The Texans practiced Thursday at the Methodist Training Center and after, head coach Gary Kubiak, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and some players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head Coach Gary KubiakDefensive Coordinator Wade PhillipsILB Brian CushingDE Antonio SmithFB Lawrence Vickers
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on WR Andre Johnson) "We went the same route today, basically. He is feeling better today, but we decided to hold him again today. We'll see where we're at tomorrow. I expect him to work out tomorrow. Whether that's with us or with the trainers, we'll see. It'll be still a game-time decision at this point unless I have more for you tomorrow. Just trying to do the smart thing right now, trying to make sure he's well."
(on if it's unlikely WR Andre Johnson will play on Sunday since he's missed two days of practice this week) "I'm not scared to play Andre if he doesn't practice a whole lot. He knows what's going on from that standpoint. This is strictly about his health and how he's feeling. Like I said, we got to a point Monday where we pushed really, really hard. Some soreness came about, so we took him off yesterday, thought was to have him back out here today, made a decision before practice no, it's kind of cold and that type of stuff, so we'll resume the process tomorrow and see where we're at."
(on if FB James Casey will only play part-time on Sunday) "No, James is ready to play. He's playing with an injury for us and the more weeks he goes through this thing and stays healthy, he'll come back 100 percent. I've still got things I want to do with him that are part of the game plan. He's ready to go. He's taking all his reps in practice, but there's a little bit of a limitation for him right now, so I just got to be smart with what I'm doing."
(on how much FB Lawrence Vickers has grown) "He's grown a lot. I've been really impressed. He gets better every time we practice. He got better in each game that he played in and to me, he's listening. You get a player like that, he's basically like, 'Hey, feed me coach. I want to get better.' He's got a chance to be a dang good fullback in our system, so it's his opportunity to play a lot more football than he had been playing. To me, he's taken advantage of it."
(on if FB Lawrence Vickers is fired up to play his old team this week) "Ya'll have to ask him. We got a lot of guys that have probably been with some other teams. It's part of the business."
(on how the other receivers have played while WR Andre Johnson has been out) "I've been impressed. Andre's our big gun. He's a great player, tremendous player and when you lose a guy like that for four games in a season, it's very tough. It's tough on the quarterback. It's tough on the group, tough on the receivers. I think they've all kind of responded in their own way. They've all kind of made plays and it's been a grind for them. We're operating with four guys on the active roster, so they've really had to push and I don't know who's going to have to make plays this week, but I think they've been playing well. We can always do well, but I'm proud of how they're playing."
(on RB Arian Foster catching so many passes out of the backfield) "Well that's always been a part of what we do. He's excellent with his hands. He's a three-down player. We're going to always make sure people have to worry about him doing that as well as running the ball. It's just another way of him touching the ball."
(on the military being out at practice today) "It's pretty cool. Obviously, the organization does a great job with it from a game standpoint, but our players are excellent in the community and we appreciate everything they do, so it's just great to see them all out here today."
(on if he's proud of RB Arian Foster for earning AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors) "Yeah, I'm just happy for the group. That happens because the group's playing well. Rico's (Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison) done a great job with him of getting him his touches and bringing him along and (Running Backs Coach) Chick (Harris) the right way. It's been a tough process with Andre (Johnson) and with Arian and for a guy to get Player of the Month in this League, there's some pretty darn good players, so that says a lot about everybody, coaches and players."
(on the offense and defense carrying each other) "Yeah, that's what I talked about yesterday. It's a great feeling as a coach when you walk in the locker room on Sunday and you know that your team is capable of winning three different ways. There's not one formula you have to follow to be successful. It's been exciting. Our defense is playing extremely well, exceptional the last couple weeks. Offensively, we've had some big days too and then (Special Teams Coordinator) Joe's (Marciano) group is capable of big days too. Right now, we're all kind of leaning on each other and we're going to need to do that."
(on if the players expect to play well every week) "Yeah, we missed a few plays in practice today. The wind's blowing pretty good and it's a tough day, but our guys get mad. That's where you want them. When you get to that point where it means that much to you every time you step on the field, then it's going to mean a lot to you on Sunday. We just need to keep that edge."
(on his relationship with Browns QB Colt McCoy) "I know him very well. His coach in college was my coach in college for four years, so we played for the same guy. I know how he was raised. I know how hard he worked and studied the game. I'm real proud of him. I think he's turned into a heck of a player. I like the energy he plays the game with. There's a lot of people in this state proud of him, so we've got our hands full with him. I know everybody here's happy to see him playing well."
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(on if he expected this much improvement in the defense this year) "I think a lot of it's certainly our offense controlling the ball helps us play good defense. We play great defense when we're watching on the sideline. That's part of it and I think we've played well. We're starting to improve. Our expectations are always high. All our goals this year were to be in the top 10 in everything. I didn't think they were unrealistic and maybe they're not."
(on if anything has surprised him about the defense this season) "Well, it's a little surprising to have two rookies starting in the front seven and as many young players we have. But they're doing their job. I think they're getting better and that gives us an opportunity to play well."
(on placing all the players in positions to succeed) "Part of putting a defense together is really finding out what the players can do and then fitting those players the things that they do well trying to get them to do well. It sounds simple. With Mario (Williams), we wanted to rush him all the time. That's what you do with that kind of guy. (Brian) Cushing, you want to get him in the middle where he can get to the football on either side and he's shown he can do that. Same thing with different players. It's not all X's and O's. It's what the players can do."
(on if OLB Brooks Reed has surprised him at all) "No, I thought after the draft, we'd have a strong front seven. Of course, losing Mario (Williams) was a setback to a certain extent, but Brooks Reed has come in and played well. He's improving as he goes and I think he's going to be a good player for us."
