Release the hounds

Gary Walker's favorite part of training camp? That's easy.

"Breaking camp," the Texans' defensive end said Monday.


That was the general consensus as the Texans prepared to pack up their hotel rooms and sleep in their own beds tonight after 26 practices and 24 nights away from home. No fireworks were set off or parties planned. But a collective sigh of relief was audible.

"Training camp is the time you grind and get yourself ready," running back Domanick Davis said. "There's no celebrating today. You just go home. That's good enough for me."

Now, let's face it, training camp isn't exactly what is used to be, especially for the Texans and the 10 other NFL teams who choose to train at home. No long treks to far away colleges, where the dorms are cramped, there's no cable and the nearest sign of civilization is a Waffle House or Dairy Queen.

But it's still two-a-days. It's still tiring. And it's still camp.

Gone are the days where training camp can be utilized the get back in shape. The competition is tougher, both mentally and physically. And after a while, the "Groundhog Day" mentality starts to set in. It doesn't really matter what day it is during camp. You just know you're going to be tired. And cranky.

"Nothing is good about camp," tight end Billy Miller said. "I can't think of anything that's good about camp. Camp is just camp, it's not the fun camp you went to when you were a little boy. It's non-stop work and football."

Miller even said he spent some nights on the floor because his bed is uncomfortable. Walker thinks that's just the camp mentality rearing its ugly head.

"I don't care where you go for camp, people are going to complain about something," he said. "They did a real good job taking care of us. Heck, some of their beds at home aren't as good as the beds over there.

"It's just camp."

Now the Texans return to their normal game-week schedule in preparation for Friday's game at Denver. The calendar is inching towards the regular-season opener.

"I think the guys look forward to that," head coach Dom Capers said after Monday's practice. "They checked out of the hotel tonight so we've broken camp officially. They know that anytime you start getting on this type of schedule you're getting close to playing regular games.

"We've got nine practices to go until we play, so we can't afford to have a bad practice we have to take advantage of every one of these."

Odds are Capers would have felt better about this year's camp if you had asked him before the Texans departed for Pittsburgh. One bad performance doesn't erase three weeks of practice, but Capers also wants his players to remember the 38-3 loss.

"I think we've had a good camp," he said. "I think the two performances we've had, we've had one good one we've had one poor one. For the most part I think we've gotten the things done that we want to get done and we've stayed relatively healthy. These last two weeks we've got an awful lot of work to do based off our performance Saturday night."

The Texans know that. But at least now they can look forward to going home after their work at Reliant Stadium. Although at home, you're responsible for your own wake-up call.

"I'm going to have get one," defensive end Robaire Smith said. "You know you have to get up at six o'clock in the morning so you might as well still be at the hotel."

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