HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
Can you talk about what you've been doing with the rookies since they got here?
"They arrived here basically Thursday afternoon and we started to meet with them right away. It was kind of individually. They had to take physicals and things like that but then we started to meet with them. Then, at 7 o'clock on Thursday night we had a squad meeting and we started to talk about the weekend and the expectations of this organization and things like that. Then, had an offense/defense meeting that night. It's been a lot of meetings. Woke them up early yesterday. They came in. It's a very attentive group. We meet. We walk-through. That's what we're coming from right now. It's the same schedule today as it was yesterday. The only difference is today they'll get out of here a little early so they can go to J.J.'s (Watt) softball game over there at Minute Maid. Hopefully, they can fit those guys in because I heard it's sold out. They're going to go over there. So, it's meetings, it's walk-through, it's practice. Everything is brand new to them. Everything from the rooms in the building – where's my meeting room, where do I get taped, to how we practice, where the practice fields are. Everything is brand new. As quickly as they can get adjusted to all of the little things, they'll be in good shape. They're a competitive group. We're really enjoying working with them."
What are your first impressions of QB Deshaun Watson?
"He's a hardworking guy. He pays attention in the meetings. Competitive guy. We've had a lot of fun working with him."
What are your hopes from second-round draft pick ILB Zack Cunningham?
"We saw a guy at Vanderbilt that was a productive guy, but with all due respect to Vanderbilt, this is a whole different ball game. So, he's coming in here. He's learning our system. He's a guy that's athletic. He's a hardworking guy. He needs to spend a lot of time in the weight room. He's got a long way to go, but we see, obviously, potential there. Potential is a dangerous word. He needs to come in here and go to work just like every other rookie. He's a good kid – hardworking guy. Pays attention in the meetings and we've enjoyed working with him the last 48 hours or whatever it is."
Where do you start when it comes to preparing QB Deshaun Watson mentally?
"It's a great question. We start him with what we call the basic information section of the playbook. How do we huddle? Where do you go in the huddle? If the Houston Texans are on this sideline, you're on this side of the huddle. If you're on this sideline, you're on this side of the huddle. I mean, it's that simple. It's that detailed. Then it goes to how we call a play. What's the verbiage of a play call? Obviously, our verbiage is a lot different than what he had at Clemson, and that's the same for every rookie that is here relative to their college. It's like learning a new language. That's the way that I describe it to people that aren't coaches and players. It's learning a new language. It's having to repeat it over and over again and then understand what it means, what each part of the play means to everybody in the huddle and then it's what is the read of this play? Where are we directing this run? What type of defense are they in? I mean, it's just like on and on and on. It's just so much information that we throw at these guys, especially the quarterback position. But, as long as you keep plowing ahead and you take it one step at a time and you stick with it, you'll learn it. But you have to repeat it, you have to stick with it, you have to study, and like I said, that's any position."
What do you like about RB D'Onta Foreman?
"We saw a guy there that has good size, very productive last year at Texas. Inside runner, outside runner, has decent hands out of the backfield. We saw some good things there. Got to get in good shape. The shape of an NFL football player – the guys that have been with us in our offseason program for four or five weeks right now, they're in way better shape than these guys. Because these guys have been getting ready for – like I tell them, it's not their fault. It's not your fault that you're not in great shape. You've been getting ready for the combine, the broad jump, the 40-yard dash, the long jump, the steeplechase, whatever it is that you're doing in the combine. So, they're not in football condition and that's not just D'Onta, but that's everybody. So, they're going to work hard to get into football condition and they'll see that on Monday when we incorporate them in with the veterans how much better shape the veterans are in."
What are you telling QB Deshaun Watson about your expectations of him at this point?
"Show up every day and get better. Simple as that. Every single day, improve on the things that you need to improve on every single day. There's always going to be something, whether it's a play call or footwork or some type of decision at the line of scrimmage, that maybe you made a mistake on the day before or answered a question wrong in the meeting or whatever it is, let's fix that. Let's get better every single day. It's a progress league. It's about improvement every single day."
Does the process begin now for QB Deshaun Watson transitioning to an NFL offense or do you wait until the veterans are around?
"The process begins right away. I mean, there's no doubt. Now, the one interesting part about that question is I would tell you that he's going to learn from us. I mean, we've already probably had several hours of meetings with these quarterbacks and really all the position players. But, when the veterans get here, it's also good to visually see how it's done. You know, we're running routes right now that's the first time these guys have seen these routes, whether it's a quarterback, a receiver, a tight end or a back. We're running runs right now that they never heard of, that maybe they never ran. So, on Monday when we're doing these things, they'll be third team or whatever it is – all those guys – and they can observe how it's supposed to be done. That goes a long way toward learning, too. But, in reference to the beginning of your question, we're teaching them right away of what we want to do."
Can you talk about T Derek Newton and his progress?
