EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER RICK SMITH**
What's your gut feeling on WR DeAndre (Hopkins) holding out?
"Well, I said yesterday that we're disappointed. Obviously, we want him here. I think he ought to be here—he's under contract. But he's exercising his right to express himself in the way that he's chosen. We've got a season to prepare for. When he gets back, we'll welcome him back. He's a heck of a football player and he can help our football team—and we know that."
Was WR DeAndre Hopkins holding out come as a surprise?
"I didn't expect him to hold out. It was a bit of a surprise. We're just hopeful that he's made his point and hopefully he'll be back in camp pretty soon."
Has there been any communication with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the last 24 hours?
"We're in constant communication. As you know, I've never negotiated in the media, and we're not in a negotiation. Our conversations I'll keep between us, but its positive dialogue. Like I said, he's expressed himself and we've been clear with him in respect to our position as well. Hopefully he'll be in pretty soon."
Is there any particular reason why this wouldn't be a good time to re-sign WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"There are any number of factors that go into a club's decision of when or whether or not to extend a contract. They came to us this summer and talked to us about that and we contemplated and we came to a decision. We communicated that decision to him and told him that it was a firm decision. That's the degree to which I'll express what was communicated. That was communicated. We respect DeAndre, his abilities, his contributions to our football team and his future contributions to our football team. We wanted to entertain that because they asked, and we did. We decided that this is not the right time for a number of reasons. That's our position at this point."
How long do you think WR DeAndre Hopkins' hold-out could go on for?
"You've got to ask DeAndre. He's not here. We're here. He's under contract. There isn't anything to get done other than him coming here. I will tell you this: His actions are counter-intuitive to any of the productive energy that is necessary for anything to get done. So we're here. We're working and our football team had a great day today. They've got to go to meetings tonight, and a walkthrough tonight and another good practice tomorrow. That's where our focus is."
Is WR DeAndre Hopkins being fined for not being here?
"Yeah, he has been fined every day. That is our right via the Collective Bargaining Agreement and we'll exercise that right. Like I said, I hope this doesn't drag out very long."
How excited are you to be here long-term with your new contract extension?
"Again, I'm very excited about that. I'm very thankful for that. I'm in gratitude for that. I think our organization is poised to really do some good things and I'm excited about the future."
HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
"We started off yesterday, 100 percent passed the conditioning test, so I think we've got a team in good condition, talking about the veterans. We had about 98 percent of the rookies passed it. I think were in good shape. Just kind of knocking some of the rust off here today. Some good, some bad. That's training camp. I just told the team sometimes the offense is going to win and sometimes the defense is going to win. That's the mark of a team that's competing against each other. We're just trying to go one day at a time here and go from there. I'll open it up to questions."
What is it like without WR DeAndre Hopkins or DE J.J. Watt out here?
"Look, it's the National Football League. Things happen. Whether its injuries or anything else, you just have to coach the guys that are out on the field. Once we get into our meetings and we come out here, were just really focused on coaching the guys that are out here.
How do you feel about where DE J.J. Watt is right now?
"He's progressing well. The procedure just happened a short time ago, but he's on the right track. I think all of us understand the type of work ethic and what he brings to the table every single day. He's going to work very hard to be out here as soon as he can."
Any update on the injury to T Derek Newton?
"No, not yet. I go in there and get the injury report. I don't think it was life-threatening or anything like that, so I think he'll be alright. But we'll go from there."
Will T Kendall Lamm take his place until he's back?
"It's a rotation. I would say right now with Duane (Brown) out, (Kendall) Lamm is getting a bunch of reps. You've got (Andrew) McDonald over there. You've got obviously (Chris) Clark over there getting a bunch of reps. There's guys that can play. Jeff Allen can bump out and play tackle. There's a number of different ways we could go."
Can you talk about QB Brock Osweiler's first day of practice?
"Look, like I said, he's made progress every single day he's been here. Training camp is tough. There were some really good plays out there today, some plays – for everybody, not just Brock that we need to correct and get better. But a lot of good effort. I thought the operation of the offense was decent, especially with the first group. We're just looking to string another day together tomorrow."
Where is OLB Jadeveon Clowney at right now and what are your expectations for him?
"Clowney really did a great job on the conditioning test. He's had a good offseason, been here a lot. Even during the time off when they don't have to be here, he's been around. He's working hard. Had a good day today and came out ready to go. Our expectations for every player are very high. We feel a lot of confidence in all these guys that are out here and all the different roles that they play. We have high expectations for ourselves and everybody that is out here."
What would it be like for you guys and for OLB Jadeveon Clowney to have a clean, productive year?
