Quotes: Thursday media availability

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Head Coach Bill O'Brien** Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel
OLB Jadeveon Clowney
DE Jared Crick
RB Arian Foster
QB Ryan Mallett

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
(on how ILB Brian Cushing feels) "I think he feels he's getting better every day. I think coming off that injury, you know, postgame is always, there is a lot of soreness. We have to ease him back into the week. Like how we say, he's day-to-day. We'll see how he is tomorrow. We'll bring him to Tennessee and we'll see how he is before the game."

(on who steps in for ILB Brian Cushing if he can't play) "There are a lot of guys there that would play. Obviously you have (Justin) Tuggle that's been playing next to him. (Akeem) Dent could play. (Mike) Mohamed could play. There are lot of different ways you could go. You could use a substituted package, different substituted packages where you could have D.J. (Swearinger) in there or Danieal Manning. So there is a number of ways you could go. We're practicing all those things. We're a very multiple defense. We do have a lot of answers on the 46-man roster for what could occur because you have to in this league."

(on if he is aware of a report that ILB Brian Cushing will not play this week and if there is any accuracy to that report) "No. First of all, no, I wasn't aware of that report. I was trying to figure out how to try to get a first down against the Tennessee Titans because it was third-down night. And secondly, there is no accuracy to that report."

(on OLB Jadeveon Clowney saying he is ready to play) "I'm glad he thinks he's ready to go. I'll tell you what. That's a no comment. Dr. Clowney, he stayed at a Super 8 last night or a Holiday Inn, whatever that commercial is. So anyways, no I think he's looked better and better every day. I do believe that. I wouldn't say that he's 100 percent sure for Sunday. I think that's something that we're going to have to see how he does tomorrow and then we'll have to see how he is on Saturday. Really have to kind of measure that as the week goes on. But I do think he is getting better every day."

(on what he expects to see out of OLB Jadeveon Clowney in his first game) "That's a good question. You're wanting to see his conditioning level because he hasn't played in a while. You have to be aware of that, that he hasn't played a game in a while. It's different then running around on the track out there or practicing even. Game conditions are a lot different. You want to see how he's able to change direction, cut off the knee. I think running straight ahead is not a problem. It's more about when you're coming off an injury like that, how are you cutting. How is your explosion when you push off the knee? Things like that off of that leg. Those are things that we'll look for. What I've seen in practice so far is that it's getting better in all those areas. That's a good sign."

(on if OLB Jadeveon Clowney can make his injury worse) "I think the answer to that is every guy in that locker room, especially veteran players, but any guy in that locker room that's played a good deal of football is always going to have soreness, especially in their joints. Whether it's their ankle joint, or their knee joint, or their elbow joint, or their hip joint or whatever it is, there is always going to be some level of soreness especially after a physical practice or a physical game. We're always concerned for the player if that answers your questions. We always have the players' health as number one in our mind. We're never like overly cautious about it because we know that there is soreness attached to playing this sport."

(on if OLB Jadeveon Clowney could misunderstanding regular soreness) "I think all rookies go through that. When you're playing in college and you have to go to class, you have afternoon meetings, then you practice, then you go to study hall and then you have all these different things going on as opposed to the NFL where you have all day to meet, watch film, and take care of your body in different ways; In the morning, in the afternoon after practice, maybe in the middle of the day, a lot of rookies we teach them about that. And some of them catch on right away. Some of them don't. I'm not putting Clowney in any category. I'm saying that all rookies go through that. A younger player has to really learn how to understand his body and understand to take care of it as he goes through his rookie year."

(on if OLB Jadeveon Clowney has a chance to play) "I think as I look at it right now I would say that he definitely has a chance to play. I think he's moving around out there. We were in full pads today and eh practiced. We'll see how it goes. I try to communicate with the player. Obviously Geoff Kaplan does a great job as our trainer. Our doctors, Doc (Walt) Lowe, they do a great job. At the end of the day, how do you feel? Are you going to be able to play? Like, what do you think you'll be able to do? Most of these guys, all of these guys, will tell you. I can go. I can do it. A lot of it will come down to that leading up to the game."

