The Texans practiced Wednesday at the Methodist Training Center, and after, chairman/CEO Bob McNair, head coach Gary Kubiak and some of the players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Texans Owner Bob McNairHead Coach Gary KubiakCB Jason AllenILB Brian CushingWR Andre Johnson WR Kevin Walter
Texans Owner Bob McNair(on his impression of the team so far) "Well, they're really playing with a lot of intensity and I love the athleticism that I see, especially with these young guys, the new ones we brought in and the veterans. With (S Danieal) Manning and (CB Johnathan) Joseph, I think they've really added a lot of athleticism to the defense especially."
(on his expectations this season) "We said that our offense had done a good job for the last three years. Of course, you always want to do better, but it's been more than adequate for us to be competitive. The problem has been our defense and we had to improve our defense, so we took steps in the off-season to do that. We brought (Defensive Coordinator) Wade Phillips in, he's a big addition, and (Linebackers Coach) Reggie Herring and (Defensive Backs Coach) Vance Joseph. I think those three guys as coaches are going to be outstanding. So then in the draft, we go out there, and of course (DE) J.J. Watt and these other young guys are just doing a fantastic job. J.J., he's more than what we expected. Then we have the free agents. We tried to deal with what we perceived to be the problems and I think that we've taken care of those problems, so there's no reason why we can't go out with the expectation that every game we play in that we're going to win it."
(on his expectations for the postseason) "Well, we have to be there. It's time for us to make it happen and there's no reason why we shouldn't. That's what I fully expect."
(on how Head Coach Gary Kubiak fits in the organization) "I think Gary and I think everybody in the league recognizes that he's just done an outstanding job with the offense. Where are you going to go and get somebody than better with an offense than Gary? So, you take him and shore him up on the defensive side with (Defensive Coordinator) Wade Phillips, who's as good as anybody in the business. Now you've got both sides of the ball covered with outstanding people who are not going to be outcoached. I think we're in good shape. This is the strongest coaching staff we've had."
(on whether his patience is running out) "Well, it's time for us to make it happen. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think that's true with all of us. We're tired of talking about it and we want to see it happen. Players want to see it and coaches want to see it and that's what we expect."
(on the criticism that Texans are not a tough team) "Well, we lost a number of games at the end of the game. You ask somebody a question and they try to figure out, 'Why did they lose the games?' Well, that's his explanation. I don't think that's a good explanation. I mean, we were out of position, we misplaced some balls, we did some things we shouldn't have done. It wasn't because of the toughness, and I think what it's referring to is the physical toughness. What I'm referring to is the mental toughness. I do think we need to be mentally tougher. There's no question about it because when you get in those critical situations, you've just got to be so focused on what you're doing that there's not going to be any error."
(on what he expects from OLB Mario Williams) "I think Mario has always played hard for us. He's had a number of injuries and he doesn't complain about it, he doesn't publicize it and people tend to overlook it. He had some sports hernia injuries last year and played through it as long as he could. I think that Coach (Defensive Coordinator Wade) Phillips is putting him in a position where he has a chance to have an outstanding year. We'll how this works out, but so far he looks like he's doing a good job."
(on how he phrases his frustrations to the organization) "The same way. The exact same way. They know that. They feel the same way. We're all on the same page and we all know we have to work together to make it happen. My job is to make sure that I've given them the resources that will let them do it, and that's what I try to do in the off-season. We brought in outstanding coaches and we brought in some outstanding players and I think that we've got the players in place to make it happen. I think the coaches will, I think they'll get the performance out of them."
(on what WR Andre Johnson brings to the team) "Well, you just couldn't ask for anybody to be a better teammate than Andre because not only is he a great player but he goes out there and plays as hard or harder than anybody, he never complains, he does his job, he's willing to sacrifice and he doesn't complain about how many balls you've thrown to him. That's what you're looking for. This is a team sport and a lot of what happens depends upon the chemistry of that team. Andre helps set the right chemistry for us."