"Oh, certainly. Here's a guy that when he's played, he's played very well for us. He's had some injuries to deal with. He's going into his third year. I think, like I said, the key was that he had a really good offseason, so I think we are off to a good start with him this year."
Did any players stand out to you this morning?
"The thing that stands out with me with this team so far from the spring to this first practice is these guys compete. They work very hard. They communicate well with each other. There's a lot of good chemistry on this team. They came back in shape. They took a lot of pride in that conditioning test. Those are the things that stand out to me right now."
Has anyone been catching any Pokémon? What's your favorite Pokémon?
"I don't know. Pokémon? You have to catch me later on that one. I don't know what you are talking about."
How is Duane Brown coming along?
"He's doing well. He's progressing. He's in there every day working hard to get back. None of these guys - they will be back when they are ready to be back, when the doctors clear him, when the trainers clear him. Duane is working very hard to be back. I believe he will be back at some point. Don't know when that will be, but we aren't going to rush anybody back."
How is the backup quarterback competition working out? How are you dividing snaps? When will you decided who is two and who is three?
"I think it's going well. Both of those guys - I thought both of those guys practiced well today. We split the team up into two groups for certain drills that we do so that we are able to get a bunch of guys reps, obviously including them, Tom (Savage) and Brandon (Weeden). I thought that they executed well. There's no timetable on those types of things as far as who's number two, who's three, all those things. We are just into the first day right now. Those guys just need to keep trying to get better every day."
Will you talk about your rotation at defensive end?
"We have some guys upfront on that side of the ball that can be multiple guys. You saw Brandon Dunn today, he played nose and he was playing defensive end. Devon Still can do some different things in there. Vince (Wilfork) can do some different things. We play a three-down front; we play a four-down front; we play a five-man front. All of those guys, Christian Covington, can go to the nose and play defensive end. Really, with that position, it comes under the category of the more you can do and we have a lot of guys that can do some different things there."
What kind of opportunity do the young wide receivers have with DeAndre Hopkins not being here?
"Everybody that is out here when they are out here practicing they have an opportunity to get better and to do some good things. Those receivers who were out here today, they are doing a good job, they learn well, they compete well. It's a fairly young group and they really bring a lot of energy to the table and they've all got good opportunities regardless of - if you are out there practicing, you have a real good opportunity."
Has WR Jaelen Strong continued the track that he was on this off-season?
"No question. He had a very good off season. He came in here and really nailed the conditioning test and he's gotten off to a good start."
How is the competition between Nick Martin and Tony Bergstrom at center?
"Again, I think it comes down to different guys being able to do different things. The one thing about Bergstrom is he can play all three inside spots. So he can play center, he can play guard, and that is important. If you bring a certain amount of guys to gameday – let's say you bring seven offensive lineman to the game. The sixth and seventh guy, if they can be multiple performers at different spots that helps you. So Bergstom is in competition, not only in competition for center, but he's in competition for both guard spots. Nick Martin has done a good job. He's a mature rookie. I think having an older brother that's been in the pros probably helps him. He's done a real good job and is off to a good start."
Do you worry about WR DeAndre Hopkins missing reps with QB Brock Osweiler right now?
"Look, these guys that are out here today are working very hard. I'm very focused on the guys that are out here today. Again, I have a tremendous amount of respect for DeAndre Hopkins. I love coaching the guy. I think I speak for everybody here that he's a heck of a player and when he comes back he's going to be thrown right in there and that's the way it's going to go. That's the NFL. You deal with injuries. You deal with all different things and you take it one day at a time and you try to go out there and focus on coaching the players that are out there."
Have you noticed a big difference with S Andre Hal in his second year?
"Dre had a good year last year. He's a smart guy. He's in good position. He's a very coachable guy. He's become somewhat of a leader in his own right. He does a lot for us on special teams. You see him out there working the personal protector on the punt team and things like that. Dre is a guy who has really done a good job for us in all the years he's been here."
QB BROCK OSWEILER
How cool is it to be out here with your team and your offense?
"Well, more importantly, it's just exciting to be out here and playing football again. I think day one of training camp is always an exciting time of year, you know, your goals are set. The team comes together after summer break and we go to work and its fun. When you come out here and you have fans like we did today who are screaming and chanting all practice, it gives you a lot of energy and a lot of excitement and motivation to play well. It was a fun first day and I'm really happy that we got this thing started."
What did you think when you found out WR DeAndre Hopkins was not going to be here and are you talking to him and trying to get him back?
