, and still had a chance late that night and watched about a quarter of that one last night and knew that it didn't look good at all. That's about it. So, disappointed. Wish it would have happened."
(on if they cancelled the morning meeting) "We didn't really—we were going to meet in the morning depended on what had happened, and then once it took place, we basically just had our checkout routine. The players check with everybody. I don't meet with them the day after the season, I like to take a couple of weeks and digest what happened and then sit down and talk to them a few weeks down the road instead of doing it right after the fact. So they're all checked out and gone, got some health issues, and then I'll deal with them here in a couple of weeks."
(on who will have surgery in the offseason) "(TE) Joel (Dreessen) has to have surgery on his shoulder. That will take place here, I think, sometime next week. I think most of these surgeries are scheduled for next week. (C Chris) Myers, yes, shoulder for Myers. (T) Duane Brown is going to have his knee scoped. I don't know about (T) Eric (Winston). I haven't been told about Eric. (LB Brian) Cushing's fine, he just needs a nice healing process, so he needs a lot of rest, but there will be no surgeries that I know of as of this point for Cushing. I think they're still in an evaluation process with (DE Mario Williams' shoulder), but there's probably going to be a scope at some point."
(on RB Steve Slaton's recovery process) "I think everything's going according to plan as far as his rest and what they see, so all indications are right now that he continues to just get his rest and he will be fine."
(on the possibility of losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) "We'll have to adjust with another one. That's part of the business and like I said, with Kyle, nothing's official yet, but obviously it looks like Mike's (Shanahan) coming right back into the business here real quick and I know it's something he's always wanted, to have his son work for him, and I know I'd be the same way, so I understand that. But we've got a good group, so I'll have to start looking in another direction and do what's best for the players and the staff at the same time. We'll bring in some more good ones and we'll keep moving the ball. I've had some dang good coordinators, and whoever's the next one will be a dang good one, too."
(on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) "He's done a heck of a job. He's really matured. I mean, he started with me with the receivers, working with (WR) Andre (Johnson) and those guys and then went to the quarterbacks and learning how to coach that position, which is a little more fragile. I think he learned a great deal from (QB) Matt (Schaub) and (former QB) Sage (Rosenfels) and then bringing a guy like (QB) Rex (Grossman) along this year. That's a progression, to me, of becoming a coordinator, and he's handling it very well. He has come a long, long way, I'll tell you, and he's going to be special. I think he'll be a head coach in this league very quickly. So now, him and his dad get to go do battle. I'd like to be a fly on the wall for that one."
(on LB Brian Cushing) "He brought an element to our team that, I don't want to say it's been missing, but he brought another element to our football team. His love for the game, his passion, his play, playing beat up, all these things, playing like a 10-year vet from the day he stepped on the field. The players respect what he does with the game and how he goes about his business. So we're very fortunate to have him and we're going to have him here for a long, long time. What a year. He was exceptional."
(on assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs and senior defensive assistant Ray Rhodes) "We're going to do some evaluation right now and I'm going to give these guys a break. They need to get away for a little bit, and then we'll come back and make some of those decisions. But they've obviously been a big help to me. I like having veteran coaches on my staff, I like having guys that have been through a lot more battles than I have that I can pull from and so I really appreciate the job that both of them have done and we'll see. We'll see where we're at here in a couple of weeks."
(on if it will be hard to hire coaches when he's in the last year of his contract) "We'll see. I don't know."
(on coming back next year and the possibility of an extension) "First off, I feel good. I want to finish what I started. I signed a five-year deal when I came here; I want to be able to fulfill that contract and give (owner) Bob (McNair) and his family and this organization everything I have, so I'm going to get the chance to do that. That's what's most important right now. I'm not really worried about anything else down the road or two years from now—that's not on my plate. I'm just happy that I'm getting the chance to fulfill the contract I signed. I appreciate the opportunity and I just need to keep moving forward."
(on the growth of the defense) "I was sitting up there with (owner) Bob (McNair) here for the last couple of hours talking and he asked me my biggest surprise with our football team, and I told him the progress that this defense has made. Our defense gives us the chance to win every week right now, and for where they were after three weeks—and we all remember that—to where they ended this season as a football team, the progress that was made is incredible. The job that (defensive coordinator) Frank (Bush) and the defensive staff did, taking guys like (S Bernard) Pollard, fitting them in, you've got holdouts with (CB) Dunta (Robinson), you've got (LB Brian) Cushing not going through camp, and then pulling this group together and to play the way they played, to me it was the highlight for me of our football team. And it's very encouraging for where we're headed as a defensive football team. What you're always searching for in this league is balance, and I think we ended up 13th in defense and fourth or fifth in offense, and that's getting pretty balanced as a team. That progress and the job Frank did is very special."