(on if he expects for the team to make this playoffs this season) "Well, I'm not even considering the other (option). It's the playoffs. That's what we expect and have no reason to believe we won't be there. We're going to do whatever we have to do to win, period. Of course, that means you're going to be in the playoffs. We're going to make those judgments as we go along, but it's all about winning and we've had adequate time to get there and we've been very close. We just need to make that determination that we're going to make it happen."
(on if he'll have to convince fans this is a different year) "No, I think most fans are pretty intelligent and they follow the team. As with anything, you sit down, if things didn't work out the way you wanted them, you sit down and say, 'What went wrong?' and then you say, 'Okay, what needs to be corrected?' Well, that's what we've done and our fans have seen that. Now, you can question our personnel choices, you can question who we've selected as coaches, but we've taken action to take care of those problem areas. Now we'll see whether the people we've selected will step up and perform and eliminate those weaknesses, and I think they will."
(on if he's concerned about injuries) "Well, we had some injuries last year that hurt us more than we anticipated, especially on defense. We had a very young secondary and when we lost (ILB) DeMeco (Ryans), all of a sudden those guys were sort of back there by themselves. Then when things went wrong, there was nobody to pick them up. They just, it was death spiral, sort of. They just kept going down, down, down and it undermines their confidence. Well, we've got some veterans back there now that can step in if somebody makes a bad play, they can step in and say, 'That's alright, forget it. That's history. Let's go to the next play'. That's what you have to do."
(on what it means for RB Arian Foster to not complain about his salary) "Well I think Arian understands that if he goes out there and performs this year, shows that he can be consistent, he'll be rewarded. That's how the game works, but you don't do it based on one season. One of the things that makes great players is consistency. The players that can go out there, they'll be on the field and you can rely on them to be there, and they're going to go out there and produce the same results year after year. That's what makes Hall of Fame players."
(on how concerned he is about ILB Brian Cushing) "He practiced some today and I think he's going to be fine. I think with (Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak) and (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips), he's not going to be a good player, he's going to be a great player. I think this year he'll have a chance to be out there for the full year and it'll make a quite a difference for him."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on how ILB Brian Cushing looked today) "It looked like he hadn't done anything in a long time. He took the individual period. We put him in a red zone period. He got worn out pretty quick. He's way behind. He missed a great deal of time last year. He's missed what we're doing so far this year. We need him. He's a great player. We're going to bring him along the right way. He's got to do his part and work his tail off to get back out here. He's got a ways to go."
(on what WR Andre Johnson means to this team) "He means everything. I was just telling the guys while ago that I was putting pressure on him. When he practices good, we practice good as an offensive football team; same thing with the quarterback. Andre goes all day, works all day. You don't find many guys that are nine-year pros and work like that. That's why he's a great player."
(on the challenges for ILB Brian Cushing to be able to play again) "I couldn't sit here and tell you because I don't know. I think every day is a new one. Today, was it conditioning or was it the knee getting sore? I've got to go in and find out. I think it's probably a combination of both. We need him out here working with this football team progressing toward getting back out on that field. Obviously today we see that we got a long ways to go."
(on the importance of ILB Brian Cushing getting right) "That's the key. You can't just come out here to be out here. You got to come out here and get yourself right, but there is a process of working yourself to being right. (ILB) DeMeco (Ryans) is going through it right now. It takes time when you're coming off of those types of things. Every day there will be a progression toward him getting that done and hopefully there were no setbacks today. Hopefully he goes in there, rehabs this afternoon and there's another step forward we take tomorrow."
(on if everything is okay with DE Antonio Smith and WR Jacoby Jones) "Jacoby's got a sore foot. He came out to practice and it was bothering him so we pulled him out. Antonio just got gassed and we had to pull him out. He was underweight this morning for some reason. When you looked at the weight chart, he had lost some weight. We've just got to keep an eye on those guys, but he's never a problem working."
