The Texans practiced Wednesday at the Methodist Training Center and after, head coach Gary Kubiak, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and some of the players answered questions from the media. Also, Titans head coach Mike Munchak and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck answered questions from the Houston media via a conference call. The following is a transcript of all those respective interviews.* *
Houston Head Coach Gary KubiakHouston Offensive Coordinator Rick DennisonOLB Connor BarwinT Duane BrownFB James CaseyILB Brian CushingTE Joel DreessenDE Tim JamisonCB Johnathan JosephWR Derrick MasonSS Glover QuinOLB Brooks ReedQB Matt SchaubRB Ben TateWR Kevin WalterDE J.J. WattT Eric Winston
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak Conference CallTennessee Titans Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck Conference Call
Head Coach Gary Kubiak(opening statement) "Let me talk about the moves here in the past day. Obviously, (Dominique) Barber went to IR. Shiloh Keo is active now. He's on the active roster, so he's available going into the game. Chris Ogbonnaya went to Cleveland. He was put on the active roster in Cleveland and so we're happy for him. It's a great opportunity for him. Javarris Williams, we brought in as a practice squad running back and Torri Williams, we brought him back to the practice squad. That's everybody."
(on the health of his team) "Nothing has really changed. Andre (Johnson) worked today but he did not practice. James (Casey) did not practice today. Matt (Schaub) took his practice today and Danieal Manning did practice today. Other than James and Andre, I think everybody was pretty much out here."
(on the difference of playing without James Casey) "It's big. We built our offense around what his capabilities are this offseason, when we knew that was the direction that we were going to go at fullback. He's doing a lot of good things and making a lot of plays for us. All of a sudden, you lose Andre and then you lose him and his versatility. It's been tough but Lawrence (Vickers) has got to step in and he's got his strengths too as a player. Derrick (Mason) has to step in offensively. It's been an adjustment period but it's something we have to handle as a group and find a way to make it work."
(on Andre Johnson's status) "I don't. I hate to not have an answer for you every day. He's running. He ran some routes and caught the ball. There is still progress to make before Andre is going to be on the field. It may be that he gets on the field and practices a little bit before the weeks out. I don't' know right now. He continues to progress and what are we: two weeks and couple of days into this thing? I think we're right on schedule. There have been no setbacks. Everything has been positive, so we'll keep going."
(on if QB Matt Schaub practiced) "Matt (Schaub) did practice. He's just sore. Like I said, he's beat up, but he did practice. We're giving (Matt) Leinart a lot more work, especially on Wednesdays and Thursdays right now. Matt (Schaub) is pushing through and we just need to get him through a week where he's not getting beat up very much, but he worked today."
(on if there is any chance that WR Andre Johnson will play this week) "I don't ever want to say no, but I think like I said before, there is still progress to be made before Andre (Johnson) is back on the field for us. He has not returned to practice yet as of right now."
(on what RB Arian Foster can do better to run the ball against eight-man fronts) "Sometimes I think he might be pressing a little bit. When you're struggling—we've struggled to run the ball the last two weeks. We knew it was going to be tough to run the ball this past week against Baltimore. He's still making up for three weeks of lost time there in the season too. He just needs to settle down and play. We've got to play good in front of him and he's got to just do his job and those things will come. He just needs to keep working. Like I said, he's about a month behind the team as far as practicing and game reps, but he will catch up and he's working very hard. He practiced good today. Arian will be fine. He just needs to stay positive."
(on the team's mindset right now) "Well it's probably as good of a practice as we've had. I don't know if it was the cool air or what, but we're very upbeat. We're upbeat in what we're doing. This is a big game. Everybody is very excited. This team, really to me, responds to when they make mistakes, they come in and get them right and go the next day. That's what it's all about. We've got a long way to go. We've got 10 weeks of football left to play. We just need to focus on being as good as we can be each week."
(on the recall between practice and games) "We talked about it. It's time to move on. When you get through with Monday and make the corrections, it's time to start thinking about Tennessee, so that's what we've done today. Anytime you make mistakes in games and you get beat, then you have to fix them. We're focused on getting better today and hopefully we'll be better on Thursday and Friday and then on Sunday."
(on what they're doing different in the fourth quarter this year compared to last year) "Well, we're great early in games this year. It's always something. Right now, that's the problem. We can be better in the red zone, but we've just got to play better in the fourth quarter."
(on running the ball better at the end of games) "Usually, when you're in a close game like that, how you run the ball late in the those games is a big factor in your success because if you're sitting there having to throw it, especially on the road against a team like Baltimore, then you're going to end up going down with the ball. I think it all goes together."
(on the new look in Tennessee) "They have a lot of the same players. Of course, Mike (Munchak) was there with Jeff (Fisher), so a lot of things are the same. They play extremely hard and are very physical. Their offense has changed quite a bit from before so we have to adjust to that. Defensively, they do have a new coordinator, but a lot of the schemes are the same. I think it's a same type of game, a very physical game with those guys."
(on if Chris Johnson looks the same on tape this year) "There is no doubt and he's had a week off. We know that and we know how dangerous he is and what he's done to us in the past. So we won't' have any problem understanding what we're fixing to go face. They're very difficult from that standpoint because he's very capable of having big, big plays on you, not only in the run game but the pass game as well. It's Wade (Phillips) and them's first time to see him, too. We're going to have to play well."
(on if this game is extra-important) "No, they're all important. I don't think you can put a thumb on any one game. You can probably look back at the end of the season and be able to do that. But right now, you've just got to make sure and play as good as you can play each week. This is the biggest one of the year because it's the next one. So we're going to have to play well."
(on the Berry kids being out at practice) "We invited them out for a couple of weeks and then finally they were able to get a chance to come out. It's good to see them. I think two of the three of them are here today."
(on entertaining the idea of having WR Andre Johnson back this week or if he's expecting him to be out) "Well, first off, I'm not going to say no. I'm not going to say it. Y'all have tried me three times here. He's got to reach the practice field before he plays in a game and he's not done that yet. Everything is going exactly the way we thought it would go. He did run today and catch balls and run routes. He just hasn't practiced yet."