(on the loss of G Chester Pitts) "It was a big adjustment all year long. Because when you lose Chester, what you're losing is a big, physical player that handles three techniques and is very stout on the line of scrimmage. He was a leader, also. So we started adjusting from Week 2 without Chester. We lost starters offensively. We lost (TE) Owen (Daniels), you lose (RB) Steve (Slaton), so it was an adjustment period all year offensively. But I'll tell you what I think has got the chance to happen is offensive line-wise, we've got a chance to go back to camp next year really staring at eight starters because of how much football (G Kasey) Studdard's played, how much (C) Chris White's played, how much (C Antoine) Caldwell has played. That's how teams get better. Imagining us lining up a week from now with all those guys healthy and them starting for jobs on this team—that would be an impressive group to have. Adversity breeds some players getting better and the football team getting better, so even though it was difficult, when it's all said and done, I think we have the chance to improve."
(on how QB Matt Schaub proved his capabilities and leadership) "I think the fact that he was on the field 16 weeks was huge to this team. When he came out of the locker room in Jacksonville after (getting hurt on) the first play of the game, it lifted the team, the coaching staff, it lifted everybody. He made huge progress as a football player this year. He's got himself in the company of some great ones now, and now he needs to propel his team to the next level. But what a season. To lead the National Football League in throwing, that's big time."
(on the importance of this offseason to WR Jacoby Jones) "It's huge. Visiting with him in the tunnel today, I told him he's got starter ability and it's time for him to think that way. All due respect to (WRs) Kevin (Walter) and André (Davis) and everybody else, but he's got to think that way because he's got the ability to do it and probably this offseason will be his most important one because he's got to come back here in March, whenever we get started, and show his teammates he plans on being that type of player."
(on being behind to the Patriots but coming back to win the game) "It was not good, and to get down to a great football team like that makes it even tougher. I think we've learned to play in all types of games. We've come from behind this year. I still go back to Arizona, as bad as we played in the first half and we had the ball in a 21-21 game with a chance to win and then we had a chance still at 28-21, and then we've been up on people and had to hang on to some games, and then we do this yesterday. You've got to know how to win in all ways in this league and all these young players we have, have been through a variety of ways now, and so it should make us better."
(on SS Bernard Pollard playing with four different safeties throughout the season) "Yeah, well give (defensive backs coach) David (Gibbs) a lot of credit. David had a young group back there. We played young corners. We picked up Pollard. What he did, I don't have to say anything on that. Y'all know what he's done. Yesterday, we were playing with (S Brian) Russell, a guy we picked up on Tuesday. He played probably 75 percent of the game. David did a great job with the group, and Bernard was leading the cause there. He was excellent."
(on if he has ever had a loss in Week 1 have such an impact after Week 17 in terms of the playoff picture) "I think it happens all the time. You can go back when the season is said and done and you never know which week is going to hurt you the most or help you the most. I don't think you can dwell on those types of things. That was my talk to the players on Saturday night. It would be easy to sit here today or we could have Saturday night and thought about the four or five that got away that we could've won. I think if we do that, we're not going to go forward. So we made a commitment that we were moving forward, and that started yesterday. For us to get to where we want to go, I think that has to be our focus."
(on if he will bring in a kicker to compete with K Kris Brown) "Obviously, we didn't kick well enough to win and play at the level we need to play at to be a champion. Kris knows that. I'm not saying anything that I wouldn't say to him. We've got to get better. There were other areas of the team in which we did not improve in. That's a phase that has to get better. How do we go about getting better? That doesn't mean it doesn't end up being Kris getting better. We've got to look at every phase and what we're doing and see where we have to improve to go win a few more football games."
(on if RB Arian Foster's performance the past two weeks change how he views the running game) "It really doesn't. We have got to have drastic improvement in that phase of our football team. What he did the last two weeks, to me, he did a heck of a job, but most importantly, he got the respect of his teammates that he can help this team win. So what does he do with that? He's the last guy I talked to today upstairs. I told him, 'Hey, you earned a few chips the last few weeks, Arian. Now, do you come back and keep adding to your pile, or do you give some back?' So we'll see. He's got the ability to help this team, and he just needs to continue to improve."
(on T Eric Winston saying that Kubiak had taken a lot of bullets for the team this season) "Well, I don't think of it in terms of taking bullets. I'm just being honest. I've got a job to do getting these guys ready to play and getting them in the best position, so I'm very honest from that standpoint. What they did, when we were staring at 5-7 and the problems we had at that point, what they turned around and did talks about their character and the football team. Yesterday, to me, was just the ultimate. They weren't going to let that thing go. That game was very important to them. I felt that way coming out of our meeting on Saturday and it just reassured me when we walked off the field yesterday."
(on the improvement of QB Matt Schaub from back-up quarterback to an upper-echelon quarterback) "Well, you've got to take some chances in this league to find players like that. When you make a decision to change your quarterback or go out to free agency and do what we did or make a trade, you're taking big risks. He's done the work. He's the one that has made it pay off. The one thing that was never in doubt, when we went and got Matt, was how important football was to him. Matt loves to play. It's important and he works very hard at it. You can't substitute for that. You can't measure that. This game is important to him. Success of the team is important to Matt and because of that, you're going to have a good one here for a long, long time. He deserves the credit. He's the one that's done the work and now we've got him some more help than he's ever had. I'm going to need to see him build off of that."