(on the potential battle between T Taylor Lewan and OLB Jadeveon Clowney) "That's a great battle. I think that's one that you're looking at two young players that were obviously drafted high. I'm familiar with (Taylor) Lewan just with my experience at Penn State when we played him at Michigan last year. He's a heck of a young tackle. He's being used in a way- sometimes he's used as a tight end. Now he's being more of a fulltime tackle. He kind of reminds me of what we've done with rookie tackles with the past in the systems I've been in. I think that will be a really good battle. I think that will be a heck of a battle between two young players."

(on what he saw from QB Zach Mettenberger in the draft process) "I saw a guy that I felt like he was a smart guy. I felt like he knew his LSU offense really well. I felt like he had a strong arm. He was a big guy. I saw some decent things."

(on if OLB Whitney Mercilus and OLB Jadeveon Clowney could be on the field together) "I think so. I mean, Whitney (Mercilus) has done some good things. I don't think he's quite ready for enshrinement in Canton just yet. But I mean I think he's done some good things. He's gotten better. He's improved. He's working hard to do the things we're asking him to do. But I think yeah, I think you could see him out there at the same time maybe. Yeah, I could see a scenario where that was to happen. Certainly."

(on cleaning up the mistakes from the Pittsburgh game) "There are not a lot of mental errors if that makes sense. I'm talking about assignment errors. You don't really look at it and you say, 'Wow, there are a lot of assignment errors.' There are some, obviously, that we believe we have fixed. It's more about focusing and concentration, taking care of the ball, staying on sides, being able to handle being a good crisis manager. When something's going bad, being able to say, 'You know what? We're going to stop this right now.' All of those things are things that are locker room is working hard at. Again, I'm not really blowing smoke. I'm really telling you how I feel when I tell you that I really like this locker room. I think we have a lot of great veterans in here that are good leaders, great guys. And these guys want to win very badly. They're working hard out there to correct those focus-concentration type things. We're working harder to put them in better positions to make better plays as a coaching staff. We're all in it together. I believe that it will get turned around."

(on guys like OLB John Simon, NT Ryan Pickett and OLB Whitney Mercilus stepping up in the front seven with injuries) "That's a good point. I think we've done a good job to this point of managing the roster and making the right moves. Those guys that you just mentioned have in and really played solid football for us. Pickett's played solid. John Simon came in and made a few plays both on special teams and on defense. We talked about Whitney—Whitney has played pretty well the last couple of weeks, definitely getting better and better. Guys that we're asked to step up. That's kind of the nature of the deal in this league. The next man up philosophy is really appropriate in our scenario and really in most teams that's what it is. Injuries happen. You only have 53 guys, so the next guy has to step up. A lot of those guys have. You see good examples of that."

(on how ILB Akeem Dent has looked to him) "Akeem Dent played really well on special teams against Pittsburgh. He had some tackles. He's a guy that's definitely improved. Here's another guy that had a high ankle sprain back in training camp. Those things take a while to come back from. He toughed it out. He had some time off to try and get it better and then he came back and I think he's back from that. That takes a while to come back from. I think he's getting better and better. I've seen a guy that's really improved at linebacker and has done some really good things on special teams."

(on how he's seen ILB Brian Cushing handle leading the defense since he's returned from injuries) "I can't say enough about that guy as far as his work ethic, how he leads, the way he is in our locker room. I think he's frustrated. These guys that have played at such a high level and they get injured and it's not easy to come back from some of these injuries especially when it's happened a couple times to the same knee. Those are frustrating things. These guys are football players. They're guys that really love the game and they want to play at that high level. Like I said the other day, I think he can get back there and he wants to get back there. But it takes time. This guy is just a great guy, great guy of the field, has a great family, wife and two kids, brand new baby a couple of months ago, just a great guy, got a lot going for him. He really wants to be back out there playing at the level he knows he can play at."

