The Texans practiced Thursday at the Methodist Training Center and after, head coach Gary Kubiak and some of the players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head Coach Gary KubiakOLB Connor BarwinILB Brian CushingQB Matt Schaub
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on how practice went today) "It was good. We really responded today. I liked the way we practiced. We were into what we were doing and we covered a lot of things. We had one scare out here today; we had a collision. We got through OTAs clean and I think our teaching has been good. We're going to go back and take a look at what we're going to do next week."
(on if he held his breath on the collision) "Yeah, I sure did. We busted a route, made a mistake on a route and unfortunately, that's football. Golly, just trying to teach but we're lucky right there."
(on QB Case Keenum) "I tell you the thing that was impressive: his best time in OTAs came at the end of practice today, so that tells me that he's getting better. I put him in a hurry-up environment and he went out there and was automatic with what he did. He's learning. He's figuring out all the spots and when he does that, I think he's going to be very effective. I've been pleased. I think everything has been moving forward so I've been really pleased. Today made me really excited to see him be at his best."
(on what QB Case Keenum needs to do in minicamp to be even better) "I'm going to give him a ton of reps. I'm going to take some of the older guys and just work them with (head strength and conditioning coach) Cedric (Smith). I'm going to keep the young guys out here next week. He'll work as the two next week, so that will be good for him and just keep getting as many as he can."
(on whether QB T.J. Yates or John Beck will get to sit out next week) "T.J. (Yates) will (sit out). John (Beck) needs more reps with the third team and what we're doing. I'll work John and Case (Keenum)."
(on having ILB Brian Cushing and back on the field today) "Yeah, I thought it was important to have Cush (Brian Cushing) step back on the field today. He missed those three days. We could've sat him but he wanted to go and end the OTAs having some work. I think it was important."
(on what injuries he is worried about) "I worry about them all until they get back out here. I feel good. I feel good about Matt (Schaub) and where he's at. I think he could be practicing right now. Andre (Johnson) is probably a little further behind Matt right now. Loni (Hebron Fangupo) will be back. Probably the biggest question mark right now is (Darryl) Sharpton. Looking at where we're at, Sharpton could not come out and practice right now. He needs to be in there battling with Bradie (James) for a starting job. Probably that's my biggest concern right now, seeing that he's 100 percent and can go out there and compete for a job."
(on if the young receivers are his biggest concern as a team right now) "Yeah, I think so. I like the ability, as I've told y'all all along. Bottom line, none of them have been in games and so that's going to be a concern until we get going. The picture looks different when Andre (Johnson) is out here and Kevin (Walter) is out here and you have those veterans leading the way. Throughout the course of these OTAs, it's strictly young guys. That's a concern. It's something we'll continue to address with our team as we move forward."
(on his overall thoughts of OTAs) "I thought they were good. I think we work like a mature group. I think this team is trying to find its way. It's missing a few familiar soldiers out here and guys they've counted on everyday to lead the way, so we have some new guys having to step up from that standpoint. We're going to have some new faces that are going to step in for this team. I think the progress has been good."
(on a couple players who really took a few steps forward during OTAs) "I tell you what, there were a lot of them, so it would be hard for me to just name one or two, but I think we have a lot second and third year players that are starting to become real pros. That's important."
(on FS Danieal Manning) "He's a leader. He loves to play. He's 100 miles an hour all the time when you see him out here. He's kind of becoming a leader of the back end in his own way, him and J. Joe (Johnathan Joseph). Just another year of being comfortable here in Houston and I think those things start to take over a little more."
(on if WR Lestar Jean has established himself as a No. 3 receiver at this point) "No, I wouldn't go there. If we were playing today, yeah, he'd be established and ready to go."
(on if he might keep six wide receivers) "I don't know. It depends on what we are come September."
(on if he saw what he wanted from the returners) "That's one thing you can't really tell until you start playing, but I thought Keshawn (Martin) looked like a natural with what he was doing. Trindon (Holliday) is the best he's been as a player going into this camp as a pro. It'll be competitive and then the young man that we picked up (Justin Forsett) looks like he's going to be able to help us there too. We'll see how it comes out."