(on the wide receivers) "It was part of my talk just now. I know who three of them are and after that, I'm trying to figure out what's going to be next. I told them just because you line up fourth in line or fifth in line, that doesn't mean a darn thing. You're going to have to play your way onto this football team. Right now, we've got seven rookie and first-year wide receivers that are trying to make this football team. I don't know. I couldn't tell you who's ahead of who right now. I know we're going to find out, but there's a long way to go."
(on if WR Lestar Jean has caught his attention) "Lestar Jean has caught my attention, yes. He's done some good things. He got kicked in the head today, so we'll have to see how he is, but he has done some good things."
(on WR Terrence Toliver) "Well, he was out, he missed some time when he was sick, but they're all getting a chance. To me, (WR Jeff) Maehl impressed me today. He didn't get many reps, but he made a couple plays. We have a turnover, he hustles and knocks the ball out of (OLB) Brooks' (Reed) hands. Those are things like that, that show you a guy's a player. That's one heck of a battle. That receiver deal will work itself out in the preseason."
(on OLB Brooks Reed's progress) "I feel good about it. It's a totally new position. I think his skill level is going to take over more and more because when you switch spots, it's tough, but I think he's doing a good job. He's got a lot to learn to play that position that he's playing, but he's coming along well."
(on if he's going to play the preseason games as usual) "We'll just play it as usual. I think the biggest dilemma is going into the first week. As of right now, the way I see things going, I think we'll play the preseason like we've pretty much done in the past. There could be a player or two that's not ready to go here early. We'll make that decision, but I think for the most part, we'll do it the same way."
(on why WR Kevin Walter doesn't get more respect from the fans or media) "I guarantee he gets respect from his teammates. He's just a warrior. He goes all day long. Today is a great example. I don't know if Kevin caught a ball until the last period and when he caught it, he had the biggest smile on his face. He finishes further than anybody else. Our DB coach stood back there by Vance during practice. It was interesting. He said to me a couple times, 'Boy, that guy's an impressive football player.' It's just what he stands for all the time. You get your money's worth out of Kevin Walter every day. That's the bottom line."
(on the depth behind ILB Brian Cushing) "It's very important right now. I think (ILB Darryl) Sharpton's had a very good camp. We brought the new guy in, (LB Tim) Dobbins, so we're trying to take a look at him. I think (LB) Xavier (Adibi) has had a good camp. That's very important. The depth at that position is very important."
(on the progression with ILB Brian Cushing being out) "It's been a process of a bunch of young players getting reps with the first group. With (LB) Cheta (Ozougwu), it's the same type of deal. I'm pleased up to this point of where we're at, but at the same time we got to get (ILB) DeMeco (Ryans) and Cush up to full speed. That's why we're here working."
(on whether the offense struggled or the secondary stepped up today) "I think defensively, to me, the back half of practice we showed a lot of mental and physical toughness. We got better as the day went on and it was a grinder. We were out here for a while. I thought offensively we practiced well early. I thought defensively we practiced well pretty much all day. That's what you're trying to do, trying to come together as a group. I think we're showing good progress with that group."
CB Jason Allen(on how the 3-4 defense plays to his strengths) "It plays a lot to my strengths. It gives the opportunity to be physical and the opportunity to make a lot of plays, you see the safeties out here making a bunch of plays and guys are getting their hand on the ball all across the board, so I think not only for myself but for a defensive unit we're going out and making plays."
(on the defensive backs' potential as a group) "The sky is the limit for us. I feel like if guys will just continue working and being focused each and every day of practice and doing what we're capable of doing, the sky is the limit for us."
(on his transition last year) "Well, you've got to understand that I came in a late period of the season, so I was just trying to get in where I fit in, so to speak, and knowing my role and that was my role to come in and make plays when the opportunity presented itself. Right now, it's a whole new ballgame, the slate is clean, so everybody is going out and competing. The coaches want to see who is going to make plays and who is going to compete and who is going to be mentally and physically tough."