(on how to fix the focus of the team) "First of all, there is. That's a good question. I think some of it is we've only been together for about eight months. None of these are excuses. These are things we have to get fixed. It is what it is. There are new systems on both sides of the ball. A lot of communication has to occur on our offense and our defense in order for the play to work. And so some of the thing are, hey, we're communicating, but we also have to watch the ball, we've got to take care of the ball. All these things go into a successful play on both sides of the ball. I think these guys are really working hard to get that right, to be in the right spot, to get their assignment right and then make sure they're focused on the things they have to be to have a good football play, which is staying onside, taking care of the ball and all those things. So I think that to me is where we really have to get better. We have to get better at our communication and then really just, hey, concentrate on, now we know what we're doing; now it's about hey, let's go out there and actually do it and focus and not make the mistakes that we've been making."

(on if he is worried about the return game) "I mean, I wouldn't say worried, but I would tell you that it has to get better. I think even on the one that D-Man (Danieal Manning) bobbled around there; he was going to get tattooed even if he fielded it cleanly. I think we need to block better. I think the timing of it has to improve. We've worked very hard on that this week even though it's a short week. We've worked really hard on our return game on punt return and on kickoff return, so hopefully we'll see improvements there. We have a guy that we think can be a good returner. He's done it in the past, D-Man. We just have to continue to work on it and hopefully we see improvement."

Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel
(on his expectations for OLB Jadeveon Clowney upon his return) "Probably third down plays, because he hasn't been practicing. You can put him in on third downs and you can just rush the passer with him and see how that goes. That's what we've talked about defensively. I think that's what it will be if the head coach says OK."

(on OLB Jadeveon Clowney paying attention and learning during his time off) "He's always had a good attitude. He tries to learn football and tries to stay with the gameplan and stuff like that, but when you're not out there on the field, it's hard to say what kind of attitude it is. You need to be out there practicing and then I can tell a lot more about the attitude then."

(on what he would expect out of OLB Jadeveon Clowney with the potential matchup with T Taylor Lewan) "I expect him to do his very best. Whatever that is, we'll find out. That's the thing; every battle on the field is an individual battle and no one really knows how it's going to come out, what's going to happen. You know what kind of skill he has. You know what kind of skill his opponent has. Then it's just a matter of the ball being snap and then executing the plan and the use of the skills. The only thing that we really have to go on is a couple of plays in the preseason. If they turn out that way, then that would be pretty good."

(on ILB Brian Cushing being frustrated that he's not playing at 100 percent and what he's seen from him) "He brought a physical presence to the team when he got back and started playing so I was encouraged by that and felt good about that. He's dealing with his knee as best he can. As long as he's able to go, we're going to try to let him go. I knew of him beforehand and since I've been here, he's worked with his knee and got back on the field and showed good progress, so we're going to keep working with him."

(on going against QB Zach Mettenberger) "You have to prepare for all of them. That makes it a little bit more difficult, but the good part about it is two of them have played regularly and you can see two of them in regular season games. Then you have to go to the preseason games to see the other kid. From what I hear and understand, he's got some height; got a strong arm, smart kid and so he'll do his best as well. Now we will have to see if we can do our best and slow him down."

(on if he expects the Titans to simplify their offense due to starting a rookie QB Zach Mettenberger) "No, I really don't. He's been with them and so he knows the offense. I think that if they think that he has certain strengths, I think they'll try to play to his strengths rather than play to any weakness that he might have. If he throws the out route really good, then I think they might call more out routes rather than sprint out or roll out passes. I think that they'll look to what his strong points are and play to his strong points."

(on where he believes the defense is in terms of consistency, stopping the run and getting to the passer) "It's not good enough, either way. We haven't been able to stop the run consistently and we haven't rushed the passer consistently, so it's a work in progress. We have to improve in both areas."