"DeAndre and I are definitely having communication amongst each other. First of all, he's a great friend and he's a great teammate, so I'm going to be there to support him, but he has to handle his business with the team and I need to focus on the guys that are here and ready to work. That's where my focus will be, but certainly I support DeAndre and whatever he has to do. that's his business between him and the team."
What did you see from WR Jaelen Strong and WR Will Fuller V and some of the young guys?
"I see a lot of talent. I see a lot of explosiveness. Will, as you guys know after the combine and his season last year, he's got some wheels on him. Both those two, along with our whole receiving core, bring a ton of talent to the field. We got some veteran guys, (WR) Cecil Shorts III, very smart player, very intuitive. So, we have a great group of guys that really enjoy coming out here and working hard and really that's what it's all about. Training camp - it's a grind and it truly is all about embracing that grind and coming out here and forgetting about the heat and working to get better every single day and that's what those guys do."
Can you talk a little bit about how you are working with the tight ends?
"I see a playmaking group. I see a group of tight ends that are hungry to produce and work extremely hard to do that. I don't know if you guys saw, but we stayed after as quarterbacks with the tight ends and we threw some extra routes and we're really working hard to incorporate those guys in the offense."
You talked a lot to us about working to get the playbook down. How's the carry over? Has the work paid off?
"The carry over, it was there. I felt extremely comfortable today. Whenever you are in a new system, and you go on summer break and come back for training camp day one, you don't know how much is really going to stick. I felt extremely comfortable out there calling the plays, hearing the plays in the helmet. We audibled a few times at the line of scrimmage. I think most importantly our communication, whether that be in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage today, was really good. And, that's what we want to have."
You mentioned the heat. What did you think about training camp in Houston on day one?
"I didn't really think it was that hot. I don't know what you guys are talking about."
Are there specific things you are trying to focus on personally or team-wise that you are working on early on?
"Yeah, every single day. Every single day there's one to probably, no more than three things that you want to get better at. The way I view it, if you are getting better at one to three things every single day throughout training camp and throughout the season, come September, November, December, that's a lot of things that you have improved your game with. That's really the focus. The focus is very small. Today I went out there and I threw an interception in a team period. It was just a read where I hung with a guy too long and lesson learned. Now I know when that play is called, if that guy doesn't win, I am going to get off it and move on in my progressions. That's one of my things today. I got better at that play and that mistake will never happen again."
What do you see from OLB Jadeveon Clowney defensively?
"Clowney has a presence when he's on the field. You know when No. 90 is out there. That goes to say for our whole defense. That's a hell of a group on that side of the ball. What excites me about our defense is, we're going to compete as an offensive unit against them every single day in training camp, which in the end is going to make us better. They have a ton of talent. Our job as an offense is to push them so they can get better as well."
How do you make sure you have chemistry by Week 1?
"I think it's all about taking a short-term approach to this job. It's not worrying about Week 1. Right now, my focus is getting inside, watching the tape from this practice, cleaning up things and getting into an offensive meeting where we can communicate and put out fires, if you will, of things that did not go right or things that weren't done properly and continue to build upon that and move forward. I think when you have a short-term approach and you take it one day at a time and you stack those days up, come September, we will be ready to go."
WR CECIL SHORTS III
Obviously there is the absence of WR DeAndre Hopkins. Is it noticeable?
"You can ask coach about that. That's my brother. We support him. That's my brother but as far as anything with D-Hop, you can ask (Head) Coach (Bill) O'Brien about that."
Did the offense get better as the day went on?
"Yeah, we got a little bit more in rhythm. We've got to be more consistent. I've got to watch film and see how it went today. But I feel like it wasn't a bad first day for the offense. It was cool."
What did you think of the younger wide receivers?
"They're fast, man. They can run. They're going to continue to get better each and every day. With the more repetitions they get, the more comfortable they get, then you'll see more and more out of them. I'm excited for them."
What do you notice about yourself?
"I'm just trying to do my job. I'm just trying to go out here, play my role and be consistent each day."
Do you have more interchangeable parts in the wide receiver group than in year's past?
"We've got so many weapons from top to bottom. It's exciting. The more weapons you've got, the more you can do on offense. It's pretty cool."
From the business side of it, do you understand what WR DeAndre Hopkins is going through?
"Anything with Hop, like I said, that's my brother and I support him, but anything with Hop, you can talk to (Head) Coach (Bill) O'Brien about that."
How's the chemistry so far with QB Brock Osweiler?
"It's going well, man. Brock's an excellent leader and he definitely leads on the field as well as in the classroom. He's a hard worker. He's probably still out here working somewhere. It's exciting to see him here."