(on WR Derrick Mason's progress) "He's doing good. The two days last week and then he helps us in the game. He looked good today, mentally. He can still run so he'll be able to help us. When it's all said and done, we could come out of this thing very, very strong when we get Andre (Johnson) back and we get James (Casey) back and Derrick helps us like that. We could come out stronger than ever, so we just have to stay positive and keep moving."
(on the importance of having QB Matt Schaub practice to work on his timing with WR Derrick Mason) "It's important to practice. Matt (Schaub) can play without practicing. The fact that he took reps today makes me feel like he's feeling a lot better than he did yesterday."
(on the play of DE Tim Jamison) "It was excellent. I think I said after the game, he probably would've been the Player of the Game had we won the game. His progress as a player has been exceptional. He has a big, big upside and he'll continue to play more."
(on OLB Brooks Reed) "He played very well. He can get better, but he went in there and played in a big game in a tough spot to play and played very well. He played every darn play. That's impressive for a rookie. He bounced back and practiced good today. We need him to play huge."
(on if FB James Casey is more likely to play Sunday than WR Andre Johnson) "I don't know guys. Neither one of them practiced. I can't help you. I'll meet y'all at the same place tomorrow."
Houston Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison(on his preparation for Tennessee) "Every week is a challenge and they present the challenge of being a divisional opponent. They have some of the same personnel just with a little different scheme. We know Frank Bush from being here so there is a little bit of familiarity. We put in a few plays, ran them today and hopefully they look good. We'll make some corrections tomorrow like we do every week."
(on expecting a physical game from the Titans) "Oh yeah. There's no doubt. They have good players up front. The tone seems to be set by 31 (Cortland Finnegan) on the backend. He does some great things for them. He's a great player. We'll see if we can find our cracks and see if we can make our plays and finish the game out."
(on how nice it was to have Matt Schaub out practicing today) "Well, it's always good to give him a little bit to go through the mental things. He'll be there on Sunday."
(on how much of a priority is it to protect Schaub) "We just have to do what we do, better. A couple broken plays got us I think. We all know that it's a priority to keep him standing up, whether they blitz or the just rush four. We'll keep working on that and get guys open and keep moving the chains."
(on how you get over the fourth quarter hump) "Like anything else, if you make a play or don't make a play, you can't be overconfident because you just made one. You have to go strap it up for the next one and you can't let it get you down if you don't make the play. This week is a new opportunity just like every game is a new opportunity. You correct your mistakes. You try to correct them on the field of play so that next time the opportunity presents itself, you make the play."
(on Head Coach Gary Kubiak's comment that Wednesday's practice was the team's best this year) "Well, we were spirited. I don't know; he's probably got a better feel. I'm just looking at our side and guys were in the right spot and they were working hard at it; and I think in general, we do that every day. Whether it was the best or the worst, as long as we're not making mistakes. We ended up having a couple MA's (missed assignments), but you're going to have that on Wednesday, and we'll make those changes by Friday."
(on the attitude of the team) "Everyone's positive. I don't think there's a negative guy on our team, and that's the way we need it. Everybody's working toward one goal, and we didn't get it last week, but we're going to get it this week."
(on how the rushing attack can deal with defenses overplaying the cutback lanes) "If they stay home, we should stay outside. The whole thing is based on, after working in it for a while, is going where they're not. The line and the back have to work together, and if we don't do it correctly, then we don't make the plays that we should."
(on Tennessee's defensive philosophy under new head coach Mike Munchak) "Well, I think in general their defensive philosophy, I don't know how much Coach Munchak has to do with that. I just watch what we've got up there. He's an excellent offensive line coach. They've done quite well when he's taken charge. I just see what's on film and they're doing a good job, they're stopping the run and they're in the right spots. They're a very active group, which makes it tough."
(on the addition of WR Derrick Mason) "Well, it means a lot. You can't have enough guys, especially when you're down a good player like (WR) Andre (Johnson), a really good player. So it's always good to have an extra guy, and he made a couple of catches and we'll just keep teaching him."
OLB Connor Barwin(on building off his performance last week at Baltimore) "Well, they came back and told me that that should have been a sack (on Baltimore's first drive of the game). Like, they found out today that it should have been a sack-fumble, not an incomplete pass. But yeah, we got after them a little bit, but every week needs to be better. We need to keep that pressure going. I think the one thing about last week was we got after them pretty good in the first half and it kind of didn't last into the second half, so we've got to make sure we sustain that for the whole game."
(on how the defense can prevent the opposing offense from making big plays late in the game) "I think for us, we do need to turn it up a little bit at that time in the game, and they found a play that they got on us. I think we just have to really focus on zeroing in and not letting that play hurt us twice. They got a couple runs on us in the second half of that game last week. They do it once, that's OK, but you can't let them keep doing it. You've got to make sure you zero in and stop the play."
(on the challenges that Tennessee RB Chris Johnson presents) "They paid him that money for a reason, obviously. I've played him when he's had nobody blocking for him and he's gone 80 yards. I remember my rookie year, he went 99 yards on a draw play, so the guy can make anybody look stupid and can take it all the way in a second, so I'm not really looking at three yards a carry right now."
(on the importance of this week's game for the Texans) "Yeah. I mean, we're not hiding any secrets. This is for the division right now. It's a huge game, and we need to win a game, too. We can't lose any more games, so no, I don't think it's a secret to anybody. I don't think anybody around here thinks it's not that important. I think we all understand what's at stake."
(on some games taking on greater significance than others) "Well, whatever game you're playing that week is the most important, but this is a division game and they're a half a game ahead of us right now, so that makes it that much more important."
(on how rookie OLB Brooks Reed is progressing) "Brooks (Reed) did well. Brooks did real well. I was impressed with what he did. He's just going to keep getting better. It was his first start, but he really went in there and did a good job."
T Duane Brown(on losing games after having a chance to win in the fourth quarter) "It's tough. You're looking at the past two weeks. We know we've been right there with a chance to close out games and we haven't, but we're not letting that linger around. We got to let it go. We know this is the most important game of the year, so we're just focusing on this week."