(on role players stepping up to play in place of starters who've had to miss time due to injuries) "That's part of the job in the NFL, to be ready to go when your number is called. You have to study. You have to know the gameplan, many times without many reps. Then, if you can go and produce like that, then you have a chance to stay around a while. The guys we've been putting in the game, they've been working really hard and producing some so that allows us to play and keep games close and all those good things. We'd like to get to the point where we can win some of them."

(on if he has been surprised by what he's seen from NT Ryan Pickett so far) "I think he's come in and done a nice job because he was in training camp and then he was released and so he was sitting at home for a little bit and enjoying life. Then all of a sudden you get the call, and you get off the sofa and you're on the football field. I think that he handled that nicely. When you're experienced, you can handle that. Then I think his conditioning has improved and he's showing up more so he's been a good addition and he's helped us."

(on what the defense needs to do to eliminate the big plays) "Eliminate mistakes. We've made mistakes at times and then when we make a mistake, we let it bother us for a little while until we can settle down again. Then we can go back and try to play. We have to eliminate mistakes and that's what we've been trying to focus on the last couple of weeks really. Eliminate the mistakes because we can go along and play halfway decent, then a mistake is made and we are kind of on shaky legs for a little bit and then once we settle down then we're more consistent. So eliminate those mistakes and then not letting one mistake affect the rest of your game."

(on how you coach guys to be able to forget about mistakes) "It's hard. They really can't forget about them, but what you have to talk to them about is putting it behind them. Don't let the last play affect the next play. The next play is the one that is the most important now because the last one has already happened."

(on how you coach guys to communicate on the field in a way that does not show frustration) "That's hard to do because when you get frustrated, sometimes you just show it. That's human nature. Human nature says show it. The thing that you try to do is you say, 'Look, if things are not going right and you can do something to fix it, you fix it. Then we'll talk about it on the sideline.' Once everybody understands that's how it should be done, now then boom the play is over and then you come back to the sideline and you try to get it corrected and then you move on. When you've got young kids, emotional kids, sometimes that message gets put on the back burner and it's not at the forefront in the heat of the battle."

OLB Jadeveon Clowney
(on what he remembers of T Taylor Lewan from playing against him in college) "He's good with his hands and his feet. He moves pretty well. Guys, we're going to watch him on tape and get ready for the game."

(on if he was blocked on his famous hit in college) "I slid inside of a tight end."

(on if T Taylor Lewan was blocking on the play that led to his famous hit) "He was blocking down."

(on how he feels he matches up with T Taylor Lewan) "It's a team thing. This is going to take more than one-on-one for us to win the game. If it's going to be an overall team win, we need to go out there and dominate up front, the secondary needs to cover and we'll just play as a team to win."

(on how fired up he is to get back out on the field) "Very excited. Been missing out, been without playing with my team. I'm looking forward to being out there with my team and having fun."

(on how hard it's been for him to be on the sidelines) "It's been very hard. I've been telling the guys that I'm ready to get back out there, but that I'm not healthy enough. They were like, man, take your time. I know you want to be out here with us, but we need you to get healthy. So I was like, I'll take my time and get back healthy."

(on if he feels he's healthy enough to play) "I'm the best I'm going to be this season I feel like. I'm just going to take it in and go out there and play football now."

(on if he'd be surprised if he didn't play) "Yeah, I would be surprised if I didn't play. Like I said, just going out to practice, working on my craft and getting back in football shape. I've been running, but it still isn't the same as running around on a football field. Just getting back out here now, being out there with my team, seeing how I feel."

(on how his cutting is coming along) "It's coming along alright. Like I said, the knee is going to both me a little bit. It's just something that you have to push through and play."

(on how close is he to being 100 percent) "I have no clue right now. I always feel like I can be better than I am now. We're going to see around game time."

(on what he wants to bring to the defense) "Making plays. My ability to make plays and just getting off the ball, making plays, speed."

(on the message to him when he hears that OLB Whitney Mercilus might hold on to his starting job) "It's not a message. Like he said, around here everybody is a start when you're out there on the field no matter if I come in the third quarter, fourth quarter. We all starters, so when I'm out there on the field, just do my job."

