The Texans took the field at the Methodist Training Center for their first practice of training camp on Monday morning.
Because the lockout eliminated organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camps this offseason, it was the Texans' first full practice together in more than eight months.
"It was fun and exciting," wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "You can tell a lot of the guys were pumped, but it was a little rusty. We didn't have the OTAs, but it was fun. I'm excited to be out here. It's training camp, and I'm pumped to play football."
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, free agents can't practice until the start of the new league year on Thursday. That includes players who signed from other teams like cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning, but also players who re-signed with the Texans like Arian Foster and Jacoby Jones.
"That's 10 key players we had watching practice today, so it's a different dynamic I have to work with," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We've got the biggest roster we've ever had in this league, 90, but today we had 74 guys practicing. That's the least number we've ever had at practice, so there's some hoops to go through."
The Texans practiced outside for the first half of practice and inside for the second half in the morning. Kubiak met with team doctors and director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan all offseason to develop a plan to help players acclimate to the heat.
"It's been in place for two or three months," Kubiak said. "Basically, we're going to work our way to a two-hour outside practice. We were out there for about an hour and 15 minutes today. We'll do the same thing tomorrow, then we'll get to about an hour-and-a-half, a little bit further, and then I think by day five we ought to be out there for good."
The only starter who missed the morning practice because of injury was inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who had right knee surgery to repair his patella tendon on Jan. 20. Cushing watched practice in his No. 56 jersey and ran on a side field with team trainers.
"I liked what I saw today, watching (him) during the individual," Kubiak said. "He's come a long way this past week. I don't think you're going to see him in the next couple days, but I don't think he's very far away."
Cushing fully participated in the Texans' afternoon walk-through practice inside the Methodist Training Center.
"I'm feeling good," he said in the morning. "I think myself and the training staff and everyone here wanted to be just a little careful with it."
Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (Achilles), outside linebacker Connor Barwin (ankle) and running back Ben Tate (ankle) are all coming off of season-ending injuries, but all were full participants in the morning practice.
"The thing that's encouraging is that the way we're working right now, DeMeco went through the whole practice because of what we're doing," Kubiak said. "I think if we had been out there today two hours or two hours and 15 minutes full-go, we would have had to pull him off at some point.
"I think everything is structured so we can get our injured guys going, we can get used to the heat and bring our team along the right way. We've got to be careful here; (there are) a lot of dynamics going on with training camp this year."
"It's Day One. It's like the first day of school, everything. Everybody's all excited, everybody's all jacked up. This morning, I bet we had to be out here at 7:50; half the guys were out here at 7:30, 7:40. In a week, that won't be anything like that, but Day One, everybody's all jacked up, juiced up, ready to go."
- OLB Connor Barwin, on the enthusiasm surrounding the first day of practice
"It was tough. It was hot. There's no doubt about it, it's hot. But I can't make excuses. I can't complain, because my job is to come out here and play football, so that's what I'm going to do."
- Rookie DE J.J. Watt, a Wisconsin native, on how he felt in the heat