(on if he's looking for his next offensive coordinator to do the play-calling) "I want somebody with me that I'm comfortable with calling plays. I want that. That's important to me. Whoever I end up bringing in here, whoever I work with, I want to get them to the same point that I am with (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) and that I was with the other guys, where I can say, 'Hey, go ahead. If I don't like something, I'm going to jump in.' We have to be that close and on the same page. I think that's very, very important because that's the guy I deal with every day putting in game plans, calling the game and making adjustments during the game. That is important to me. It's very important to me."
(on what needs to get better in order to run the ball more successfully) "It's not fixed. I don't want to look at the last two weeks and say we're OK and just need to keep going. It wasn't good enough. We weren't physical enough from that stand point, regardless of where you start: up front, backs, fullbacks, whatever. I want to see our team improve in that phase and we definitely have got to from that standpoint. We'll go back and evaluate the film and everything, but I don't feel any different than I felt five or six weeks ago. I haven't changed my mind."
(on if CB Dunta Robinson is still a good fit with this football team, money aside) "Yeah, I think he did a heck of a job, but obviously we have many free agents on this team that we're going to have to deal with and make decisions on. Dunta came back. We put the tag on him and he missed all of training camp. We threw him out there from Week 1. The thing that I was impressed with was he got better each and every week. He was out there for his teammates every week. He might've played his best game yesterday. I thought he was very good in the game. Now, he's kind of back in the same situation, but we've got to make those decisions in a lot of areas. I don't know how many guys we've got that are free agents, but there are some very important players: (G) Chester Pitts, (WR) Kevin (Walter), and so we have a lot of work as a staff to make those decisions and try to keep everything in place."
(on if being uncapped will make it more likely to keep those guys) "That's hard for me to answer. I think it's a different world for me. (General manager) Rick (Smith) can answer that question better. It's my job to go in there and say, 'This is what we need. Try to keep these guys.' As far as getting that done, that's their realm of the business."
(on if this season was satisfying) "I'm disappointed that we didn't get in the playoffs. I wish we were here talking about who we were playing on Saturday or Sunday. Do I think we got better? Yeah, we got better. We took another step forward I think. This league is tough and it's very difficult to win. I've said this many times and I think we can win any week right now and that's very encouraging. I love the way our players came in here today. It was different than it has been. (General manager) Rick (Smith) and I were talking about how upbeat and talking about things. It's almost like they would've loved to have gone right back to work tomorrow on next year. That's important because I feel like they think they belong now, but we've got a lot more work to do. We've got to be honest and can't think that we're okay. We've got to go get better. They were very upbeat today. I could just feel it from them. I think it was still a lot of carryover from the game but I think they're excited about the future and excited about the team."
(on his 2009 draft class) "First off, let me start with (CB Glover) Quin. I think had (LB) Brian (Cushing) not been on this team, we'd be talking about him for Rookie of the Year honors and some things that are going on. I think he was exceptional. This guy played from day one and really never left the field other than the time he got hurt. I think (DE) Connor (Barwin) is going to be an excellent player. I love Connor's motor. He loves to play. He started to factor more and more as the season went on. He took (defensive end coach) Bill (Kollar)'s best shot everyday and he just kept going. I think he's going to be one heck of a player. I think (CB Brice) McCain has excellent cover skills. We're on him to be more physical. He responded to us. He played well for (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano). I think he's got a chance to be an excellent cover corner. (G Antoine) Caldwell got a lot of action as a young player and did some good things—did some things that were not good enough. Some inconsistencies there, but he has starter ability. He may have been set back a little bit in camp when we had him playing all over the place, but I think he'll benefit from that in the long haul. The two tight ends: Anthony Hill, very hard to evaluate right now. He got limited chances, got hurt. This offseason is huge for him. He's got to come back and be more of a factor for us, and we want him to be a physical factor. (TE) James (Casey) did not get a lot of touches, but I like James' future. I see some things, I have some ideas of some things I'd like to do with James offensively for our football team as we move forward, but I want to settle him down in one spot, wherever that ends up being, and let him go to work. I think he can be a fine, fine player. We asked him to do a lot this year, but we had to. We played basically, what, six or seven weeks with two tight ends, so it was difficult. The young safety (Troy Nolan) went on IR, so we didn't get much from him."
(on CB Antwaun Molden) "He's got to stay in one piece. It just seems like since he came off that injury, he has had many other nags to go with it. Whether it stemmed from that first injury or not, I don't really know. But he's talented. He does a lot of good things for (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano). (Defensive backs coach) David (Gibbs) likes what he's seen, the time he's spent with him. But he's got to find a way to stay on the field, so the offseason will be very important to him. We've got to get him healthy."
DE Connor Barwin
(on the game against the Patriots) "One of my best football games, and that was kind of how it went from the offseason. I got better every single game."
(on if he got more comfortable as the season progressed) "Exactly, because I was in and out of the game, if I wasn't playing full time on defense. So it had a lot to do with just getting in the flow of the game, getting comfortable with my role. I think as the season progressed, that's what happened."
(on if he's looking forward to next year) "Oh yeah, definitely looking forward to next year, looking forward to this offseason and knowing what I have to work on and getting better. I'll be real excited going into camp next year and going into next season."