(on K Randy Bullock's ability to kickoff) "He's got a strong leg and he's pretty consistent. I've been impressed with him. Until we get going where we're kicking every day from a competitive standpoint, I think we'll have to wait and see, but I think it will be a good battle. Like I said, we're going to end up with a new kicker, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a young one but it's going to be a new one. We'll see how it works out."
(on Derrell Smith as a fullback) "I feel good about him. He's behind mentally. He's a defensive player trying to play offense, so that's tough, but nobody is working harder. I think the future is very bright, but it just needs to happen quick. He's behind, but that's not his fault. That's us changing his position."
(on if FB Derrell Smith has good hands) "Real good. They're very good."
(on his biggest worry right now) "I don't know. I'm concerned about the youth of the receiving group which we keep talking about. We've normally had a physical tight end around here to go with O.D. (Owen Daniels). We don't' have that presence right now. That's something Rick (Smith) and I are looking at. You just asked me a question about our fullback. I know what James (Casey) can do but I'm counting heavily on a young man (Derrell Smith) who hasn't played there. Those are some of the things right now and just the new faces that are going to be the new leaders along with the leaders we have to go with this team. Like I said, it's a totally different team, it's going to start taking on an identity as we get going here."
OLB Connor Barwin
(on becoming more comfortable with the defense) "I think one big thing is that I've learned how (linebacker coach) Reggie (Herring) and how (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) coach and what they want out of us. I've been able to try and improve upon those things. For a defensive player or for any player or athlete, the more you can build your confidence, the better you play. I'm a little more comfortable. My ankle is fine. I feel healthy, so going into this year with some confidence is definitely going to help."
(on comparing playing last year with no offseason to this year and if OTAs are overrated) "I don't think it's overrated. I think it's good for our team, especially for the rookies and the younger guys. Even for the older guys, I think it's good for building team chemistry because every team is different and every year is different. It's good to get out here. It's not physically that draining, but it's a good mind pressure and getting your body back, getting into a stance and doing football stuff. It's good timing in the year to get ready for training camp."
(on head coach Gary Kubiak not being thrilled with the effort of practice yesterday without helmets) "He gave us a bone and we didn't have a great practice. We learned from that and came out a lot better today. Another thing is, again there are a lot of young guys who have never practiced without helmets and realized how you're supposed to practice at this level. That's a process to learn that and the younger guys were kind of learning that yesterday and got a lot better today."
ILB Brian Cushing
(on if being held out of yesterday's OTA because of a knee issue was serious) "No. It's as minor as they come. A bruise at most. If anything, it was more precautionary right now because of OTAs. I was out here today 100 percent, I haven't felt better. No issue."
(on his reaction to the departures of OLB Mario Williams and ILB DeMeco Ryans and the role he envisioned for himself after they left) "I guess that's what football and life's all about. Certain instances and obstacles like that you're going to have to overcome. Those are high-quality players and obviously with Mario (Williams) and DeMeco (Ryans) and there's a high demand for certain players and I guess they just found better situations. So that's how it works. New guys got to step and that's fine. No team's every going to be the same as it was the previous year."
(on if his role has changed) "I'm older. I feel, as anything, the older I get and the more years of experience I have in the NFL, my role is always going to change. I'm more demanding of myself and I think everyone is as well and that's the way I want it."
(on if people see him more as a team leader now) "Yeah but I think I got a pretty good taste of it last year, especially with being a three-down linebacker and then being a captain on the team, so it was a great prep year. On top of it, learning from DeMeco (Ryans). You're not going to learn from a better guy."
(on what he learned from DeMeco Ryans leadership-wise) "There was a lot of leadership stuff I learned from him and how to be a pro. How to act and the kind of hours he put in and the dedication and really how much he loved this game. I just try to model myself after him."
(on if having a leadership role is dependent on communications) "It depends. Some things need to be said but for the most part, I think the best leaders are the ones that lead by example. That's something I'm going to try to do and if there's anything necessary that needs to be said, I'll be the guy."
(on what the next step is for Houston's defense) "We were second in the League and this year we want to be first. We just got to go 1-0 and every game. That's the main thing; keep our goals short-term and just be smart about it. We know we can get better and we're going to try to improve every game."
(on the difference having OTAs to learn the defense versus not having OTAs during the labor stoppage last year) "It was because we missed it last year and really, we were learning our defense as we went into camp. And really, throughout the first half of the year, we were still fully understanding the 3-4. Now, with a full year under our belt and with the OTAs going into training camp, we feel that we have a big advantage."