(on what it does to his confidence is knowing that he's as healthy as he'll be this season and his confidence in his body) "My confidence is always going to be up. It's alright. I'm not really worried about it."

(on his experiences with QB Zach Mettenberger) "He throws it pretty good. Running ability not as good as the other quarterbacks that they have. Like I said, you've got to play well. We've got to get after the quarterback. There's going to be more than one man out here making plays. We all have to make plays and hopefully get the win."

(on if he's been dreaming about what it'll be like to be back out on the field) "I always visualize myself making plays on the field no matter who it's against. So yeah, I'm thinking about how I'm going to make plays and different formations when they line up, what should I do against formations, so yeah, I visualize."

(on how much easier it would be if he's only in the game in pass rush situations) "It would be very easy, but I mean, of course I feel like I want to be out there on all situations. It's up to the coaches."

(on if he still feels any pain in the knee or discomfort) "A little bit of discomfort. Like I said, it's something you have to push through. It's going to be there until I get a long break to rest my knee on. Just finish the season."

(on how'll he feel emotionally getting back out on the field) "I probably won't be too worried about it. I won't be nervous. I'll just be out there trying to remember what I'm supposed to do on different sides. I don't think I'll be nervous. It's football, like I said, different competition. Just got to go out here and play."

DE Jared Crick
(on the defense without ILB Brian Cushing) "We're going to miss Cushing if he's not going to be able to play, obviously. Not only for his talents on the field, but his leadership. It's going to hurt us quite a bit. If he can't go, then we've got guys that can step up and fill his place. Hopefully he's going to be able to go though."

(on how the defense replaces the leadership of ILB Brian Cushing) "Yeah, you've just got to find someone else. We've got plenty of guys that can do that. We have plenty of leaders on this defense. Like you said, one of them is going to have to step up and lead our defense."

(on the mindset of going against a rookie quarterback) "We're optimistic, but we're always optimistic to get after somebody, especially a rookie quarterback. It's going to be fun. We've got to stop the run first and foremost. If we don't do that, we're not going to have much of a chance to get after him. If we can stop the run, we can have the opportunity to get after him and pressure him."

(on what OLB Jadeveon Clowney does for the defense) "We'll see what he does in the game. He's coming off a big break, so I guess only time will tell. We'll have to see what he does in the game."

RB Arian Foster
(on how much pride he takes in getting back to top form) "I took a lot of pride. It's what I do for a living. I love this sport. I put a lot into it."

(on why it was so important it was for him to return to top form) "I was just trying to get back healthy to play football again. I wasn't on no mission to prove anybody wrong. I know how to play this game. When I talked to the doctor, he told me it wasn't a career ending injury, so I just worked hard like I do every offseason."

(on if he can sees the offensive consistency starting to form) "Yeah. I see slow improvements. We obviously don't want that. You obviously want to be as consistent as you possibly can, but you know, if you're going to find light at the end of the tunnel, I feel like we're improving week-to-week. Hopefully we'll hit our stride when we really need. We need it every week, but you want to strive for that perfection. It looks like it's just going to take time. We're all working hard. Hopefully we can be the best we can."

QB Ryan Mallett
(on Bill O'Brien speaking highly of his progression through the system) "The system is something that I'm familiar with, so I'm just trying to get better every day. Whatever the coach says is what I'm going to do."

(on how exciting it is that he is getting closer to playing) "If it happens, it happens. I'll be ready. I'll be prepared. I prepare like I'm the starter; I have since I've been in the NFL. I've just got to continue to do that and be ready when my number's called."

(on how much it helps him that he knew the offensive system before he got to Houston) "Definitely helps a lot. If I was coming into this system new and fresh, it would take a lot longer than I would say right now."

(on the comradery he has with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick) "It's great. Our room is good. Me, Tom (Savage), Ryan, we get along. We have fun doing what we do. We need to go get some wins now."

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