LB Brian Cushing
(on his emotions watching the other games on Sunday night) "I kind of figured after that first quarter, they (Cincinnati) weren't going to win – maybe after that first drive. It was rough. But that's on us. If we'd won one or two more games, we wouldn't have to worry about all that. But knowing that now and the momentum we have going into the offseason, I think we're pretty positive about our team right now. We know we can play anyone. You look at all the games this year, even the losses were games. We're definitely in that, and now we have that momentum going."
(on how he's different after his first season) "I'm just sore right now. It's been a long season. Mentally, I'm just a much smarter football player. I'm much more advanced than I was this time last year, and it's a good way to start off a career for me. I'm happy with how everything turned out this year. Of course, playoffs would have been nice, but now we know what we have to do for next season."
(on what he found out about himself this season) "That I can play in this league. That's the bottom line. Everyone comes in and has that question. You worry about stuff and you hear things about the mental adjustments and stuff like that, and then you come in and you know you can do it. That's the big thing."
(on how proud he is of the progress of the defense) "I am. Just the advances we made—we couldn't even stop the run in the first three games, then teams couldn't run on us the rest of the season. Just overall, I felt that we had a lot of confidence. We were very aggressive, and the attitude of the defense was very dominant."
(on if going 9-7 will help propel them into next season) "I definitely think so. I think that's just momentum. We know what we need to do next season now. We know about the abilities. We know there is a lot on the line."
(on the biggest thing he'll remember about this season) "I'd say probably one of those things—down 27-13 (against the Patriots) and showing that much heart and confidence and how much we believe in each other. We came back and beat a team that might win the Super Bowl. That's something special."
(on being a candidate for defensive rookie of the year) "That would be nice. There's no question that's something I want. But it's not up to me. It's out of my hands right now, and whatever happens, happens."
(on his offseason regimen and how much he will let his body rest) "I'll probably take about two or three weeks off and then I've got to be in some kind of shape come January 31st (for the Pro Bowl). I don't want to go out there and hurt myself. So I'll get myself up for that and just kind of stay in shape the whole offseason. I'll definitely be a little bit easier, considering I haven't stopped working out since almost two years ago, considering last year's combine, draft, OTAs and all that. It's been a long haul, so I'll definitely take time off, but not too much."
(on if he'll have to have any surgery) "I'm not sure. We'll look at a couple of things. I'm doing physicals right now, and everything's pretty good. I'll go see a hand specialist today and then just see what we want to do with the finger. Everything's pretty good."
(on his foot injury) "The foot's actually good. I met with Dr. Varner yesterday, and everything was clear with that. I'm good to go with the foot."
(on his pinky finger injury) "It's broken."
(on if his finger injury will need surgery) "Most likely not. That's the bottom line right now, but you never know. I'm going to see a hand specialist and see what he wants to do."
TE Owen Daniels
(on his situation this offseason) "Kind of the same situation I was in last year. There are a couple little different nuances in there – the injury, maybe have a little more leverage this year if they want to do the tender thing. So we'll see what happens, but I'm just focusing on getting my knee right and being healthy for this team next year."
(on if he would be OK with the possibility of just getting a tender) "I guess I have to be OK with it. I don't really have a choice. I'll just go to work like I did last year and be ready to go, and hopefully they can expect that out of me and we'll see if we can get something done."
(on if it will be hard being patient in the next few months) "No. Probably just sitting around, it might be hard to be patient, but I'm busy. I've got my mind on more than just the contract. I'll just be focused on getting healthy, and hopefully they'll see that."
(on if he has any doubt that he'll be the player he was in the upcoming season) "Absolutely not. I'll be myself, if not better. That's the way it goes after ACLs. You tend to be a little stronger than you were before you got hurt. That's how it's been for me in the past, and I expect nothing different."
(on head coach Gary Kubiak remaining the Texans' coach) "It's great. He deserves to be here. He's done so much for the organization and for this team, to bring us from being really bad to really improving over the last four years and to finally have a winning record here, it's all a credit to him. So I'm excited to have him back, for sure."
(on having a big offseason coming up) "Yeah, it's exciting. The last couple of offseasons have been exciting for me. I definitely won't be bored. I'll be busy getting my knee right, and I'm sure there'll be talks about the contract stuff, so we'll see. It'll be a fun offseason for me."
(on if the front office said anything to reassure him after his injury) "I talked to (general manager) Rick (Smith) right after I got hurt, and he said he felt bad for me and they're going to take care of me. So we'll see, but I have full confidence I'll be good to go next year. There's no doubt in my mind. I have complete control of that. I'll get that taken care of and hopefully we can get something done so I'm here for more than just a year."
(on if he's at all skeptical of them saying they'll take care of him) "I mean, it's easy to say that at the time. It's different down the road when it's actually time to pull the trigger. So, I'll do my part, and hopefully they can do their end, too."
RB Arian Foster(on if his performance the last two games will help him going forward with the Texans) "I can't really worry about that. What I like to do is worry about what I can control and move forward from there."
(on if he's happy about his play in the last two games) "Yeah, this league is all about opportunities. I got an opportunity and I feel like I made the best of it."