"It's a tough injury. It's injuries. It's both knees. It's very difficult to come back from that right away. It's not something that he can't come back from, but it's very difficult to come back from that within a year – it's that type of an injury. It takes a ton of rehab. He's been in here every single day. Every single day he has been in here early, late. So, I would never bet against him coming back, but the chances of him obviously coming back this year were slim. So, it's good for us to be able to take care of him, continue to rehab him and get him ready for the future."
With Oregon State being on the quarter system, can CB Treston Decoud do this minicamp but then you can't have him back the rest of the spring?
"It's a tough deal. That's the way it looks right now, but I think we're still looking at that as far as what he's doing from his end of things – online classes and things like that. So, I'm going to hold on giving you a final answer on that."
What are you starting to learn about QB Deshaun Watson now that he's in the building?
"Well, I'm having a lot of fun. I'm loving coaching all these guys. I've been probably doing more coaching myself in the last four or five weeks than I've done in the three years that I've been here. I'm really involved with the offense and I'm having a lot of fun. I think that relative to this rookie camp right here, whether it's the quarterback who I'm spending a lot of time with or any other position, you have to figure out the ways that they learn, and I think that the majority of guys these days, they're visual learners. So, if you think you're going to sit in a meeting room for four hours and they're going to pick up your offense, I think you're mistaken. I think you have to get out on the field, jog through it, walk through it, talk about it, look at it, see somebody else do it. You have to be visual with a lot of these guys and I think that's a big way and that's something I've learned over the last four or five weeks that's really helped us. We're out there, we're doing it and you can see that in our camp. Hopefully we'll be better today."
Will you continue to be as involved as you have been with the rookies when the rest of the team gets here?
"I'm very involved and I will be very involved. What I mean by that is, being a guy that has taken a lot of pride in – and I've told you guys this – we have to get better offensively. That's what I mean. So, we're all working hard together. We have a great staff. We're working hard together. We're in there together coaching. Staff meetings together. Really spending a lot of time trying to figure out what we can do to be better. Our players have shown up here in great shape. They're working hard. We've got a really good group of guys we're working with. We've added a good mix of guys now with this rookie group and I think I'm just having a lot of fun."
Do you have empathy for what happened with the Rockets and Head Coach Mike D'Antoni the other night?
"Yeah, it's tough. First of all, Mike D'Antoni, I don't know him personally but my wife actually met his wife at the dentist office a couple weeks ago. They're great people. Mike D'Antoni is a great coach, great basketball coach. They had an unbelievable season and in the end it just didn't work out for them. Whatever happened, happened. I'm not a basketball coach but I know that they have a really good future. They have a great roster. I don't think you ever get over losses like that. I'm not going to speak for Mike, but I'll just speak for myself. Those types of losses always stick with you but you have to learn from them, you have to build on them. I know he knows that. He's been doing it a long time – a lot longer than I have. That's all a part of sports. You have to be able to pick yourself up after a loss and get back to work and figure out what to do better."
Do other teams performing well in the city of Houston give you more energy to perform well?
"I mean, I think there's no doubt about that. Again, I try to just speak for myself. I mean, I love watching the Rockets, the Astros. I love where we're at right now, what we're doing, how hard our guys are working. It's a great pro sports town. It has great tradition here and we're all striving to win a championship. You look at the Astros and they have an unbelievably young team. I'm not trying to put pressure on them but they have a fun team to watch. A lot of great baseball players. Watching the season the Rockets had with James Harden and the rest of that crew, the role players, how well they played. I know it didn't end great for them but that was a fun team to watch and now we've got to do our part for the city. We understand that. We take a lot of pride in representing the city of Houston."
Will you be a better play caller this year since you have more experience?
"I surely hope so. I think we have to be better. I think it starts and ends with the head coach when it comes to how we play on the field. We have to do a better job offensively. We have to keep our level of defensive football. We can't rest on our laurels on defense. We have to keep charging ahead on defense. We have to be way better on special teams. We all know that. But, what have I learned? I'm going to kind of keep that to myself. I appreciate the question, but I've learned a lot and hopefully everybody will be able to see that in the fall as far as what we're doing and how we're playing as a team."
You said that QB Tom Savage is the starting quarterback, but how to you explain to QB Deshaun Watson the importance of competing right away?
"I want everybody thinking that. I mean, I don't have to say that to Deshaun Watson. He's a very competitive guy. I mean, look what he did in college. The guy has only lost five or six games since he started playing high school football as a starting quarterback. So, I want everybody to compete. When you're in this environment – I always say this to some of the guys – if you followed us around for a week, I'm telling you right now it's probably one of the most competitive environments. I'd speak for any NFL team. NFL football is just an extremely competitive environment. Every minute of the day when they walk in the building here, it's a competition. Whether it's in a meeting, which is lower-key competition because we're not physical in the meeting, obviously, or it's in a walk-through or a jog-through or out at practice, it's all about competition. I don't think I need to say that to anybody in here."