(on if there was a statistic from last year that needs to be better I this season) "I think maybe just wins. That's the most important goal. That's something we need to get done and want to get done. I want to win every game but that starts with the first one so we've got to take care of that."
(on if anything specific the defense needs to improve on) "We can play a little more sound. I think if anything, what we didn't know last year we made up with effort. That's something we hope to continue this year and play hard and just impress people when they turn on the film. And that's something we want to continue to do."
(on if there is anyone he tries to emulate as a leader) "There's certain players always; growing up and playing against certain guys like a Ray Lewis or a Brian Urlacher. You look at middle linebackers and the same position you play. You try to emulate yourself after guys like that. Coming in here and playing with a guy like DeMeco (Ryans) and learning from him for three years, that was an honor as well."
(on how much more he is teaching and explaining things more to teammates than in years past) "Not necessarily more. I think if anything, I just want to lead by example for the most part. I'm not a guy that's scared to talk if necessary, so I'll do that as well."
(on encouraging his teammates) "Always. It's got to be a positive game. Positive thinking, positive self-talk. You've got to feel good about yourself and come out here and play the best that you can."
(on if he has developed a good chemistry with ILB Bradie James) "Oh, yeah. He's real easy to play with. He's such an experienced, smart player. Very similar to DeMeco (Ryans). You can tell the kind of talent he has and how long he's played with just how much he knows."
(on if he looks at himself as the leader of the defense) "Yeah. Of course. But at the same time, I've felt like that for awhile now. Nothing's really changed except DeMeco (Ryans) leaving. So I guess I will have to fill the role a little bit."
(on what goes into leading by example) "Game film and being a first-guy-in, last-guy-out kind of guy. I think if people see that and see that no matter what awards or accolades you get and you don't change and you continue to work the same way, I think that's more important than anything."
(on if his knee was fine today) "Yeah, 100 percent. I'm good."
(on if this is the best place he's been at, mentally) "Yeah. My mind is free. I'm happy. I couldn't be in a better place and I'm just excited for this upcoming season, so it's a good feeling."
(on if defensive coordinator Wade Phillips told him the player he needs to be by training camp) "No. I think he knows what to expect out of me as a guy that's going to play 100 percent and I will. You can never learn enough and you can never be smart enough. I think the mental capacity of this defense and (what) I'll have will just continue to grow."
QB Matt Schaub
(on where he is on his rehabilitation schedule) "I'm ready to go."
(on what he has seen at OTAs) "I thought that was good work by everybody. I think everyone got better, improved on what we were trying to work on here in OTAs and so we're ready to take the next step to training camp and get ready to go for the season."
(on head coach Gary Kubiak saying the competition on both sides of the ball was the best he's ever seen at an OTA) "Well, that's what we do. We're competitors and we're going to compete against each other because we're around each other so much. We want to beat the defense as much as they want to beat us. We're both playing at a high level as a group, so it's going to be good for both of us to continue to compete every day."
(on the leadership traits he's seen from ILB Brian Cushing) "A lot of it's by example. Cush (Brian Cushing) is such a hard worker and always going 90,000 miles an hour, you can't help but feed off that when you watch him, whether you're on that side of the ball or you're on offense. You see that and you see how hard he goes on every rep. He's not going to say a whole lot. He's not one of those guys, 'Rah, rah,' and go jump around. But he's going to make plays and work extremely hard."
(on if he's happy that he doesn't have to line up against ILB Brian Cushing on Sundays) "I wouldn't mind. He's one of the best at what he does and you want to go against the best, which we get to do every day in practice, which gets us even better. It's fun to go against him."
(on the competition between the offense and defense heading into training camp) "We're both pretty good groups. We've been a good offense over the years and our defense took a huge step last year and they're going to continue to get better. The sky's the limit for what we can do. But we just got to keep getting better and pushing each other to make strides every day."
(on what he thinks about the team's young receivers) "There's a lot of potential, a lot of talent in that group and we just got to continue to work with them and bring them up to speed on what we do when you're out there in the heat of the battle when there's no coaches around and the adjustments we make with our routes and how we run them and attack in certain coverages. We got time to do that. So far, through OTAs they did a great job picking up what we do and the core of our offense.