(on if he's motivated going into the offseason because of his good play the last two games) "I stay working. Nothing dictates my work ethic. I'm going to go out in the offseason just like I did last offseason with a chip on my shoulder and try to prove what I can do in this league."
(on knowing that his hard work paid off) "It's very rewarding. It was very emotional at the end of the game for me. The game is fun and if you work hard it pays off. It feels good."
(on getting into a groove during a game) "A lot of that is attributed to the offensive line, they were moving guys out of the way, creating a pile. It was just an all around, good collective team effort."
(on if he's proved that he belongs in the NFL) "I hope so. I'm not one for trying to prove people right or wrong, I'm just out there trying to play the game. That's all."
(on if there's one moment he'll reflect on during the offseason) "Probably my last touchdown yesterday. It was just really emotional. It was so emotional for me. I'm not much of an emotional guy but I just got really emotional. It was very emotional for me. I teared up at the end of the game just because of what I went through since college, after my junior year in college. Like, my family knows. If you know me, you know what I went though, you know how special it is."
(on what he went through in college) "Even starting in high school, I wasn't supposed to go to college. And from college I wasn't supposed to get in the NFL. When you do something that someone says you're not supposed to do, so many people say you're not supposed to do it, it makes it that much more special."
(on how his mindset is different now that he's played in the NFL) "There is no difference. I'm the same me. I'm going to go into the offseason like last year didn't happen. I'm going to come out and try to make the team in training camp. That's my mindset."
WR Andre Johnson(on what happens next) "It's simple: we've got to pack up. Season's over. That's pretty much it. We did our part, but we did leave it in the hands of other people. So we just need to take care of our business and not leave it in the hands of other people and everything else will take care of itself."
(on the Bengals-Jets game) "I watched the first half and then I went to sleep. You really can't worry about how they play. Like I said, we left it in the hands of other teams and it just didn't turn out the way we wanted it to turn out."
(on if finishing 9-7 will help the team propel into next season) "I think it will. I think it's a great achievement for the organization, our first winning season. I think that it just boosts the attitude of the team, everybody, the coaches around here. I think it'll help us out a lot going into next season."
(on him and QB Matt Schaub both leading the league in their respective categories) "That just goes to show what happens if we're both healthy and we're both out on the field for a full season. It was the first season we both have been together for a full 16 games and hopefully we can both stay healthy and this is something that can happen for a long time."
(on knowing that head coach Gary Kubiak is coming back next season) "Me personally, I never thought he should be fired. Like I said before, he can't go out and play the games for us. They do a good job of preparing us for a game, so I wouldn't have given a thought to that."
(on the emotions of playoff scenarios) "When you look at it, like I said before, if it was meant for us to be there, we'd be there. We left it in the hands of somebody else. That's something we can't do. We should have just taken care of business ourselves. Unfortunately things happened that way, it didn't work out for us. I don't think there's reason for anybody to hang their head or anything like that but it just didn't work out. it just wasn't meant for us to be there. That's the way I look at it."
(on what he's going to work on during the offseason) "I just try to improve everything in my game. I don't just pick out one thing in particular, I just try to work on everything and do everything I can to come back and have a better season than I did this year."
(on knowing that QB Matt Schaub is coming back next season) "It is a great feeling. I've been kind of playing with a bunch of quarterbacks since I've been here so to finally have a steady quarterback is a great feeling. The way we play together when we're out there on the same page, we know what each other's thinking. It's a great feeling. He helps us out a whole lot."
(on the possibility of having a new offensive coordinator next season) "That's part of the business. That's just how it is. That's something you can't control. Whatever happens, you just have to roll with it and make the best of it."
WR Jacoby Jones(on what the win yesterday meant to them) "Well it's the first time we've had a winning season. We're not 8-8 again so that means a lot."
(on what they learned and took away from the last five games) "We have so much potential and talent. When we play with all three phases together, there is nobody that can beat us."
(on what he sees for this team next year) "I'm going to take a month off or so. I know a lot of guys are talking about getting right back to training. We're hungry and after being so close to the playoffs, you could taste it and feel it, so we'll try and get there."
(on what it means to the players that head coach Gary Kubiak will return has head coach) "Yes. Woo hoo. I'm happy. I'm glad he's back. Great coach. Great coach."
(on his play at the end of the season and particularly the last game) "The guys always tell me—you know, I made that one bad play and the guy ran it back. They said, 'Hey man, keep your head up.' It's about maturing and coming through and just coming out and trying to make the next play. That's what I did. In the meetings, (offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) said they were going to double 80 (WR Andre Johnson), so (WR) Kevin Walter and myself and (WR) André Davis and (WR) Glenn Martinez needed to step up. That's what we did."
SS Bernard Pollard
(on what his hopes are for next season) "You know, my hopes for next season are just to be able to get something done. This is a great opportunity. I've tried to take advantage of every opportunity I was given. Not many people get second chances, like I said yesterday. I'm just so happy and so fortunate to be here. We would've loved to be moving forward but the chips didn't fall our way, but we ended on a great note. Now it's time to rest our bodies and kind of get things back and reflect on the things that we've done this year and in 2009. Like I said, we began 2010 with a win, so now we have to take that with momentum."