(on how they make the plays to close out games in the fourth quarter) "You just got to put it in your mind up front. You got to make the block to win. If you're a running back, you got to find the lane to get that extra first down or whatever. Quarterbacks and receivers got to pitch and catch. You can practice it all week, but you just got to know in your mind that you're going to get it done on Sunday."
(on if the team's confidence is shaken at all) "Not at all man. Like I said, we're very confident. We know we're going to go out in Tennessee and handle business this week. That's it man."
(on what the opposing teams have done the past two games to take away the running game) "I think Oakland kind of sent some blitzes that we didn't quite expect or see on film. Baltimore, their linebackers played a little differently than what we saw before. It's not so much what they did as much as what we didn't do. We just got to finish our blocks better up front. I think sometimes that the lanes are there, but our backs didn't quite see the same read. We just got to get on the same page and I think we'll get that done this week."
FB James Casey(on the importance of this week's game) "The winner will be in first place in the division. When you look at the big picture, that's all we're really trying to do is win our division and get to the playoffs, and winning your division guarantees you a spot in the playoffs regardless of what your record is. This is a pivotal game; it's a big game to take control of the division, at least put ourselves in first place and then we'll play them again at the end of the season at home. Our main focus is winning the division and getting into the playoffs, and obviously this is a huge game for us."
(on how he's feeling) "I feel good. I'm much better than what I was after the Oakland game. I thought I was done for the season when they said I tore my pec, and I got the MRI and the doc told me I wasn't done for the season. I had that whole time to think about being done for the season and then they told me I wasn't, so it was like I was born again. I'm making huge progress. I feel like I healed quick in every other injury I've had, so I'll be back very soon. It's just when you do your pec like that, you've got to use your arm when you're blocking and being the lead blocker like I am, so if I was just running and catching passes and stuff, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I've got to block and sustain blocks, so I've got to make sure I'm healthy for that."
(on when he thinks he'll play again) "I'm hoping I'll play this week. I'm trying to get back as fast as possible. The only problem with the NFL is you can't just go out there and play on Sundays; you've got to come and practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I wasn't able to go today, but hopefully I'll be able to go soon. I'm just trying to get back as fast as possible. I've been rehabbing around the clock and pushing the envelope as much as I can, and hopefully I'll be out there very soon."
ILB Brian Cushing(on what he expects from Tennessee) "It's the next game. That's the bottom line. That's the way we got to look at it. It's a conference game and it means a lot. We have to get this win on the road."
(on finishing games) "You just got to do it. You got to play four quarters. The game's never won in the first, second or third quarter and we just have to find a way to finish, play a whole game and come out on top."
(on Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs saying the Texans were very physical and the Ravens were lucky to win last week) "That's a great compliment from a great player. I think we take pride on being a physical football team. That's something we do day in and day out and we want to be. We want to establish. I think before the season, no one ever said that, so I think that means we're going in the right direction."
(on if there should be a sense of urgency for this week's game) "I think there should be a sense of urgency in every game. I think every single game, you want to go out, you want to play your best football and you want to win. Personally, I know that's the kind of mindset I want going into this game and a lot of other guys feel the same way. There is no other option. We have to win this game."
(on RB Chris Johnson not playing like he has in the past) "He hasn't really had the kind of season I think he's looking forward to, but I mean he's still the same football player. You can it on film. All his capabilities are still there. He's an explosive football player and we have to be on top of our stuff because he can break out at any moment."
TE Joel Dreessen(on if the Texans-Titans rivalry is like a street fight) "I mean there's all kinds of analogies you can use I guess, but it's a physical, physical football game is what they always turn out to be."
(on how big this week's game is) "We need a win. We need a win really bad, but you can't just go get a win. You have to earn it. You have to put the work in during the week and you definitely got to put the work in and get it done in crunch time on Sunday. We got to go earn a win is what we should say."
(on if closing out games is on everybody's mind) "Yeah, we're thinking about it. When you're sitting there halfway through the third quarter, it don't matter who's on the field, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, you have a chance to sincerely impact that game with those plays. Every play you play in the NFL is a game-winning play, whether it's the first quarter or fourth quarter. In those situations, we need to be better."
(on everybody having something to say about Titans CB Cortland Finnegan) "I don't have anything to say about him. He's feisty, physical. He's been a good football player in this League for a long time and we got to play him good."
(on what it's like going up against CB Cortland Finnegan) "I don't mess with him a whole lot because he's obviously a cover corner. He's locked up on the outside guys a lot of the time, but he's a physical football player. He's a good football player."
DE Tim Jamison(on the attention after this last game) "I'm not paying attention to that right now. I'm trying to stay focused. It's a normal day."
(on how it feels that his hard work is paying off with playing time) "I have to keep it up. That just makes me want to work even harder. To get this opportunity, it's a blessing to be here. I want to keep it up."
(on head coach Gary Kubiak saying he reminds him of a young Antonio Smith) "Antonio (Smith), he's a great leader of this team. I try to learn as much as possible from him as I can."
(on if he has a nasty streak) "When I'm on that field, it's different. It's a different animal. You have to be tough when you're out on that field. I like it."
(on what they have to do as a defense to stop Tennessee) "Well you have to stop the run. We have to stop the run and we have to finish. They're a good team, an athletic team. We're going to have to work hard."
(on if Wade Phillips has emphasized on finishing this week) "Yeah, he told us that what's in the past is in the past. We have to move on. He thinks we have a good team and we have to prove it."
CB Johnathan Joseph(on the matchup with Tennessee) "In this League, to be good, you have to go out and win on the road. We have another chance this week."
(on all his interceptions coming on the road) "It seems like that a lot. For me, you just want to capitalize on any chances you get because it's rare in this league to have a chance to make a play on the ball. When you get your chance, you want to capitalize on it because you don't know when your next opportunity will be."
(on his expectations from Matt Hasselbeck) "Just knowing Matt (Hasselbeck) from being around the League, he's a guy that is professional. He's going to get the ball out quick. He knows where he wants to go with the ball before the play is even snapped. He can read defenses, so we have to do a good job of disguising our coverages and showing him different looks. He brings a leadership mentality to that team overall from the standpoint of him being the quarterback and having 10-plus years in this league with the Seahawks and being successful at it."