(on why he has good ball skills) "Practice. We practice here a lot and in the past I practiced a lot as well with my pass coaches, so it's just something that comes with experience and forming good habits."
(on if he has the mindset that he is going to start) "To me, I don't see any of, 'This guy is one,' or, 'This guy is a two.' I'm just going out to compete, and at the end of the day when you're going out and competing and trying to get better, coaches will see that and notice that. The coaches will make the right decisions and put the best guys on the field, the best 11 at that."
ILB Brian Cushing(on how he felt in his first practice with the full team) "It felt good. I was able to do about two periods at pretty full speed. I hit a little bit, too, and I think the big adjustment is getting out there and interacting with the team and going full speed and seeing things again."
(on whether he's ahead or behind of where he wanted to be in his rehab) "I think the plan originally was to do a little individual (drills) Thursday, and I did two periods Wednesday, so I guess I'm ahead of it. I felt pretty good, and there was no setback, which is the most important thing, and I look forward to building upon that every day."
(on the mental effects of coming off a knee injury) "Get it behind me and get real comfortable with the defense, and on top of it, play pain-free. The biggest thing is really not having a setback and progressing every single day and just getting healthy."
(on whether he expects to play on Monday night) "That's up to the coaches right now. We haven't really discussed it. I think I'm a little bit behind right now to go into a full game. I would love to, but we'll see."
(on whether he's concerned about possibly missing time in the regular season) "No, I'm not. It's August 10. I feel real good. Just the progress that we made from last week to today already, if you asked me last week if I thought I would be practicing today, I would tell you probably not. The fact for me to come out here and do this is positive, and it's something that in a week from now, I'll even be farther ahead."
(on whether missing reps in training camp will impact his play in the regular season) "No. Not at all. I've missed eight, nine days, and that's something that I can make up. I've missed time before, I've come back and I've done alright."
(on whether his situation is complicated by having a new defensive scheme to learn) "Yeah. At a point, it's real similar to being a rookie again, as far as learning a new defense, but a lot of things are similar; and I think once you play in the NFL, football is football. You're going to learn a lot of terminology, a lot of different things, a lot of techniques and just building upon it. I've done well in the walk-throughs and the second practice coming out here today, I felt good."
(on whether he was in any pain during practice) "There's no pain. If anything, it just fatigues a little bit towards the end of my reps, but compared to last week it's light years ahead of where it is now."
(on whether there was any difficulty with specific movements) "No, it's just everything. There's not one certain movement or anything; I think it just gets a little tired. As far as any movements - jumping, cutting, running, whatever - it feels good."
(on how he felt when he first got back into team drills) "I knew it when we were doing full team drills and it was the full offense against the full defense and I knew I was going to have to buckle up and get in there. I think once I got that first hit out of the way and the first drops and everything, it felt good."
(on whether he looks at this as a comeback season) "I just want to build on top of every year, no matter what year it is or what happened in the previous year. In football, you're only as good as your last game and your last snap, and as a football player and the kind of mindset I have, I want to be a better player every single year."
(on what he's seen from some of the young linebackers) "I think they've done great. I think we've done great from top to bottom, from the secondary up through the defensive line. The only opportunity that I've had to do is just watch practice right now, and how far the guys have come along is really impressive."
(on Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring) "He's a real vocal and intense kind of guy, but he's a great coach. He's done a great job with the linebackers so far, and I think he's got these guys really to a point where I didn't think we would be yet."
(on whether he's excited to see how he fits into Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme) "Yeah, I am. There's no question about it. Playing banged up with this knee last year and now coming into a brand new scheme where I know I'm going to be really active and be 100 percent, I'm thrilled about the opportunity that this year is going to have."
WR Andre Johnson(on his injured finger) "Just taking it day-by-day, just trying to see how fast it can heal up but I've been getting treatment and stuff on it every day just trying to get it fully healed."