(on what his emotions were last night) "I was just a little ticked off. I don't really watch a lot of football outside of playing it, but to watch that team (Cincinnati) go out there and see them play the way they played… You never want your fate to be anybody else's hands, but ours was. Now we have to learn. You don't want to be in this position. We want to be able to determine everything that we do. We don't want anybody else making decisions for us. We want to make our own decisions and do what we have to do. I think that's one of the big things this team has learned. We ended the season 9-7. Could we have finished better? Yeah, we could have, but we can't turn back the hands of time. Now, we see what it takes to win and we have to go with it."
(on the team looking like it grew together as the season went along) "Definitely. We definitely gelled. I think a lot of the guys, things slowed down for them. We were peaking at the right time. I honestly believe that if we would've gotten in the playoffs, I don't think any team would've stopped us. I'm just being perfectly honest with you. That's not the case now. We don't have a chance to be able to go. As pros, we have to get better this offseason. We have to be pros. We have to keep our weights. We have to do what we do. This is the time where you kind of lay low, but at the same time, I think we've got to take into consideration that we have a lot of other guys that depend on us. We have to hold ourselves accountable and we have to show up ready to show out."
(on if you have to take small steps for success) "Yeah, you definitely have to take small steps at times. We took those small steps this season. We're a team that can win. We're a team that can end with a winning season and winning record. I think we understand the game better now as a team. Now, like I said, our goal is not 9-7 next year. Our goal is to be beyond 9-7. We have to surpass that some way, somehow. I think we have grown and I think with us peaking now, we have to carry that momentum into the 2010 season."
(on how important this team has become to him and what it's all meant to him) "It's definitely been important to me and it does not matter than I didn't play in the first three games. Some things went down, but I grew as a man, a player, a father and husband. Stepping in and seeing what I've seen, I think this team is just ready. We're ready to go beyond what we ever have. We're going to keep moving forward. It's not about any individuals on this team. It's about 53 guys coming together and ready to go win a championship."
CB Dunta Robinson
(on reflecting on yesterday's game and the season) "It was a very special moment for us because it's never happened. It's the first time in franchise history that we've finished the year above .500. Like I said, it's a lot of mixed emotions, but I'm proud of the way we battled all year and I'm proud of the way we finished the season.
(on how he will approach the offseason) "I just do what I always do. I'll take a little time off and then get right back to work. We'll see what happens. Obviously, it's going to be a long offseason but a lot better than last offseason. Last year was my first time going through the whole free-agent process. It was my first time going through contract issues and all that stuff. The second time around, you want to handle things a little bit differently. You live and you learn. Hopefully things will work out and hopefully I'll be there."
(on how he will handle the contract negotiation differently) "Just not to take a lot of things personal, because you have to understand that it is a business. I think as cutthroat as it was this past season, I think you could sometimes let your emotions get in the way and get involved—just handle things a little bit differently. Second time around is always much better and I think things will be much better."
(on if his value has changed in any way) "I came into this season just wanting to play 16 games and show I could be healthy for an entire season. You come into the season coming off a severe injury like that, you come in not knowing what is going to happen. You play every game wondering what's going to happen this game. I have confidence now. I made it through 16 games. I feel good about the situation. I lined up against the best receiver every day, every week. Every Sunday, I lined up against the best receiver on the field. Not one receiver can say, 'Man, when I played against the Houston Texans this year, I torched them.' Not one receiver can say that. The picks didn't come the way I wanted them to. But if you want a football player, then I'm your guy. It's not about getting interceptions. To me, it's about playing football and I'm a football player first, cornerback second. I like to get in there and get my nose dirty. I like to do all those things that other corners don't want to do."
(on if he is confident that he will be back next year) "I don't know what's going to happen. I know I would like to be back next year. That's something that we will have to sit down and discuss. Hopefully we can work something out."
(on what if the franchise tag is placed on him again) "I made nine million (dollars) this year. The tag will go up again next year. Of course you want a little bit of insurance but what can you say when you're making that many millions of dollars? You know what I mean? I wasn't too upset about it this year and I definitely wouldn't be too upset by it if it happens again."
LB DeMeco Ryans
(on the season) "It's been a good season for us. We feel like we've improved overall as a team and can go toe-to-toe with anyone. I know everyone has that confidence that we can come out winners and we have a playoff-caliber team. We just have to find a way to handle our business earlier in the season and finish strong and go for a playoff run next year."
(on how the team can use yesterday's victory as they move forward) "Finishing the way we did, finishing strong against the Patriots, that's what you go into the offseason and build off of. Especially on the defensive side, we just want to find a way to get even better as a defense, find a way to shut people out. That's our goal as a defense, to be one of the top defenses in the league, and I think that we can achieve that goal with the guys that we have. It's a matter of us just continuing to improve."
(on how much it meant to finally play four good quarters yesterday) "Well, it meant a lot that we had to fight all four quarters to get it done. It wasn't the tale of two halves. We went out and we played a complete game. It was a tough one; it was definitely a tough one. But hard work paid off. You could see the way guys are fighting and scratching to make plays out there. It's just fun to watch, and that's what I love to be around. The type of guys we have, there's no quit in them, and we found a way to win the game."