(on what he expects between the matchup of these two teams) "Like any other division game. I was in Cincinnati and we played Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I'm thinking it will be something similar. The events that have gone on the past few years and we're both kind of fighting for the top spot in the division so I expect everything to be on the line this weekend."
(on the effect of Chris Johnson's big play ability on the secondary) "No team wants to give up big plays and in the end, it's up to your guys in the secondary because they are the last line of defense. So we have to be on our A-game every chance we get just because of the ability he brings of taking the ball 80-90 yards any time he touches it."
WR Derrick Mason(on how he's coming along with learning the offense) "I think I've come along fairly well. I'm picking up on things fairly quickly. Coach Larry (Kirksey) and I have spent countless hours in the meeting room just going over the offense and the rest of the guys are helping me as much as they can. Everybody's behind me wanting me to be out there, so it's been a good thing."
(on what he likes about the Texans offense) "Everything. What is it that you don't like? We got two very good backs, three actually. The fullback is great. Matt (Schaub), he's a very good quarterback. He runs his system the way it's supposed to be ran. Offensive line is great, tight ends. There's nothing that I don't like about this offense."
(on if he sees his role expanding from a slot receiver) "I don't know. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I'm going to do. I just want to help this team win football games and help this offense be productive, whether it's inside, outside, I'm going to do it. But the good thing about it is I've played inside and outside, so I feel comfortable with either one."
(on if he's comfortable enough in the offense to where he can make a difference on Sunday) "I think yeah. I made somewhat of a difference last week. I caught some first downs and did what they asked me to, so I feel this week I can play a little bit faster because some more things have been thrown my way and I feel comfortable with them. If you feel comfortable on offense, you can play a lot faster and you're not as hesitant as if you didn't know it. Last week, I was still trying to feel my way through, but this week I think I'll be a lot better."
(on what a team needs in the fourth quarter to close out the game) "Just consistency. If you're consistent through four quarters, you'll be alright. We have the guys that can make those plays in the fourth quarter. We just got to buckle down and get it done. I don't what this team has done before I got here, but what I saw against Baltimore made me very optimistic that this is a team that's going to really improve as the weeks go on and we will, come the fourth quarter, we will make those plays. I'm very confident in that."
(on what makes the Titans so tough) "They're just a tough team. They're just a nasty team in a good way and that's the way you're supposed to play football. You have to have a nastiness to you. I think the way they play defense, they play it sound. Their offense is based around their running game. They're doing a lot of things in the passing game now, but this team, regardless of what their record is, they're always going to give you a tough fight. That's why playing a Tennessee Titan team is always going to be a rough one."
SS Glover Quin(on what is at stake in Sunday's game at Tennessee) "It's early. It's a good chance to be in first place right now, but you've still got nine games left to play after this one, so it's a good chance for us to go out and win and be in first place, but it's still early."
(on whether the Texans need a win after losing three of their last four games) "I feel like every week, we need to come up with a big effort and a win. Sometimes you win them and sometimes you don't. It's the next game on the schedule, so it's the most important, and it's against a team in our division that we know pretty well, so it's going to be a good game and hopefully we can get back on track."
(on why the Texans failed to recapture the momentum in the fourth quarter at Baltimore) "We just have to make some plays. We didn't make plays and they did. That's basically the gist of the game: they made plays and we didn't."
(on the Tennessee receivers and tight ends) "It's a group that we've been playing against since I've been here, so I've been playing against them for three years in a row now. They're a good group of guys. They've got a new group of guys, really; not really new, but Kenny Britt's not there, Justin Gage, he's not there, but they've still got Nate Washington, they've got Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins is a guy that didn't play as much last year but is playing more this year. And they're using the tight end, Jared Cook, more as a receiver now, so they've got a good group of guys that fit their system and they play hard."
(on what it would mean to win this week on the road) "To get this victory on the road, and knowing that it's a division game and you want to win all your division games, especially on the road against a team like this, it would be a big win. Anytime you can win on the road, it's big, so we've got to go out and play a good game against these guys. I know they're going to be fired up and ready to play and they probably see the same thing as we see as far as in the division, it looks like right now it's us and Tennessee, so we've got to make sure we come out on top."
OLB Brooks Reed(on playing a lot in last week's game and in practice) "I'm just used to the reps at practice. Before I had the starting role, I was on every scout team rep, a lot of the starting reps, so it wasn't that bad."
(on how he's played so far) "I thought I've played pretty good, but there's still a lot of things I can improve on, fundamental things. Obviously pass rush could always have improvements."
(on the Titans) "Very physical team. You know they're going to challenge you with their tight ends and fullbacks. Obviously a great running back, so definitely have to be disciplined."
(on how much he's growing as a player) "Yeah, it's just a matter of being comfortable running the defense. I'm pretty comfortable with both positions now. They are a little different, but I'm able to switch back and forth. To be able to do that means a lot, especially when we're trying to get guys off the field and give them a little break here or there, so it definitely helps."
(on the synergy between him and the rest of the defense) "It's coming along and we're getting extra work after practice and I think that's even more important just getting the little things squared away. I know I always say fundamentals and technique, but that's so important to this defense, especially the first year running it. That definitely helps."
(on DE Antonio Smith working with him) "Yeah, him and Connor (Barwin) have kind of taken me aside and helped me after practice just doing little things."
QB Matt Schaub(on how practice went today) "Practice went well. We had good tempo. Guys are really locked in to what we're doing and our plan. We got good work in."
(on how his practice went) "I felt good. I feel ready to go. We have a few days here 'til Sunday, but things are looking good."
(on if being banged up is just part of playing quarterback) "Yeah, it's just part of playing football in general, any position this time of year. You just have to work through things and go out and play."
(on if he was limited in practice at all) "No. I feel good."
(on if practice reps with Derrick Mason helps their chemistry) "Absolutely, yeah definitely. He can really help us with what he brings to the table and his skill sets. To get him a full week of preparation, get a lot more reps with him will only help us going forward because I feel like he can really come in and help us."
(on going to Tennessee this week) "It's a tough environment to go play a team that we know really well and vice versa. They're always battles between us and so it's going to be a tough challenge but one we're looking forward to."