DE J.J. WATT
"I have Justin with me. He's my little friend. He's waiting on a heart transplant. We had a Make-A-Wish earlier this year and he got to come out to training camp today. I'm very excited about it."
How cool is it to have him out here with you?
"Oh, it's great. We're like big brother-little brother almost, where we just joke around together and have some fun. He's a good kid."
Can you tell us about your surgery?
"What happened was last season I herniated a disc in my back, but it wasn't a terrible herniation so obviously I could keep playing. Throughout the offseason there would be slight flare-ups here and there but we would always get it under control, so there was nothing really bad. Right before training camp we just wanted to do a check up and see where I was at. Once the MRI came back we realized it was worse than we thought and that's when we knew, so that's why it happened so close to training camp. It's not because it's 190 degrees and I just didn't feel like going out there."
Who did the surgery?
"Dr. [Mark] Prasarn, right here in Houston. He did the surgery last week, Wednesday. Successful surgery. We took a whole bunch of crap out of my back, so now I feel good. For the first two weeks he told me really to just walk and lay down as my rehab. That's all I've been doing. But they said as soon as the two weeks is up I kind of ramp up pretty quickly. I can't put a solid start date on when I'm going to be able to play. I've never missed a game in my five years. In 2012, I missed all of training camp and didn't have a problem there. I don't see this being a problem. I don't plan on missing my first game now, but I can't promise it. I'm going to do everything I can.
How tough was it for you when they told you, you had to have surgery?
"It's tough. It's one of those phone calls you don't want to get, but it's going to be best for me in the long run. It was one of those things where I'm glad we found it because if we didn't, it could've been a whole lot worse. The fact that we're getting it taken care of now, the fact that I'm going to be healthy for the season, that's really what matters the most."
Are you worried about your body considering the injuries you've had?
"Obviously this has been the roughest year of my career. There's no question. But that's something that comes along with playing in the NFL. You're going to put your body through the ringer, you're going to go out there and play hurt. That's just the way it goes in the league. I'm doing everything I can to protect my body, and I think the older I get the more I realize that you have to be smart in the way you do things and you have to conscious of your body. But I'm always going to push myself to the limit. That's what got me where I am, so I'm going to continue to push myself to the limit. I'm just going to try to be a little smarter about it."
How do you walk that line between pushing through pain and coming back too quick?
"I think that's the thing with the back that's a little bit different than any other injury. I have to listen to the doctors a little bit more on this one because you can't just feel it out. It's your spine, so you have to be smart, which I'm doing. I'm listening to them, I'm doing everything they say. But they know I'm a guy that likes to push it, so they know however forward we can be with my recovery we're going to be, and I'm going to do whatever I can to get back on the field. As soon as the doctors tell me it's safe for me to be on the field, I'll be out there. There's nothing that hurts me more than watching practice instead of being out there."
Have you started jogging or working out?
"I jogged today a little bit. They probably weren't terribly happy to see me do that, but I felt good. That's what's crazy, is I feel good. My body feels good. It's just a matter of now listening to them and what they tell me to do. I'll do whatever they tell me to do so I know I can be healthy for the first game."
How difficult is it to be patient, given your competitiveness and wanting to get out there, but you have to be smart?
"Yeah I think I'm learning. I'm five years into this now and I've learned that if you end up missing a game or two in the short term to save yourself in the long term, that's smarter. But that's not to say I'm going to miss a game or two. I'm out here with the mindset to play Week 1 and if it comes Week 1 and they say, 'You're not ready' then I'm not ready. I'm going to listen to what the doctors say and I'm going to do everything they tell me to do. But it's my mindset to work to play for game one."
What was the surgery called?
"I don't know, some big long word. I just know that it took the herniated disc out of my back."
Are you going to help out the young guys who are out there?
"I can't be out here for long periods of time right now. I still have the stitches in so I can't really sweat it out too much out here and I can't stand for that long. As soon as I'm healthy enough to come out here and stand up, yeah I will. I'm going to be out here obviously helping with whatever I can. I think it's great for our young guys to get reps. I think we have a great D-Line and a very good D-Line coach. We have a great team and that's what's cool. We have a really good team full of great players and a lot of guys who truly enjoy being around each other. Just good chemistry and a good vibe around our building. I think we have a good squad and I'm not worried. I think they're going to do a great job."
Thoughts on WR DeAndre Hopkins not being here today?
"I mean he's doing what's best for him in his mind. Obviously I'm a player so I believe that players should do what they feel is best for them. I'm a player so I advocate for players getting paid. If I was in the front office, I'm sure my answer would be different. But I'm a player so I know that the career is short so if he feels that this is what he needs to do, then that's what he feels he needs to do."