(on how emotional the victory over New England was) "It's very emotional being the first winning season in team history. To be a part of history, to just have something to do with it, it's special. Now, we always go down as the first winning team in Texans history. That's big for us, and we just look for many more of those winning seasons to come."
(on head coach Gary Kubiak coming back next season) "That's what we needed. We definitely need Coach Kubiak back. If we expect to keep improving as a team, as an organization, I think having that consistency with Coach Kubiak as the head coach is very important – very important. He's the reason why guys come out and play the way they do. He's the leader, and he's the one that gets everyone going and he's the guy that makes it all work. He's a special coach, and I love playing for Coach Kubiak."
QB Matt Schaub(on the Texans offense ending the season with impressive statistics) "It's special. It's a pretty neat deal. With all the great offenses and quarterbacks in this league, to know that our offense put up some pretty good numbers, it's definitely rewarding to be the guy pulling the trigger and have so many weapons at my disposal to throw to and an offensive line that—I'll tell you what, I think we had 25 sacks which is in the top five in this league—they did a great job all year giving us a chance to make those plays."
(on what he found out about the team and about himself this season, especially in regards to injury) "That we can do it; that we can do some good things if we just fight through adversity and don't let negative things set us back. Whether it is a loss or an injury or things within a game, a turnover, an opportunity. We just keep playing and keep moving forward and go on to the next play or the next guy steps in and we still execute and keep moving forward."
(on if he knew that the Texans were picking up his contract option before owner Bob McNair announced it last night) "No, I didn't. I didn't even know that he had made that announcement. I didn't actually really find out until this morning."
(on if he had any doubt about the Texans picking up his contract option) "I wouldn't necessarily put it that way, but you never know until you know and you don't want to jump to any conclusions. But I felt like we had a pretty good year here and I was hopeful."
(on the Texans picking up his contract option so quickly) "It gives you a ton of confidence, not that we didn't have a lot already with what we proved and what we did this year but just to know that from the top down they have the confidence that we have the right guys in here to get this thing done. We're just going to learn from what we did this year and keep climbing that mountain."
(on owner Bob McNair saying the decision to pick up his contract option was a "no brainer") "It means a lot when your owner steps up and talks about you in that light, you know he's behind you and behind the head coach and we're all in this together: players, coaches, staff, the ownership. We're all in this together and we're going to keep climbing that mountain."
(on if he ever worried that his contact option would be an issue) "I hadn't even really thought about it up until this point because we had so much work to get done and early on I wasn't even thinking about it, I was just excited for the opportunity and going to work and it was too far away to think about. Once you start thinking about things like that, you're not taking care of the business that's at hand. That time is finally upon us we were able to do enough good things that it's nice to have that done and over with so we can continue on to next year and be here."
(on how he found out that the Texans had picked up his contract option) "Actually, in the paper this morning. I think there was a little write-up in the Chronicle, but then coming in here and talking with (general manager) Rick (Smith) and the guys upstairs. Because obviously reading the paper I wasn't going to totally put too much stock in it."
(on him and WR Andre Johnson leading the league in their respective yardage categories) "It's special to have both of us do that because he's a tremendous player, he's the best receiver in the game in my opinion and I'm fortunate to be able to throw the ball to him and have him on my side. We've got plenty of great talent here and I'm just happy to be the guy that's able to throw it to them."
(on if finishing with the franchise's first winning record can propel them into next season) "No question. After some of the adversity we dealt with, especially in November with the four-game losing streak, being in some tight ball games and falling short, sitting at 5-7. We said, 'We're going to pull together and we can get it done.' We won those last four and you can take a lot away from that into the offseason and on into next year."
(on knowing that head coach Gary Kubiak is coming back next year) "No question, it's huge to know that he's going to be here. He's our coach and he's the guy that brought us all here in the locker room and put us together and assembled this team and we're going to keep fighting for him just like he fights for us."
(on the emotions of playoff scenarios) "I was hopeful it was going to go a different way. We had a chance there in the afternoon to not even worry about the night game if Oakland would have handled some of their business but that's the way it goes. We put ourselves in the position that we had to, and that was to stay in the hunt and have a chance but it didn't work out for us. But we still take a lot away from it knowing that we fought back through a lot of stuff this year and had ourselves in position. We can take that into the offseason and into next year."
(on throwing for the 6th most yards in a season in NFL history ) "It's very rewarding. It's something special. You don't get many opportunities to do that and I just feel privileged to be in an offense that allows us to do those type of things and have the guys on the offensive side that can make those plays. Because there's a lot of plays that were made that, believe me, it wasn't me making anything special. It was just me giving a guy a chance and him making a play."
(on potentially losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) "It's a great opportunity for him. He's been a big part of what we've been able to do around here but whenever you're doing good things in this league and in this business, things are going to change. Guys are going to shuffle around, coaches are going to change, and I'm just happy that he's getting an opportunity to move on. He's going to be a heck of a coach for a number of years."
