It's never hard for Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley to get out of bed in the morning. Riley is typically one of the first people in Reliant Stadium and Monday was no different as the Texans kicked off their annual offseason strength and conditioning program.
While Riley never has trouble making the drive to the stadium, today it was even easier.
"Yeah, it's a little easier because you know everybody will be back today," Riley said. "We've had many guys training, literally since January, so it's not a sudden change in lifestyle for (assistant strength and conditioning coach) Ray (Wright), (strength and conditioning assistant) Virgil (Campbell), (strength and conditioning assistant) Everett (Coleman) and myself, but we get to see all the players together for the first time.
"Other than opening day and training camp, it's one of the more exciting days for me personally."
By early afternoon, most players had made their way through the weight room and Riley and his staff were compiling stats from the first day's workout.
"We chart every single rep of every exercise," Riley says.
One of the first players to arrive Monday was one that probably needed a little help getting around the Texans' spacious gym.
Quarterback Matt Schaub wasted no time getting his workout started and was breaking a sweat before many of the other players arrived Monday. Schaub came to the Texans with a reputation as a good leader. His early arrival Monday is an early indication that he comes as advertised, though Riley isn't ready to anoint him the next Joe Montana just yet.
"Matt was here bright and early," Riley said. "Kris Brown was actually here at 5:30 a.m. so he was here a little before Matt, but Matt was one of the first players here.
"To be here and be here early says something. That doesn't necessarily mean that someone coming here early is working harder than someone who comes a little later though, but it is an indication of good work habits."
One of the "later" arrivals was running back Ahman Green. Green and Riley passed in the hallway and the coach made sure the four-time Pro Bowl selection knew where he was going.
After Green was squared away, Riley welcomed him and asked him for a small favor.
"Ahman, I've been to four Super Bowls, can you get me to one more?"
Green smiled and, noting his recent contract ,said, "I've got four chances, so hopefully we'll get you to at least one."
While Green and his teammates came to Reliant Stadium Monday on their own accord, make no mistake, while the workouts are optional by the letter of the law, the players are still expected to be here.
"Coach (Gary) Kubiak expects everyone to be here and participate unless there are extenuating circumstances," Riley said. "Our players want to be here, but we were 6-10 and we need to get better, including myself, and one of those areas is preparing in the offseason."
Every player working out Monday seemed to be in good spirits. Tight end Owen Daniels said his shoulder injury was almost healed and wide receiver Andre Johnson caught teammates up on his trip to Hawaii for his second Pro Bowl selection.
"I don't think there are many players that don't want to be here and if they don't, then we have to find the type of players that do want to be here," Riley said.
Players are supposed to do four weightlifting workouts a week, two for the upper body and two for the lower body. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, there are supervised team runs, so many players choose to do their leg workouts following one of those workouts.
While the foundation for the 2007 Texans began to be laid Monday, Riley was quick to point out that one day does not make a season.
"It doesn't matter what they do today if they're not going to work their hardest when they're going to be their strongest and that would be the first day of training camp until the last day of the season and that's a five- to sixth-month period," Riley said.
"So if a guy is willing to work hard today and he isn't working hard during the season, it really doesn't matter. We emphasize strength maintenance here, that's our top priority."
This season will be Riley's 26th in the NFL. He's adjusted to newer equipment, better players and the development of supplements.
He credits his longevity in the league to his ability to listen to his players.
"I've learned a lot from listening to players," Riley said. "Instead of me telling them what they're going to do, I listen to players. I've used some of our hardest working players as a sounding board and we've gotten better because of it.
"The range between your hardest working players and your, you hate saying least working hard because they all work hard, but the gap between those two groups has to be small, because if you have players that are lazy or don't work very hard, they have to overcome poor work habits with a lot of talent."
Since elite talent is hard to find in the NFL, Riley leaves nothing to chance.
"Our standards are high," Riley said. "I'm proud of how hard our players work."