The Texans practiced at the Methodist Training Center on Thursday, and afterward, head coach Gary Kubiak and some of his players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews from the morning and afternoon.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
OLB Connor Barwin
CB Brandon Harris
WR Jeff Maehl
RB Ben TateRB Arian FosterFS Danieal ManningDE J.J. Watt
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on the morning practice) "It was a good practice, good work. We worked on a bunch of situational stuff and we're just pushing through. We're getting some nicks, but boy we're pushing through and getting better."
(on where OLB Mario Williams was today) "Mario's dad is not feeling well and he's with his dad. I'll let you know more this afternoon."
(on RB Steve Slaton's injury) "Hamstring, tweaked a hamstring. That seems to be the thing we've got going on right now and we're being hit at one spot, so that makes it tough. We'll see."
(on WR Jacoby Jones' injury) "Jacoby has a bone bruise, but he is expected to be back on the field in the morning. He's fine. The x-rays are fine."
(on RB Arian Foster) "He's doing fine. I would suspect we'll be smart with him probably through the weekend. I actually watched him run today. We're just being hit at that one position pretty hard. My understanding is that (Ben) Tate's got a chance to be back on the field tomorrow, so we'll have to see where Steve (Slaton) is."
(on RB Arian Foster repeating what he did last year) "I think he's got the right frame of mind. He's got a lot of confidence in himself and you come back this next year and it's always the toughest. He got 1,600 yards and probably the next 1,600 are the toughest 1,600 of his career. It's just the way it works. Everybody knows who he is. Everybody studied him all offseason. How do we stop Arian Foster and those types of things? It's a big challenge for him, but I think he's up to it. I think his frame of mind is good. We just need to get him back out here working."
(on if ILB Brian Cushing had the same workload today) "No, he practiced more and he was better. Every day, hopefully we get better."
(on the linebackers) "It is the biggest concern right now defensively. DeMeco (Ryans) is much further along right now than Brian (Cushing). They are leaders in what they do. Defensively, they're the two guys inside that give (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) all the flexibility for what he wants to do defensively. You don't get all that work unless they're out there. That's a concern, but at the same time, it is what it is, so to speak, and we have to get them to September 11 the right way."
(on OLB Mario Williams) "Mario's been exceptional. Connor (Barwin) continues to make plays every day. Connor was a one-year defensive player in college, a defensive end playing for us, now he's playing linebacker. After everything Connor's been through, to be playing the way he's been playing, tells you how sharp he is and how much he takes to good coaching. Obviously, (Linebackers Coach) Reggie (Herring) and (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) have done a good job."
(on the fullback situation) "It's just a battle. They're a little different players. James (Casey) gives a bunch of things. You see what he can do at practice. Lawrence (Vickers) is more of the iso-type guy, but he is very athletic and a good special teams player. The young kid, the (Zac) Pauga kid, is really a rock head. I mean that positive. He loves to thump, loves to go downhill, loves to hit people and he's done a good job, so we'll see. It'll work itself out."
(on CB Brandon Harris) "He's doing a good job. He's playing inside more nickel than anything. He's doing a good job, smart player, gets his hands on the ball quite a bit in practice. That's something you're looking for. It's a big group back there. A lot of guys are competing."
(on who CB Brandon Harris is competing against for nickel) "I don't know. We've got so many guys that can play inside. Kareem (Jackson) can play inside. Right now Sherrick (McManis) has been a very impressive player in camp. We've got depth back there, so that's a nice problem we haven't had in a while."
(on QB T.J. Yates and QB Matt Leinart) "They're doing fine. Matt's ahead of T.J. obviously because he's been around pro football for a while, but T.J.'s handling himself well and he's going to get a chance to play in some important football here coming up, so we'll see how he does. They're doing well."
(on QB Matt Leinart) "He's playing well. He's confident and he knows our offense. He believes this offense suits him, so you see that confidence and it's exuded every day in practice. I think we're all excited as a team. We've got so much confidence in our starter, but I think right now the team says hey, if something happened, we know we can keep moving forward because of the way he's practicing and the way he leads this group."
(on QB Matt Leinart making the receivers look good) "The sign of a good quarterback is it doesn't matter who lines up at wide receiver, he gets the ball to the right spot and that's what you see going on."
(on WR Terrence Toliver) "He got a little tired on me. He's got to be used to this Hempstead heat. We're not far from Hempstead, but he's doing good. He's doing fine."
(on how many receivers he plans on keeping) "How many receivers do I plan on keeping? I don't know. We've got a long way to go."
OLB Connor Barwin
(on the linebackers being nicked up) "We're in position to make a lot of plays in this defense. We have enough, we are nicked up a little bit but I think everybody's going to come, coming into their form at the right time. I mean, (Brian) Cushing's out here playing now. DeMeco's (Ryan) feeling better every day, so I think it's all lining up right."
(on if this is a dream defense for him) "Yeah, it's perfect with my size and things I can do. It's perfect, like you said, perfect for me where I can drop and rush and kind of keep that tackle on his toes. Every day it's exciting."