DE Antonio Smith
(on this year's team and moving forward after the win over the Patriots) "We made the changes we needed to make as a team. I just hope that next year we add on to that instead of start over and try to build it up again. We just have to propel ourselves off that win."
(on playing four full quarters of football against the Patriots and if they can keep it up) "I hope so. I think we've got it. I think we know what it takes to win a big game. And that was a big game. There were some times in the game when they tried to coast it out and brought the second-string quarterback in but you could see when they brought (Patriots QB Tom Brady) back in that they were trying to win the game. And that's arguably one of the best teams in football for the past five years. So to stand up to a team like that and win in the way we did, I think it's going to help us in games to come."
(on the Bengals-Jets game) "I was very disappointed in that performance (by the Bengals). Just my personal opinion, it really looked like they didn't have any fight in them. They had no interest in even winning the game. Being a competitive football player, I don't think that I could in any way just coast a game. Nobody wants to lose in that type of fashion, and they looked pretty bad even when they had their starters in."
(on if being so close to making the playoffs is satisfying or disappointing) "It's like all the emotions balled into one. Because when we left the game, you're just feeling so high and then you find out Kansas City won by 20 points and at that point in time the Raiders had a chance. So I'm just thinking, we're going to go to the playoffs and we're going to light it up. I look back—Oakland loses and then I'm watching the game later on that night, I think from the first three drives I knew. I knew they weren't going to even put up a fight. They didn't even look like they were trying."
(on how he'll start the offseason) "Do what I always do: rest my body and work out and vacation. I do most of my working out wherever I'm at but then I might jump somewhere to go have a little fun here and there, on the island, rest, get laid up."
T Eric Winston
(on his reaction after Denver lost on Sunday) "It was like, 'Oh my God, we've got a chance to do this!' And then Cincy ended up laying down a little bit, and it was a low. And that's kind of how this year was a little bit. We were right there on the cusp of things, but we didn't quite get over the hump. At the same time, we still accomplished something that this franchise never has and that's important. However little these baby steps have been, they're baby steps in the right direction; they've been positive improvements. I said this yesterday, I don't think people realize how far we had to go as a franchise when I got here. And I didn't realize what I was getting to either, but you grow up and you realize that you've got to change not only the players, but you've got to change the way you think, they way you act and the way you go about your stuff. However painfully slow it's been, and it has been at times, but at the same time it's been improvement and it's nice to see it."
(on what the next step is for the Texans) "I think that's pretty obvious now: double-digit wins and to get into the playoffs. You never know how the playoffs are going to go – 11-5 didn't get you in last year; 11-5 would've probably won most divisions this year, so you never know how it's going to go. I'd like to see this team win 11 or 12 games next year. I really do. I think we've got that kind of talent. You're looking through the roster and there's not going to be many guys leaving. It's going to be packed full and you've got guys like (TE) Joel Dreessen and (G) Kasey Studdard and (G) Chris (White) and (C) Antoine Caldwell on the line that have all stepped up for starters that got hurt. Now you look at them and say, 'Whoa, you guys can play.' So that's going to be a good thing for this team. There's going to be a lot of depth and there are going to be a lot of guys that are going to be battling it out for positions, and that's what good teams have. They have a lot of competition and they have a lot of guys that can play. It's going to be really exciting."
(on assistant head coach/offense Alex Gibbs) "As big a pain in the butt as he can be sometimes, he gives a fresh perspective in that meeting room. I'd like to see him back. He's kind of taken a step back this year and let (offensive line coach) John Benton do a lot of the stuff, but at the same time, he's in there and just hearing his opinion on things, I think it helps the group. I think it helps keep things new and fresh."
(on possibly having a new offensive coordinator next season for the fourth time in five years) "It'll be something new. That hasn't helped anything, and I don't think people realize how much that hasn't helped, (having) a new guy every year. No matter if it's the same offense, they're still going to want to do their own things. They're still going to want to run a certain way; they're going to still want to have their own little passing routes. You can call it what you want to call it, but they're going to go in their direction. I know when (former Texans offensive coordinator Mike) Sherman was here, we were doing a lot more man scheme. (Texans offensive coordinator) Kyle (Shanahan) is straight out of the Denver scheme and we were zoning people up, and I liked that a lot. That's something that I'm really interested in. I hope they get a guy that comes in and is willing to at least take a look at what we've been doing here and not really deviate from what we've done because it's hard to say it hasn't worked. It's really hard to say that we need to go in a different direction. And like I said, we're not going to have to learn new terminology, but that guy will come in and learn the terminology and change it to how he wants, and I'm sure within (head coach Gary) Kubiak's realm as well. But it hasn't helped. I will say that."
(on the importance of head coach Gary Kubiak coming back next year) "Oh, that means the world to I think a lot of guys. He's a guy that I think, by the way he treats us and by the way he conducts his meetings and practices, I think he has respect for us, and that means a lot to a lot of players and that's something that's very important to me. I think sometimes this year, he would always step in front of the bullet for us and a lot of times this year, I think we let him down. We stepped up big for him down this last stretch and I think that was important, but we need to come out and play like that all the time, not just for him but for each other, and I think that's something that will also carry on next year."