The Texans played almost five full quarters on Sunday in their overtime victory against Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium. Less than four full days later, they'll play again in Detroit at 11:30 a.m. CT on Thanksgiving Day.
It's the first Thanksgiving game in franchise history, and players are uniformly excited for the spotlight. But the short week presents challenges from a preparation standpoint.
"We played five quarters of football and had 92 plays of offense," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Monday night. "That makes it very difficult on the guys. There is a carrot at the end of the week; as hard as it is, you get a chance to give guys a break after the game and stuff. You've got a big period between then and your next game. I think that kind of gets them excited, but I've got to be smart with them and get them to Thursday right now."
The Texans have a 10-day gap between Thursday's game and their next one, a road game at Tennessee on Dec. 2. Players will get time off after the game to spend time with their families, essentially getting another bye week four weeks after they were off in Week 7.
Kubiak, who played in the NFL for nine seasons, is keeping things light this week. The practice work will be mostly mental instead of physical. Players were treated to steak and lobster for dinner at Reliant Stadium on Monday after their evening walk-through. Kubiak said it was an emphasis to "treat them good" to help players keep fresh.
"Nothing is more tough than coming off a Sunday and then a Thursday (game)," Kubiak said. "It is tough, but I think that's what builds the character of your team. First off, you be honest with them as a coach: 'I know you're beat to heck and you're worn out and can barely move tonight (Monday).' But we got them going.
"It's tough duty, but we have to rise to the occasion. We're looking forward to it. We had a good evening (Monday), and we've got to step forward tomorrow again."
In a typical week, the Texans spend Monday reviewing game film from Sunday and addressing mistakes to be corrected and adjustments to be made. Tuesday is typically a day off where players often spend time in the community.
The short week gives injured players less time to recover and the team less opportunity to gauge their status. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph, nose tackle Shaun Cody, running back Ben Tate, inside linebacker Tim Dobbins and wide receiver DeVier Posey all likely will work out Thursday morning to determine if they can play. For the rest of the team, it's business as usual – just in very abbreviated fashion.
"It's kind of difficult as far as everything coming at you in a condensed package," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "It's cut like plain vanilla, but still, it's a lot at one time and coaches are just trying to get it to you as fast as they can so that you have more time to chew it over before game time. It can be hard, but I think if you focus, we'll be just fine."