(on if he needs to point out big moments in the game to the huddle) "At that point, there are enough veteran guys in the huddle. Talk is overrated at that point. There is only so much you can say. You have to just go out and do it. Guys know that and it's about executing the plays we've called."
(on the Tennessee defense) "They are a physical group up front. They have a bunch of veterans in the secondary that know us very well and we know them very well. They're a challenging group and have been playing really well. We have to be on our A-game when we go up there."
(on Tennessee having former Texans coaches on both sides of the ball) "That can play into it a little bit, but you still have to go out and execute. You still have to go out and defend the plays. We can't really focus on that. We just have to go out and play."
(on the heated games from last season carryover to this season) "I don't think so. The first game was pretty heated. The second game, up there, a lot of that had cooled off so it wasn't much of an issue. It's always going to be a hard-nosed game, an emotional game. We just have to be ready to play 100 percent from start to finish."
(on what a win this week would mean) "It's a divisional game which always adds a little bit more to it. It means a little more, but it's 1/16th of the season but obviously there is a lot at stake at this point heading into Week 7 against a divisional opponent."
(on the difference a week makes for a guy like Derrick Mason) "Oh it's huge because he really only had two days of work last week coming in. Getting a game under his belt and getting the full practice reps here on a Wednesday and tomorrow, it's huge for him. It expands his role in what he can do."
(on what makes the Titans so tough) "I think it's just the mentality of the teams. They are a hard-nosed team, as are we. They are always battles. The games are always close. They come down to the fourth quarter. Usually, the last team that has the ball will determine who will win or lose the game. That's just the nature of playing against these guys."
(on if he has any concern about teams figuring out their running attack) "No. There is no concern. We just have to go on to the next one. We're not worried about what happened in the past. We just have to move on and focus on what it's going to take to beat Tennessee."
(on fans calling in claiming Schaub doesn't look confident) "I don't know who they are because those people obviously have no idea what they're talking about. They're just making comments, so I'm not worried about that."
(on what it meant having the Berry kids out at practice today) "It meant so much to have them come out. The Berry kids, I had an opportunity to go visit them a few months ago and it's such a difficult situation that their family and them are dealing with. For them to come out and have such positive energy and smiles on their faces, it really lifts us up more than we lifted them up. It's fun to have them be a part of things. They're part of our community and part of our family here in Houston. It's just great to see them come out."
RB Ben Tate(on running the ball effectively) "Everybody, it's the whole group. It takes a group thing. You can't run the ball without the linemen. Linemen make great blocks, but you got to make the right cuts, things like that, so it's everyone as a whole. We have to be on the same page."
(on if he's confident that the running game will improve) "Oh yeah, it's only two games. There's going to be games where maybe we don't pass the ball as well or run the ball as well. That's part of football. You can't get away from that and not have confidence just because. We went against two great defenses last week as well."
(on this week's game being a big game) "Big game. Got to go get it. That's it. Got to go get it."
(on if everybody's thinking about coming through during crunch time) "I wouldn't say it's crunch time, but I would definitely say this game is a must-win. I mean it's a divisional game. It's for first place. Like I said, you got to go get that W by any means necessary."
WR Kevin Walter(on losing a tough game last week and going into this week's game) "Absolutely, it's very tough. You know what, though? We're playing for first place this week. That's the way I'm looking at it. We had a heck of a day at practice and we have a lot to look forward to. These past two weeks have been very disappointing, but like I said, we're playing for first place in our division right now and it's going to be a great game."
(on how much of a buzz there is with this week's game) "Well there's a lot on the line early, absolutely. This is a division game. We're 1-0 in our division and this is the biggest game on the schedule so far. We got to go to Tennessee and play good. I keep saying the past two weeks, but the past two weeks are over. We got to move on and we started off with a great day today."
(on what's different about QB Matt Schaub this season) "He's still out there making plays. We got to do a better job as a whole offense. We all got to do a better job. Matt's (Schaub) doing a heck of a job. He's being a leader. He's making plays. We all need to do a better job."
(on how to make the big plays in the fourth quarter) "We got to realize during the game this is the time where we need to make a play. Obviously you need to make plays all game, but there's times in the game you have to go out there and you realize this is the situation. We got to get it done here or if you don't get it done, it might not work out as well as you wanted it too. I think if we all realize that, like last week in the third quarter, they made the plays when it counted and we didn't. That's the difference between winning and losing a ball game. If we get over that hump, which I know we can, it's going to be a great year."
(on the Titans) "They're playing good. They're coming off a bye week. They're going to be fresh. They're going to be flying around at home. I just watched them a little bit on film today. Their defense is still the same defense as it has been. The secondary is good. Cortland Finnegan is flying around out there and making plays, so we're going to have to get after him. We got to do a good job. We got to run the ball better and we got to convert on third down and make plays in the red zone. That's what it's going to come down to."
DE J.J. Watt(on the Berry kids) "They're great kids. Obviously, they went through a very tough situation, but we've stayed in contact and I'm just trying to provide them something to smile about and they give me something to smile about, so it's a lot of fun seeing them out there at practice like that."
(on if his teammates have told him how important it is to beat the Titans) "They haven't told me a whole lot about it, but I get the feeling. You can tell this week. Obviously it's a huge one. It's a battle for first place. It's a battle for supremacy so far in the AFC South so we're looking to go out there and get a win. Just like every week, we're going to fight hard, we're going to practice hard to go get a win."
(on how to finish games) "Play better. You just kind of find that killer instinct, that motive that says 'Hey, it's time to do it.' You score points, you stop them from scoring points. It's pretty simple. We just need to go out there and execute it."
(on DE Tim Jamison's performance last week) "It's impressive. It's awesome. Two sacks, the forced fumble, the fumble recovery, it's a performance I'm hoping to get very soon here. I need one of those type of days. It's fun to watch. It's good film to see. It couldn't have happened to a guy who works harder. He works very, very hard for it."
(on the biggest challenge in stopping Tennessee and RB Chris Johnson) "Obviously, he's a great running back. He might not have hit his stride as well as he did last year so far, but we know he has the potential to. We just have to play our game and play our assignments and we'll be fine."