CB Brandon Harris
(on how he's picking up all the information being thrown at him) "Everything is going fast. There's a lot of studying. Coach Wade (Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips) is putting a lot of stuff in every night, but it's exciting when you go out there and you know what you're doing. It's really a lot of time and studying."
(on what he's learned from the veterans) "They are just teaching me to know what I'm doing. They help you study the playbook, they help you learn your assignments, know where you're supposed to be on certain calls and everybody understands that when you know what you're doing, you tend to play a little faster."
(on the transition from college to NFL) "It's coming along good so far. Some days have been better than others. Everything hasn't been all good; some days you make a few mistakes and you get frustrated because you want to play well and you want to do good. You just have to sit back and take it one day at a time and learn and sit back and watch some of those veterans sometimes and then go back out the next day and show that you belong here."
(on if the realization that he is an NFL player has hit him) "It hit me! It hit me about the third day of camp when I realized how tired I was but it's exciting to just come in the locker room and see some of the guys you've watched on TV a long time; just being on that team is exciting."
WR Jeff Maehl
(on playing wide receiver in the NFL) "This whole process so far has been a big learning experience. Just adjusting to the size of the playbook and trying to come out here and execute it. Even if you mess up, like you said, trying to control what I can do and that's catch the ball and not let it hit the ground. That's something I really prided myself on up at Oregon and something I'm going to continue to pride myself on throughout my career."
(on advice he's been getting from veterans and coaches) "Yeah, just that I'm improving, that I'm coming out here and making plays. The older guys and whatnot are helping me when I make mistakes. That's what it's all about. The guys are here to help us and they're doing a really good job of doing that, not being selfish like we're trying to take their jobs, which at the end of day that's what it is. Everyone's trying to make this team. Kevin (Walter) and Andre (Johnson) and Dorin (Dickerson), they have been a big help and really helping all of us young guys out."
(on trying to make the team) "I'm just taking it one day at a time trying to get better. I wouldn't be here if they didn't think I had a chance to play in the NFL. Just coming out every day trying to do different things better and prove every day."
(on the heat compared to Oregon) "It's not the same, that's for sure. Where I'm from in California it gets to about 100 (degrees) but the humidity was a big shock for me the first couple days. I'm feeling fine now. It's really not that bad. My body's adjusted, but still not like the Eugene rain."
RB Ben Tate
(on his injuries) "I was kind of trying to fight through it. I didn't want to miss any time and maybe I wasn't really being smart by trying to go when maybe I shouldn't have, but it felt pretty good at the time. It's tough because I don't want to miss time, so I was trying to push it to get back out there for the simple fact that I feel like this is a big camp for me. I need to be out there and I need the reps. I was just trying to get out there and go through it, but it didn't really work out for me."
(on what he can do about his injuries) "You can't control injuries. You can't. All you can do is go out there and work hard and play hard. I can't control last year when I broke my ankle and I can't control little hamstring tweaks or things like that. As long as you're out there working hard, it's football - things are bound to happen."
(on trying to prove that he is not injury prone) "I'm not known for having injuries. All through college, I think I might have missed one game for injuries. I might have missed one or two games my whole high school career. To get the opportunity that you have now to be at this dream level and then to just break your ankle and have a nagging hamstring is frustrating because I am a guy who is known for being durable and not getting hurt. Maybe it's just a little phase right now and hopefully once this hamstring is over with I'll be good."
Head Coach Gary KubiakRB Arian FosterFS Danieal ManningDE J.J. Watt
Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on the team injuries) "From this morning, (Steve) Slaton has a little hamstring, so he didn't do anything this afternoon. He's going to be day-to-day. Trindon (Holliday), the same thing, so those are the two from this morning. Other than that, I think we're okay. Ben (Tate) hasn't practiced in a few days, so our hope is that he's back out there tomorrow morning, but we'll see."
(on who's going to snap with LS Jon Weeks hurt) "I think he'll be okay. If not, Joel (Dreessen) will snap or James (Casey) will snap, but I think he'll be okay."
(on how he handles the running back situation on Monday) "It's a concern. Obviously there's two healthy guys right now and I know we worked out some guys today and could possibly sign a guy. We're also (Ben) Tate back any day now, so if he can get back on the field tomorrow or Saturday, he should still play in the game. He needs to play. Arian (Foster) did do the walkthrough stuff today, so he's moving around better. I watched him run with the trainers this morning. I think he's close. Hopefully as we start to work toward game day and freshen them back up, we get some guys back."
(on how concerned he is about the running backs' health) "It seems like in camp, you always get hit at one spot harder than others. I think we've been hit there because we lost Arian (Foster) the first day and (Ben) Tate practiced two or three days, so those guys have been carrying the load. It wears that one group down, so to speak. You got to keep going, you got to keep teaching and you got to keep the other 87 guys out there working. It's just something you have to work through and we'll find a way to work through it."
