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Texans begin official offseason workouts


As the month of March comes to a close, so does nearly four months of vacation for Texans players.

The team reported en masse to Reliant Stadium on Monday for the first day of voluntary team workouts in 2008. Although it meant an end to postseason rest, the consensus feeling in the packed Texans weight room was one of excitement for the season on the horizon.

"It's like that first day of school-type atmosphere," said running back Ahman Green, fresh off a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "You've got new guys coming in and you're going to miss the old guys that left or that are gone now, but you just bring on the new year now."

Green is especially eager for the future, considering the knee injury that cut short his first season in a Texans uniform in 2007. The four-time Pro Bowl selection said that aside from his recent trip, he spent most of his offseason days feverishly working out from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

"(It's) feeling good," Green said of his knee. "I've been running, jumping, skipping, sprinting, lifting weights, all type of stuff since January. Even when I started, it didn't bother me, so it was just a matter of just getting it rested up.

"I hated to miss the last part of the season, because we finished up great in terms of our organization... Most teams finishing off an 8-8 season come out pretty good out of the blocks the next year, so we want to do the same thing."

Meet & greetGeneral manager Rick Smith has brought in seven new players during the free agency period to help the Texans make good on those ambitions. The voluntary (though highly encouraged) workout sessions provide a critical opportunity for veterans to become acquainted with new teammates.

"It's definitely something I look forward to," said linebacker Morlon Greenwood, who joined the Texans as a free agent in 2005. "I think it gives free agents that are on the team for the first time (the chance) to learn the system, to get to know their teammates...That's a big thing as far as getting the chemistry going, and I think that's very important."

{QUOTE}Second-year defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who spearheaded an expansive week-long relief effort in his native Nigeria this offseason, welcomed the return of his close friend and mentor N.D. Kalu. The veteran Kalu recently signed a one-year deal to play another season in Houston, and Okoye said he would like to dedicate the upcoming season to his fellow Nigerian defensive lineman.

Building off of the rest afforded by the past few months, the 20-year old Okoye said he is looking to improve his stamina, motor and ability to play every snap after admittedly being worn down at times during a promising rookie season.

"My offseason was well-needed – very, very well-needed," he said. "As a rookie, the year is so long, your first year, when you're done you just want to take a step back and relax and really not do any physical activity. You might get into some mental stuff, but physically you don't want to do much. So that's what I did, and we're back at it now."

Back to workA player who has seen a few more offseason workouts, veteran tackle Ephraim Salaam, described the unofficial start of his 11th NFL season as a bittersweet experience after a grueling workout session with Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley.

"I look forward to coming back and working with Dan because he's one of the best in the business, but like how I am right now after the workout, I want to just slap him down to the ground because he's gotten every ounce of energy I had stored up all gone now. That's why I'm about to faint and pass out on this camera right now," he said.

"But it's good to shock your body and get your body back into fighting shape. I'm a machine. I just needed some oil and a tune-up."

Salaam wasn't shy about the newfound celebrity he and guard Chester Pitts have enjoyed this offseason since their NFL commercial aired during the Super Bowl. Following the exposure from the commercial, Salaam sand Pitts have made several appearances on the popular Ellen DeGeneres Show, including episodes at the Grammys and at Universal Studios Florida.

"Well, that's not really new. I've been a celebrity for quite some time," Salaam said with a laugh. "Ever since the Super Bowl commercial, it's been a heck of a ride. It was a great story, people liked it, and I've just been soaking it all up, me and my cohort. We've been having fun traveling, doing shows. It's been great."

One goal in mindComedy aside, Salaam and his teammates are approaching the workouts with a serious intensity as they strive to improve on their 8-8 season of a year ago.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson said that players understand the importance of the daily sessions for getting in shape and preventing injuries during the regular season.

"Everybody's excited," Johnson said. "Everyone's glad to see everybody, because in the offseason everybody pretty much goes their separate ways, so you're just glad to be back around your teammates, and today's the first day to getting ready for the season.

"Everyone always asks me, 'Do I have a goal or do I set any personal goals?' And I only have one goal and that's getting to the playoffs. I've been here going on my sixth season now and it's time for some great things to happen around here, and I just want to be a part of it. So I'm glad to be here and I'm excited about this season."

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