T Eric Winston(on the matchup with Tennessee) "This is one of those games that is big for both teams. Obviously, it's a game that you can't say whoever wins is going to go on and win the division because there are so many more games to play. At the same time, it's definitely one that you kind of circle."
(if the game is any bigger because of what they've been through the last couple weeks) "Sure. I think anytime you hit a little bit of a skid, you have to get out of it somehow. Like I said, winning on the road is one of the best feelings in the world. Doing it in Tennessee would be tough. It would be that much sweeter to do it there."
(on being successful in the fourth quarter) "We've just got to make plays. I hate to say that it's that simple but we all have got to step up and do more. We're not quite consistent on offense I think. We kind of continually keep putting up points obviously, but even though we're in these games, we have to go out there and find a way to make a big play towards the end of the game and to kind of break one open or give us that extra push to win the game. I don't think it's a secret. I don't think it's something that you have to spend a ton of hours going over film to figure out. At some point, we have to make a big play to win a game."
(on how touch it is to stomach the losses) "They're all tough. Whether you lose by two or 20, they're all tough. It's heartbreaking in a way, but at the same time, they're all tough to swallow and you move on to the next week. The good news is that it's not a magical fix either. We're not looking around saying, 'What else can we do?' We know what we can do. We know what we need to do. Now it's just about doing it."
(on Cortland Finnegan) "He's not a player that I'm worried about too much as far as where he's at like a safety or a guy in the box. Obviously, he's a corner. He's just predominantly going to cover guys. If he comes in the box, then we'll worry about him. He's a nasty player. I don't mean being nasty as a derogatory term. I think nasty as in he gets after it. Like you said, he plays after the whistle some. I think a lot of that team plays to the whistle and after the whistle some so I'm not going to fault him for that. They're a good squad. They're a good club. They've made their changes that were there pretty seamlessly and they're playing good football."
(on what stands out with their defense) "I think they're playing physical. I think they're different than they were last year. They're not the same scheme. It's multiple fronts, more linebackers on the ball. I think in the past, it was a basic front in the sense that you knew where they were going to line up. Now that they have a different defensive coordinator and some different personnel, they're lining up and blitzing more and doing some different things. It's just a matter of getting ready for it as far as learning the fronts, learning what we're going to do and I'm learning how we're going to attack them."
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak(on what he would have said before the season if he knew he was playing for first place at this point in the season) "Exactly what I thought would happen. I don't know. I just thought that was my advantage from the beginning was the fact that, even though yes there's a lot of changes and a lot of things going on and even after the draft, I felt good about our draft class, even though at that time we hadn't signed Matt Hasselbeck yet and some of the other guys, but I think we felt we were a good team last year that kind of fell apart at the end there. I think it's similar to how the Texans started the season last year. We were 5-3, 5-2 at one point and felt we were a very good football team. It just kind of fell on hard times the second half of the season. I never thought we were real far away anyway and just felt going in if we got a couple key guys like the quarterback position being the most important, that we would have this kind of chance."
(on why the Titans are in this position to be playing for first place) "Great offensive line coach. No, but I think on offense, it's (Matt) Hasselbeck. I mean, there's no doubt about it and he probably affects the whole team, not just offense. Again, a veteran that came in and adjusted as quickly as he did to the talent level around him even after losing Kenny Britt, which was a big loss for us as we know, he did a good job holding things together I think the last couple weeks. He's probably the offensive reason and then I think (Defensive Coordinator) Jerry Gray's done a great job with the defense coming in and kind of changing their mindset. We did make personnel changes there to try to get bigger. I think Jerry's done a great job with the defense to make them very sound. They've been very steady and very consistent in a short period of time and we know they can get a lot better. They've done a nice job, just like (Defensive Coordinator) Wade's (Phillips) done there. I think it's similar to what he's done, coming in and has that defense playing very well in a short period of time. I think that and the quarterback is probably for us why we're in a good position this early in the season."
(on what's been the toughest thing for him as a first-year head coach) "First the hard part was leaving, not coaching your players anymore. That relationship you have when you coach the offensive line I think is the closest relationship a coach has in football in the NFL anyway with the O-line coach and his group. I think after doing that for so many years, stepping back from that for me and then just finding your way. All the things that are expected of a head coach, I don't think you know until you're in those shoes of how much responsibility you have other than just football. That's something I'm still learning. Game day management, how you watch the game is so different, just all those things that you think you know, but you don't know until you're the guy making those decisions."
(on if he ever talked with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews about coaching together) "Yes, but we thought it'd be in Houston. I mean, I never thought Bruce would leave Houston, number one, so I felt that if we were going to coach together… We never thought that when we played that this would ever happen, but I think once I got into coaching and I was doing it for so long, I kept thinking if I had the opportunity to come to Houston to coach at some point that that's what would probably have to happen for us to work together. When I saw him get the bug even at the high school level, for him I knew once he got a taste of it or got involved that he'd love it. We felt the only chance was if it happened there in Houston, not here because I didn't ever see him moving out of Houston."
(on the impact offensive line coach Bruce Matthews has had on his staff this season) "I think it was just an easy transition for me coaching to him coming in. The philosophy, the thinking, the schemes didn't change dramatically, just taught in a different way. He has a different style than I do. He brings obviously instant credibility to the staff, to the team and what he's accomplished as a player when they see his work ethic, how it's carried over to coaching. He can help on the special teams. He helps with the snappers, short snappers, long snappers. He's played all the positions on the offensive line. Not many people can say that, so he brings a lot of that and instant respect and not just with the guy he coaches, just kind of on the team in general, on the coaching staff and on the players."
(on what it means for him and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews to be together again) "It's hard to believe that we've had the type of relationship we've been allowed to have by playing together and being such good friends and all the things that we've been able to share together. Even when I got this job and we had talked about at some point working together, I never saw him making a decision that quickly to come here and be a part of this, so that was special to me that he was willing to do what he's doing right now, the sacrifice that he's making by leaving Houston to come here and be part of this coaching staff."