(on the secondary) "I think our secondary is playing tremendously well. You look at the yards per attempt. I look at that. I look at the completion percentage against us, turnovers, interceptions. We're high in all those categories. That means we're playing well in all those categories."
(on changing the mindset of the Texans being known as just a good offensive team) "We're part of the team and we want to hold up our part. Offense is good. Our special teams are playing well. We need to play well too on defense."
ILB Brian Cushing
(on what it means to have the military out at practice) "Oh, it's cool. It means a lot. You see how many people are out there and just to have the opportunity after practice to sign a couple balls, say hi, take some pictures and just give back to them for all they do. It's something special."
(on if the team's energy level is raised when the military is there) "Yeah, I think so. It's exciting. I could tell they're excited and there's a ton of people out there watching us, supporting us and like I said, just any chance to give back."
DE Antonio Smith
(on if he likes the fact that the Texans are getting a 'dirty' reputation) "The first I heard of it was last week. It's a good thing to me. I didn't know we were a nasty or a dirty team, but hey, that's a good reputation to have."
(on if he thinks the Texans would have the same 'dirty' reputation if they weren't winning) "I would think so because I've never heard of us being cocky and dirty and all the things that were said. It's just one of those hater-type things. You get haters every now and then that want to say different bad things about you."
(on if the defense has a different attitude this year) "Oh yeah, definitely a different swagger, definitely a different attitude. I can feel it. I think the town is feeling it. I checked a couple of tweets about people's reply to what was said about us being dirty. The fans love it, so might as well stick with it."
(on where the 'dirty' reputation comes from) "I think a defense is always known for being tough and rough and grimy-like. Some of the best teams in the League who people consider the best teams in the history of football have always been rough, hard-nosed tough type football teams. If you get that type of reputation, more power to you. I like it."
FB Lawrence Vickers
(on his feelings about playing his former team) "I would say I'm excited. I'm excited about it. It's a challenge. We're looking forward to going out there, playing our hard-nose football game, but at the same time, I get to see some of my buddies I missed. I spent the last five years with them, so they're excited about it. They've been texting me, telling me don't try to do all my little stuff. They know me. They know me. They know me. They know me. They've just been telling me, 'Hey man, don't try to take my head off. I'm going to knock you out.' Just little stuff playing with me, but I'm looking forward to it."
(on what his 'little stuff' is) "I'm physical. I like to drive people into the ground, talk smack and finish them. Really I don't like the people I go against until the clock is over with. They know that, but they know I know how to show love and still pound on people. I know how to do that."
(on if there's any special kick behind his play since it's Cleveland) "I would say I don't know if there's going to be any extra kick, but I'm excited about it."
(on being ready for a minute) "Yeah, I've been ready for a minute. Ever since I saw we were playing them, I was like 'Oh yeah.' That's just the nature of it. If you leave a team and however you may have departed from that team, when you get a chance to play them, you want to let them know what they're missing out on, even if I'm… I'm in a better place. I'm happy being here and I still want them to know. That's just me. That's the type of football player I am. They need to know. I need to make a statement about it and I'm going to do that."
(on if the Browns are missing him) "I don't know. My running backs say they miss me. My running backs say they miss me. I don't know if anybody else, my teammates say, 'Man, it's different without you being here.' So, I pretty much think the players miss me."
(on who's been the most outspoken in the text messages he's received from former teammates) "Mike Adams. We call Mike Adams 'Pops.' Pops is like saying he's an older guy on the team, so we call him Pops as his nickname. He sent me a text yesterday saying, 'I'm going to smash you when I see you.' I text him back, I said, 'Hey man, take it easy on me. Don't do me like that.'"
(on if he likes talking with his former teammates) "I do. I like that. It's a competitive nature, but at the same time, I have the utmost respect for all the guys over there, all the guys on defense or all the guys on offense. I have the utmost respect for them and that was just letting me know that they're going to expect me to play how I play and for me to understand that they're going to play how they play and it's going to be fun. I'll probably be smiling all day more than I ever smiled because I'm playing against some of my old teammates and at the same time, it's going to be physical."
(on being able to come back home and play for the Texans) "The fact that I got to come here, I'm the first person in Houston to be able to come home and play for the hometown team. That's big in itself. When I signed here, all the guys from Houston called and were like, 'Man, that's a chance in a lifetime. You're supposed to embrace that,' and I did. I am embracing it. It was a blessing to be here to see my kids go to school every morning, to see them wake up, to see my wife every morning. I didn't have that when I was in Cleveland. I was out there by myself. My kids were here because they go to school here. Just to see my dad and my mom be able to sit in the stands every week. That's something that means a lot to me. My dad is my own coach and then I'm getting coached by everybody. Every time they watch everything they see. When I come back after the game, I have like a million text messages. 'Oh, you just have done this on this block or you should have did that.' So, I'm getting coached all day. I'm just taking it all in. It's just letting me know people care about me."
(on Head Coach Gary Kubiak saying he is growing in the system) "I would say the same. It took me a while to get adjusted to it. I would say just how things go. I've been in one place for so long, you get accustomed to being in one place, so when you go somewhere else, you got to take that out of your memory and adjust to what's going on here. So, I just have to adjust and I think I'm doing pretty good adjusting to it."
(on if he is okay with the front office staff in Cleveland) "Absolutely, I have no hard feelings towards them. It wasn't my decision. That was a decision they made and I knew that when I signed up. Nothing is promised to you. You could play your heart out for a team and they let you go. I've seen that happen to plenty of dudes. Other guys always tell me that situation, so that was their decision and that's the decision that they got to live with, not me. I'm still playing football. I'm happy. That's all I want to do is play football."