(on Head Coach Gary Kubiak's comments that the way he practices influences the others) "When you come out here, especially during training camp, it's not going to be perfect every day. You've just got to weather the storm with the guys out here competing. As bad as it sounds sometimes, guys are going to make a play on you, but you just want to try and make more plays than they make. That's just the way I look at it. I just come out here and just try to win every day. That's my approach, and today I think the defense got the best of us, so we'll have to come back out here tomorrow and respond at it. It was kind of that way yesterday where we kind of got the best of them but they came out and got us back, so it's just a competition thing that makes the team better."
(on if he did any reflection on his 30th birthday) "No, to be honest, I wasn't even thinking about football. I was just enjoying my family and friends. That was pretty much it."
(on if he believed he would be in the playoffs by now) "Like I said before, that's something I think about every day. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to hopefully stand up on that podium one day and hold that trophy. That's my goal."
WR Kevin Walter(on how impressed he is with WR Lestar Jean) "Oh man Lestar, yeah he's doing a good job. I think all these young guys are doing a great job for not having OTAs and not preparing like in the spring time. These guys are doing a great job. I'm very impressed."
(on if they're preparing differently for their first pre-season game) "No, not at all. Without OTAs we're still installing (game plans). Camp was on time, we're still running the same plays, we're still doing the same things we would be doing if OTAs were going on. We just have to install the game plan for New York (Jets) and execute it."
(on how impressed he is with the secondary this camp) "It's a whole new system for these guys and I think they're doing a great job. They have the technique and each day they seem to get better. It's fun to watch and it's fun to go against because it makes me better and all the other receivers better. The main thing is we're always trying to get better each day."
(on what's different about him this season) "I just feel confident. I feel good. I'm 30, but you know what, I feel young, I feel fast, I feel fresh. I feel like this is going to be my best year I've ever had in my career and that's' the way I approach things. You don't know how many balls you're going to catch and what's going to happen out there but I'll be damn ready when it comes my way."
Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on WR Jacoby Jones and RB Ben Tate's health) "Jacoby, we sent him over for x-rays here at lunchtime and haven't found out anything. As far as Ben, basically he didn't do anything this morning and we're hoping he's ready to go tomorrow so we'll see."
(on the team's injuries) "We've have a few nix this morning. Butler had a little hamstring tweak so he'll be day-to-day. We had a few guys nicked up, the young receiver Lester (Jean) got hit in the head pretty good on that one route he ran so we'll see how he is tomorrow but other than that just bumps and bruises."
(on DE Antonio Smith's health) "Yeah I forgot about him, he lost a lot of weight and actually came in this morning under weight and lost some more at practice; obviously you're going to lose some at practice and he just got gassed so we had to give him some IV's but he'll be back."
(on RB Arian Foster) "I would say Arian right now, you still won't see him for a couple of days so is there any hope towards Monday, you know the further we go the bleaker that looks from that standpoint but yet we're dealing with just a tweaked hamstring so there's no doubt that he's going to be back and we're taking it day-to-day. I'd like to think he'll be ready Monday but I'm not going to do anything crazy with him so we'll see."
(on ILB Brian Cushing) "It's a little like what we did with DeMeco (Ryans) it's just that DeMeco is a little bit further along. With DeMeco we kind of brought him along slowly and he's had his best three days the last three days. Cush basically is starting from scratch and did two periods this morning. Hopefully he improves tomorrow but hopefully every day it's a little bit more so he came out this morning feeling fine so that's a good sign."
(on QB Matt Leinart playing time Monday night against the NY Jets) "Well he's going to play a great deal obviously; preseason is his season so to speak so he will play a great deal. He's going to play against one of the top-3 defenses in the game and they're very active from that standpoint but he needs to play. Matt needs to get back out there and get in the fire so to speak and we all do but it's a big couple of weeks for Matt."