(on if he sees offensive line coach Bruce Matthews being a head coach someday) "Oh I think he's a leader of men. I think he's one of those guys that people respond to him when he stands up in the room. I've watched him speak to the offense, speak to the offensive line. He commands the room, which I think is important. People want to hear what he has to say. I think that's helped me. I think when he talks, everyone wants to hear what he has to say because they know it's going to be something that is going to help them in some way. I think when you have that, I think yes and he's got great knowledge of the game. Now is that something that he desires at some time, I don't know. I never really thought about that when I was coaching the offensive line about being in this role and I think he's kind of the same kind of guy, just enjoying the role he's in right now. If some other opportunity comes up down the road, then great."
(on what's surprised him the most about being a head coach) "For me, it initially was not only did I have to hire coaches, I had to negotiate their contracts. Everything that happened here in Nashville was unexpected when the season ended. We all thought we had another season together as a staff. We all know the turmoil that went on at the end of the year. Everything happened so quickly in February after the Super Bowl, so as far as reaching out to coaches that were available, all of a sudden even signing Bruce (Matthews) to a contract was an interesting negotiation over a hamburger trying to figure out his value and his worth. I think for me initially, it was that doing those kind of things, which I enjoy doing. Thank God I had a business degree and I had guidelines. It wasn't like I was on my own. It was just something that I was the negotiator I guess I should say. After I knew I wanted to hire a certain coach, I kind of had to jump into that role, so that was interesting. Then really for me, really every step of the way, it's been a learning experience of like I mentioned, game day management, running practices. I think just running practices and sitting there for training camp and trying to figure out, how do you plan a man's day for 18 hours?"
(on what he's learned from Jeff Fisher that's helped him the most) "I guess I watched him grow as a coach. I was with him when he started as a head coach, a young head coach. Then he turned into the guy with the longest longevity in the League, so I got to watch him grow and watch him adjust. That was probably the thing for me was watching him adjust to when changes were needed, especially early in his career when he was learning his role just like I am now. I think I watched him make changes to schedules, make changes to how he treats the players, how he handles things, why he did what he did. I think just watching him be willing to adjust and change maybe the way he initially thought of doing something that maybe there was a better way and he made the adjustment. I think probably seeing that and watching him grow into the role kind of helped me remember how some of the difficulties he probably had when he started. That was probably it for me."
(on what advantage it is to coach with a lot of guys he's known for a long time) "Well I thought it was huge. When I hired Bruce (Matthews), it wasn't the fact that me and Bruce are best friends. It was what I thought he brought to the company, what I thought he brought to the Titans first and foremost. It was a good fit for us business-wise. I've been in business with Bruce and things that we've done business together or he did not get involved in business I've gotten involved in, so I look at it as totally a business transaction with the fact that I like this guy. I know him. I trust him already. I don't have to worry about hiring a coach I didn't know or wondering can I trust him in the heat of the battle when a lot of coaches find out about their other coaches maybe six months later after things get under a little stress and things don't go your way. How does that guy respond? So I think the advantage of having guys like Bruce and like Jerry Gray and like Frank Bush and Chris Palmer, I've been around them. I've seen them handle pressure. I've seen them handle when situations didn't go so well, so that was plus, plus, plus for me for those guys. Then it was just coming down to where they a good fit coaching-wise? I already knew personality-wise how they were. I knew they were guys I could count on and guys these players could count on, so that kind of helped me in that regard, but if they weren't good coaches or good fits for the players we had here, I wouldn't have hired them."
(on how weird it was negotiating with offensive line coach Bruce Matthews) "Well I assume maybe next contract, he may get a little better at negotiating for himself. He may have to hire an agent next time, but it was interesting. It was pretty simple. It's not as hard as I'm leading it out to be. Even coaches, just like players, slot different ways when you only have so many years in the League. It's more of a slotting process for your coaches as far as if you're in the League three years, two years and there's kind of an idea of the range of what salaries guys are making. It's the same as the players. It wasn't a very difficult thing. It was just kind of an awkward thing I guess more than anything."
(on if it's too early to get wrapped up in thinking it's a divisional race) "I think we both do. I think we both realize how important a division game is, no matter when it's being played. We all know that win or lose, it doesn't mean that the other team is finished or out of the race. We know that there's a long, long way to go. We found out last year ourselves for us, we went 1-8 after the bye or whatever it was, 1-7. We know how things can change quickly in the season, but there's no doubt it's fun. I don't when the last time we had a divisional game this early that meant so much for both teams. When you're competing for first place at this point, like we said, it doesn't mean that you could be out of first place a week later. I think right now it adds the fun to it. This is what the game's all about. I'm sure (Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak) feels the same way for the Texans that you know what, there's a great opportunity for them to come in and take control of the division. This is why you play. This adds more excitement to it that it means even more than maybe just a big game against divisional opponent. I think it adds to the fun of the game."
(on if he thought he would ever be a head coach as a player and if it will be strange to come back to Houston as a head coach) "Coming back to Houston definitely will. This game, like you mentioned, is different because we're here in Nashville and I feel heck we're the Oilers here in Nashville playing. I think going to Houston, even when I was an assistant coach, when you drive into Houston and you come across 610 there and see the dome sitting there and then Reliant Stadium next to it, it's strange for me. Even though I've been back numerous times, to play the Texans as an assistant, it's different. I'm sure it will be even more so as the head coach when we come back in December for our last game of the year in Houston just because of my relationship with so many people there, the community, the fan base back then when we played, the Oiler fan base. I think it will be a lot different for a lot of us on this staff, myself and Bruce (Matthews) and Frank (Bush) and Chris Palmer and the people that have been, you know (Steve) Watterson, that have been part of the Houston Oiler history."
(on if he wonders what kind of reception he will get when he's introduced in Houston as the head coach) "I'm sure they'll be cheering me very loudly. No, they've always been great to me. I understand that you're on the other side of the ball now, so it is what it is. My years in Houston were awesome, not just as a player or the community or charity. I'm still involved in a lot of things in the Houston community with Special Olympics and the Leukemia Society, so I still come back in the offseason for a golf tournament back there. Bruce (Matthews) has a couple golf tournaments in Houston. I know business is one thing and I think our relationships are another. Houston has been awesome to me all my years, so it'll be different. That's what's going to make it a little tough actually to be back there coaching."