(on his plans for the first preseason game) "They're always pretty much the same, to let your starters get their feet wet, play your twos a great deal and your threes and find out about your young players. I don't think that's going to change, but I think there are some conversations we need to have that we normally don't have as far as guys being ready to play."
(on what he hopes to see in the first preseason game) "Most important, I want to see our twos work. You don't know. Obviously, you're behind practice time losing all your offseason practice time, so how sharp will you be? We're playing a team that presents a lot of problems from a standpoint of what they do offensively and defensively. Trying to get these young guys ready mentally and physically to go compete on Monday night is our number one goal."
(on if it's a good thing to go up against a tough team like the Jets) "I think it is. Any time you're challenged, that's what this League's about. You're challenged all the time, but this football team has been exceptional the last two years. We've got a lot of things to prepare these young guys for so that they can compete."
(on if DE J.J. Watt will play more even though he's a starter) "Stuff like that is what I'm talking about. There's going to be guys that are different. (Antoine) Caldwell, (Mike) Brisiel, do they play more? They're battling for a job, stuff like that. We'll see. You got guys like Joel Dreessen who's a backup to OD (Owen Daniels), but we know what Joel is too. We need to watch Garrett Graham play a lot of football, Anthony Hill play a lot of football. It'll be an individual basis from that standpoint."
(on OLB Mario Williams) "He's back today. I can't speak for him. I think his dad is doing better, but I know it's a tough situation for him and his family. We just keep our fingers crossed that things work out."
(on how OLB Connor Barwin has taken to his new responsibilities) "He really has. For a guy who played one year of college defense and then comes here and plays end, now he goes to linebacker, I think he's taken to what (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) and (Linebackers Coach) Reggie (Herring) are trying to teach him very well. Connor's stronger this year coming off that injury. Putting all those things together to see how far he's come has been impressive."
(on if OLB Connor Barwin was born to play linebacker) "You're probably right. His length and size, the fact that he can run, he's got good ball skills. He played tight end before, so you watch him out there in drop coverage. I think he's excited to be doing what he's doing."
(on WR Trindon Holliday) "He's going to miss a few days. He tweaked a hamstring, so he and (Steve) Slaton both."
RB Arian Foster(on whether he's moving better) "I probably had an icepack on when you saw me. I wasn't stiff. You can't warm up 100 percent; it's a warm-up, but I felt good."
(on whether he'll play Monday night against the New York Jets) "I'm not sure, but I'm not sure if I can go, so I don't see the rush and I'm pretty sure, 100 percent, I'll be back next week so we'll see how it goes."
(on if he's concerned about the reps he's missing) "You always want to get the most reps you can get, but injuries are a part of the game and you just have to stay mentally sharp because the physical aspect is not going to change much. This is the NFL; you have to stay mentally sharp but stay in condition."
(on if he'll practice tomorrow) "No, I doubt that I'll practice tomorrow."
FS Danieal Manning(on if he's looking forward to Monday night) "Oh, yeah. Like I said, I've got to get another few more days in before I'm actually ready to go out there and play. I've got a lot of stuff I've to get down. I feel like I'm in shape and I'm getting the defense, picking the defense up. It's just a little more of the small things, details in this game, or in this defense that I've got to pick up."
(on if the game against the New York Jets will be a good test for the defense) "Yeah, I mean just because everybody here, this is a totally different defense and we've been working at it. We haven't had any OTAs and that's no excuse, but at the same time guys are improving, guys are getting better, so you want to continue to get to that point before the first kickoff in the regular season."
(on if he's seeing potential in the defense) "I definitely do. I mean, guys are running around with the ball, guys are getting their hands on the ball, guys are excited. I haven't heard anything, not one person complain about missing time and OTAs. They're just happy to be back playing football and get this thing rolling."
DE J.J. Watt(on how training camp has gone for him) "I feel like I've stayed up to speed pretty well. I've really studied my playbook hard, watched some good film, and just trying to stay up with the speed of the game. Now I'm getting my footwork down and everything and I feel pretty comfortable in this defense."
(on if the playbook is overwhelming) "I haven't been overwhelmed at all, really. I feel really comfortable with it and I think that just comes from studying it hard. I know that I'm penciled in as a starter right now, and that means I can't have any mental mistakes on the field, so I've tried to avoid those at all costs."
(on how he's adjusted to the speed of the game) "I think the practices I had at Wisconsin really helped prepare me for the NFL because we had some high-speed practices with some good offensive linemen. I haven't really felt overwhelmed at all. I've just got to come out here and get better every day."
(on if Houston's 3-4 defense is similar to what he played in at Wisconsin) "We didn't do a whole lot, no, so obviously the defense is new, but Coach Phillips has a great defense in place for us. All I need to do is go out there and do my job and we'll be just fine."
(on if he thinks the rookies are behind because of no OTA's this summer) "I mean, I feel comfortable. I don't feel like I'm that far behind. I think if the rookies are willing to get in their playbooks and they're willing to watch the film and put in the work on the field, we'll be fine. Obviously, Monday night is going to be my first true test, so I'm excited to get out there for that."