TEAM Luncheon caps training camp

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Fans can't wait for the 2009 regular season after hearing from coach Gary Kubiak and players at the TEAM Luncheon.

The Houston Texans and their fans gathered at Hotel ZaZa Tuesday at noon for the annual TEAM Luncheon, presented by Amegy Bank.

Stand-up guys: Along with lunch, the Texans' faithful were treated to brief remarks by owner Bob McNair and head coach Gary Kubiak.

Marc Vandermeer, the radio voice of the Texans, served as master of ceremonies and drew laughs from the crowd during his interactions with Texans' players and assistant coaches.

To the delight of the fans, Vandermeer quizzed special teams coordinator Joe Marciano about the new "wedge" rule changes, got defensive coordinator Frank Bush to say he wants his squad to "blow people up," and even had offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan admit that he's swapped roles with his father, Mike. The former head coach of the Denver Broncos is now the relaxed one, while the second-year Texans' offensive coordinator is under more pressure than before.

{QUOTE}Meanwhile, after Vandermeer went back-and-forth with quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Steve Slaton, he and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans got a big laugh from the lunch crowd when they discussed Brett Favre's Monday Night Football appearance next week in Houston.

"Hopefully, he can throw one of those interceptions to me," Ryans said of Favre. "I'm tired of hearing about Favre."

Talkin' shop: After the luncheon wrapped, Kubiak met with the media in a separate conference room and addressed a number of topics, including the availability of a few players returning from injury. Defensive tackle Travis Johnson isn't likely for the Monday Night Football contest with the Vikings, while left guard Chester Pitts should see time against Minnesota.

"From what I saw these two days, if he has a good week of work, I expect him to play," Kubiak said of Pitts, who practiced the last two days after a layoff due to a shoulder injury. "Now whether he plays as much as everybody else, I don't know. But he'll play."

First-round pick Brian Cushing continues to get closer to a return, but Kubiak says not to expect the rookie back against the Vikings.

"I'm hoping that he's practicing with the team by the end of this week," Kubiak said. "I don't expect him to play this week. I think it's too soon…I think he will be ready to play next Friday."

Playoffs or bust?: Kubiak also is enthusiastic about the quality of this year's team, as opposed to when he took over before the 2006 season.

"When we got started three years ago, we were honest with where we were and how far we had to go," Kubiak said of his first squad, which was coming off a 2-14 campaign in 2005. "To get to a point now where we feel we should be a team competing for a playoff spot, that's why I came here. That's why we're working our tails off and building this football team. They should be thinking that way. If you're doing it for any other reason in this business, you're spinning your wheels."

The Texans have Wednesday off and resume practice Thursday at 11:35 a.m., in preparation for their game with Minnesota. Tickets still remain for the matchup. Click here for details.

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