(on the keys to getting RB Chris Johnson going) "Well, we've been working on it. I think we thought the Cleveland game where he had 100 yards and we actually ran the ball a little bit better, we thought we kind of got over the hump there and then we played Pittsburgh and he only gets 12 carries. To me it was very hard to judge, even though he only had 50 yards or whatever he had. I still think he's in a better position than people think he's in. Yes, he's not had a great start. We are not happy with where we are in the run game. There's no doubt about that and we know if we're going to win the game this weekend or win any games or win our division, we're going to have to run the ball a lot better. It's hopefully staying in the game. The two games we lost, he had 12 carries and 13 carries. We can't afford to let that happen in this game against the Texans. We have to run the football if we're going to win, just like they have to. They know they have to get (Arian) Foster going if they're going to beat us. We're in similar situations, but their running game has obviously done better than ours has to this point and we have to improve upon it. Blocking, it's not just Chris Johnson, it's the guys in front of him, it's the way we're calling the plays. When you're last or whatever we are in rushing, it's a group effort to do that."
(on the Texans defense) "They're aggressive man. Last week, they hit that quarterback. They may have had three or four sacks, but they must have hit him a dozen times. I think they're being aggressive, attacking the line of scrimmage. (Brian) Cushing, he's rushing quite a bit. (Antonio) Smith's done a nice job. He's got 4.5 sacks. I think they're doing a nice job with their front four as far as creating a lot of pressure for the quarterback. I think the quarterbacks they've played against are aware of that. They're getting rid of the ball quicker. He's (Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips) got them playing well. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, similar to the way (Defensive Coordinator) Jerry (Gray) and I think, Wade's come in and done a great job. The defense is playing and making things happen with their front seven."
Tennessee Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck(on if he sees similarities between former Seahawks Head Coach Mike Holmgren and Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak) "Yeah, I think in a lot of ways. They're obviously different personalities and different styles and different backgrounds and that kind of thing. Munch's big thing is 'Hey, just be a pro. Be a professional. Know your job, know what to do and do it.' He's very clear about that and I think Coach Holmgren, he'd say things in a similar way. He'd say 'Be a guy your teammates can depend on.' At the heart of those two core issues, I'd say that they're pretty similar. They just drive that home all day. That was Mike's (Holmgren) thing. Be accountable to the guy next to you, grab hold of somebody before you go out, take the field, look them in the eye, the guy to your left, the guy to your right, let them know 'Hey you can count on me today.' Then with Coach Munchak, it's all over the walls here: 'Be a pro. Know your job, know what to do and do it.' It's very clear. You never wonder where they stand or wonder what they're looking for."
(on if Head Coach Mike Munchak having a long playing career has affected the way he coaches) "I think the thing that I notice the most is just that he really cares about the history and tradition of the people that have gone before him and he wants us to feel the same way. I think for me, I've enjoyed hearing the stories, learning about the history of rivalry games or what you can expect because I haven't been here. I'm new. I don't really know the division that well, but right before we get to play Pittsburgh, he's got 'Hey, the last eight times we've played these guys, here's what the difference in the game has been' or 'the last 16 games against the Cleveland Browns, here's how it went down. Here's what you can expect' and sure enough, he's been right on with all these games. I think it's been educational but also entertaining. When you know a guy knows, he's sat in the seat, he's wore the shoulder pads. That whole perspective I think is a pretty good one. He understands. You can't really fool him either. You say 'Hey, Coach, we got to take the pads off today. Guys are hurting.' He'll say 'Yeah, I know you are. So what? Like I've been there. Like suck it up. Let's go.' It's kind of good. It's good and bad. It makes it tougher in some ways, but he's done a really great job."
(on how much offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has had to do with the start he's had) "Well this is really my first introduction to Chris (Palmer). My brother had him when he was a ball boy for the Patriots. Chris was coaching quarterbacks. Then Tim (Hasselbeck) had him I think in a training camp with the New York Giants and I'm sure my dad had him somewhere along the way. But this has been my first experience. What sticks out is he's a very smart guy. He's got a lot of wisdom. He's been around football for probably like 21 years in the NFL, something like that. He's very sure of what needs to be done. I think with not having an offseason, him being really clear with what he wants for players, it's always easier when a coach is really clear. You don't have a lot of gray area. You don't have a lot of 'Well, I wonder what he's thinking now. I wonder what he wants me to do now.' He's got some things that are important to him that he wants to hang his hat on and so far we're off to a good start."
(on what has helped him settle into the offense so quickly) "We have a lot of meetings here about pass protection. It might be because (Mike) Munchak is the head coach and he's got an offensive line background, but I think we're really good at picking up blitzes and identifying and communicating. Maybe it just has to do with a little bit of the fact that we've got a veteran group. Our offensive line is a veteran group. Our backs have played a ton of games. Our tight ends have played a ton of games. I've played a bunch of games. Maybe that helps too. People have tried to come after us a little bit with the blitz and we've made them pay. I think our games have been close, but it's been plays like that that has made the difference between winning the game or losing the game. Then our defense has played really well. Any offense's friend is having a defense that's not letting people score touchdowns and our defense has done that as well."
(on how he has accounted for the loss of WR Kenny Britt) "Well, he's a great player. He's our Andre Johnson. He's our guy that we expect to carry our team in the passing game and when he went out, it was a big loss. I think I'm more used to just spreading it around anyway. I've never really had a guy that was a Pro Bowl-type guy that needed to get the ball or that kind of thing. We're just running our offense doing our thing and taking what the defense gives you and seeing how they want to play coverage and finding one-on-one matchups and spreading the ball around, tight ends, running backs, everybody. We're just kind of doing that thing and whoever gets the ball, gets the ball."
(on if the preparation for the Texans defense varies without OLB Mario Williams playing) "Well he's a great player. He's a special player, so obviously any time you have guys that can play that are difference makers, you identify them. You put a jersey on them in practice, but there's a bunch of guys. The Houston Texans have really upgraded the talent level on the defense this offseason and you see some guys that can play and they're making plays. Obviously, one of their playmakers is out, so that's a tough loss, but they still have a lot of talent."