After the Texans practiced Wednesday at the Methodist Training Center, head coach Gary Kubiak and some players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head Coach Gary KubiakOLB Whitney MercilusDE Antonio SmithQB T.J. Yates
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on whether there was anything new to report from Wednesday's practice) "Cush (ILB Brian Cushing) still didn't work, but like I said, he won't work the rest of this week. Everything else, Loni's (NT Hebron Fangupo) still not back yet; we're hoping he's back next week. Other than that, we just threw a lot at them, worked with some noise, worked some two-minute, really tried to gas them and see who could think when they were tired. I had a couple of guys who have to think a lot better, so we got some good work and we've got one more day tomorrow."
(on which players stood out under fatigue) "Right now, it's what you would think: the older guys, the guys that can handle it when it gets a little crazy out here and you do something that rattles their concentration, but I did see some young guys hold up well and I saw some take a few steps backwards. That's what we're trying to find out. We're trying to get everybody on the same page."
(on RT Rashad Butler) "He's doing well. He's getting pushed to the limit. It's going to be a great battle, but I think he's becoming a better player and a better pro because he's going every day, getting all the reps every day, but I think (T Derek) Newton's right there and I think Rashad knows that."
(on what he likes about T Derek Newton) "Well, he's learned more ball. Coming from Arkansas State, it's just his background in football wasn't as broad as some of the kids you get out of the bigger schools, so it took him a while to learn fronts, learn the game, learn the calls, all that stuff that goes with being a good player, but he's got that under control now so his talents are taking over. That's what's happening."
(on whether he expects RT Rashad Butler to take a step forward and become a full-time starter) "Oh, yeah. He's very capable of doing that, and if you remember, he played for a month for us when (LT) Duane (Brown) was out (in 2010) and played very well, and this is a great time in his career. Guys like him, journeyman type guys, work their tail off for four, five or six years and they get a chance to be a starter, and if that happens for him then he's got another six or seven years in this League. He's doing the work and we've got to help him as coaches to be as good as he can be."
(on what the OTA sessions have meant for QB T.J. Yates) "It's amazing. T.J.'s really still a young player, and all the reps he's gotten – he's our starting quarterback right now out here, and the more reps he gets doing that, the more comfortable he becomes that he can lead a team and do those things. He did it last year, so as hard as it is to have (QB) Matt (Schaub) out, it's been very valuable for T.J."
(on how rookie C Ben Jones' versatility to play center and guard) "Well, he gives us the luxury on game day if we suit seven guys and he can swing for us inside at center and guard. Those are things that you're always looking for on a roster that give you flexibility on game day, but he's a young man that has big potential. He's working with the three's right now, but he's shown some very good stuff. He's very, very smart; 49 starts in the SEC, you don't do that by accident, so he's done a good job."
(on rookie G Brandon Brooks' transition to the zone blocking system) "Well, he's very capable of doing that, so like I've said before, he may not look like some of the guys we've played with before, but he's just as athletic, so he's done a good job. He's worked with the first group some with Gump (G Antoine Caldwell), so he's been exposed to (playing) with the first group and we'll see how he responds once we get to camp."
(on some fans and media questioning the status of QB Matt Schaub) "There's nobody here questioning it, I can tell you that. He's our quarterback, he's our leader, he's played extremely well. He had a very unfortunate situation last year, getting caught in a pile. We know what Matt's capable of and what he's done when he's been on the field for us and we're expecting big things from him, so there's no questions being asked here."
(on QB Matt Schaub's fitness) "You're probably watching him as much me over there. He's on the other field. But he looks good to me. He looks like Matt. He'll work as hard as anybody and he's got a lot of ground to make up while some of these other guys take a little break here in a few weeks. He and Andre (Johnson) are going to have to stay at it."
(on rookie T Nick Mondek) "He's swimming right now. He's a two-year offensive football player. He's got all the ability to do it; we knew that. He's kind of like where (Derek) Newton was last year. I think I've probably said that 10 times, so he's swimming but he's got the ability. When we catch him up, he's going to have a chance to compete. Right now he's trying to catch up."
(on if there is a different sense of urgency among the team because of what it accomplished last year) "No. I have the same sense of urgency every year. As a matter of fact, I just told the guys right now, I took their helmets off today and gave them a bone, so to speak and they didn't respond to it. Last year's team responded to it very well. This year's team first chance wasn't very good. I told them I'll give them one more chance tomorrow or there won't be any more of those days. 2011 is over. It's 2012 and we've got a lot of work to do and our expectations as a football team stay the same all the time."
(on what a wide receiver needs to know how to do to earn time on the field with the offense) "First off, what we do offensively, I want guys to know all the spots, so that's important to me. But at the same time, if I get a talent, a young talent that it's taking him time to get there, then I've got to be smart in how I use him, to give him a chance to help the team. We're going to throw everything at everybody we've got and find out what they can handle. I don't think there's such a thing as overloading football. I learned from George Seifert, it's your job as a coach to do what they can do. That's what I've got to figure out between now and the fall. So we'll see what happens. But we've got some young guys who should be able to help us."
(on if his philosophy is to throw everything at players, knowledge-wise) "I believe that. I want to see how much a guy can handle and the only way I can find that out is to challenge him every day."
(on what he sees FB James Casey doing this season) "I kind of envision what he was doing the first month of the season for us last year, playing fullback, moving all over the place. He gives us the ability to run a one- and two-back offense when he's in there. Obviously, his load at tight end is going to pick up some more since we lost Joel (Dreessen). So we'll see how that pans out."
(on what he sees from rookie DE Jared Crick) "He's an effort player right now. We play a rotation defense. He's got an excellent chance to be a part of that rotation. He's got to get a little bigger than he has since he's been here. But I like what I see."
OLB Whitney Mercilus
(on what has jumped out to him most so far about playing at this level) "The most that has jumped out to me is basically the speed of the game. It's a little faster than what college is because in college, there are periodical breaks and whatever to look out for you. Out here, it's an hour and 15 minutes of work and you're on the move constantly, constantly, constantly. Adjusting to that and the heat waves that come in, day-by-day it fluctuates until it gets to August. That's what has stood out to me so far."
(on the size and the speed of the guys at this level) "It's what I expected. Everybody here is good. There is a reason that they've made it to this level. Everybody is strong. Everybody is fast. There is no way around it. Technique is definitely a key thing at this level."
DE Antonio Smith
(on what he gets out of OTAs) "For me, it's honing skills, the little things. I ain't out here trying to blow nobody up or anything like that but you still got to focus in on the little things that make you good."
(on what he's seen from the younger players during OTAs) "They are on fire. (Gary Kubiak) took the helmets off of them today and they're still knocking each other out. I think we're going to have a fiery bunch of rookies. These boys are ready to play. I ain't seen nothing like it since I've been in the League. They're pumping each other up. They're yelling, they're cheering. They're on point."
(on what the team needs to do to build on last year's success) "You've got to accept nothing but the Super Bowl. You've got to accept nothing but winning, whatever that takes. Throughout the season, each year is going to be different. Different things are going to happen that you're going to have to overcome. Last year it was the injuries and things like that but it's always going to be something every year. If you're going to get there, you just got to keep fighting. I think we got the team. Everything is put together, it's just that we're going to have to work hard at whatever we're lacking in to perfect so that we can be on that big Sunday night."
QB T.J. Yates
(on getting repetitions with the first team offense during OTAs) "I didn't get this chance last year and now that I got the chance to work with the ones while Matt (Schaub) out is awesome for me because I'm really making sure I make the most of these reps. You don't really come by these reps often. I got a chance to really work with the ones and get better and do things I didn't have a chance to do last offseason."