LB ZACH CUNNINGHAMWhat have you learned the first couple days of rookie minicamp?
"Just pretty much coming together and the team concepts. Getting to start getting to know the people around you, getting to know the players that you're coming in with and the players that are going to be on the roster."
What are some of your goals in terms of getting stronger in the weight room?
"Definitely one of my biggest goals would be, like they talked about, living in the weight room. That's definitely what I'm looking forward to."
What weight did you report at and what are you hoping to be?
"I came in at around 236. I don't really have an ideal weight but somewhere within that range."
What can you bring to the table for the Texans?
"Definitely coming in and being able to lead and being able to make plays, being able to make an impact."
What do you hope to learn from veteran ILBs Brian Cushing?
"As far as coming in, he's a veteran so he definitely has a lot to teach me about how things are run in the NFL and how to take coaching and how to adjust to the next level."
Are you motivated by the fact you weren't drafted in the first round?
"Right now all I'm focused on is coming in and doing the best I can with the opportunity that I was given."
Can you talk about what it was like when Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick worked you out before the draft?
"Like I said, I'm really just focused now on what's going on around me now, but that was definitely a surreal time."
T JULIÉN DAVENPORT
What did you think about your name being spelled wrong your whole college career?
"It's nothing I really gave too much emphasis to. I'm more focused on football. I thought maybe it was a computer error. I know Macs can put the accent (but) some computers can't, so maybe that's what it was. I just play ball. I'm not worried about my name."
How did you say you pronounce it?
Is the speed of the game coming from Bucknell to the NFL going to be the biggest adjustment for you?
"Definitely. I've been working on it. Being here in practice, I'm getting used to it and I'm just continuing to develop."
Are you looking forward to going against DE J.J. Watt, DE Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus in practice?
"I'm looking forward to going against anybody that lines up against me and continuing to develop my game and be the best person I can be."
What are some of your strengths that will help you make this transition?
"I don't really deal too much in the strengths and weaknesses stuff because every area of your game can be focused on and improved, so pretty much everything needs improvement and will get improved."
Most young guys feel like they have something to prove. Do you feel that way?
"Definitely. Anywhere I go I'm real competitive. I want to be the best. I want to go against the best and I'm always carrying this chip on my shoulder. I'm always ready to compete."
What did you think about being the first player from Bucknell drafted in about 60 years?
"Definitely a big honor but now I'm a Houston Texan and it's time to work toward attaining these goals and getting that ring."
What did you think about Offensive Line Coach Mike Devlin when you spent time with him?
"Great coach. We clicked very well. Had a good relationship in just our meeting room and when we went out to dinner with each other. Now it's just continuing, so we have that good relationship and he's teaching me very well."
T Duane Brown has the left side locked down. If you're playing the right side, what will that transition be like?
"You definitely have to be able to transition. Just with me playing left, it's definitely new but I've been working on it and I'm progressing very, very good."
What do you think you can learn from a Pro Bowl player like T Duane Brown?
"I mean, you can learn everything. Pick his brain, see his knowledge, see his technique, his game. They're there to help and I'm here to get the knowledge from them."
Is it a little overwhelming going through that playbook?
"I wouldn't say overwhelming. Not that hard for me. I'm a pretty smart guy. I can group everything together and make it pretty easy for me."
Is there anybody you grew up watching and patterning your game after?
"I'm always watching the tackle position in any game of football I'm watching. But just in the past recent years I've been watching the likes of Duane Brown, Trent Williams, Joe Thomas, Tyron Smith. You name it. Any tackle I'm seeing, anything I can add to my game, anything that may help me."
CB TRESTON DECOUDWhat's it been like for you since you arrived in Houston?
"It's been awesome. I'm glad to be a Texan. I'm just working to make the team and work hard."
What advantage does your size give you at cornerback?
"Just using my length. But it always starts with footwork so I'm just trying to work on my footwork and do what I can to help the team win."
Do you expect to work at safety a little bit?
"Wherever they want me. I haven't worked any of that yet, but if they want me there, I guess so."
What has your journey to the NFL been like?
"Just blessed to be here. God put me here for a reason so I'm just going to use my talent and hopefully I can help the team win."
Do you model your style of play after any NFL defensive backs?
"Not really. I pride myself on being myself so I'm just trying to be myself and see where I can go with that."
Is there anything you want to accomplish in the next couple of days?
"Just show my asset to the team and just work hard."
Does what you had to do to get to this point in your career make you appreciate it more?
"Yeah, definitely. I could definitely be cutting grass or something else so I appreciate being here."
What are some of your goals as a rookie?
"Just to make the team and help the team win in every aspect."
Have any of the veteran secondary players on the Texans reached out to you yet?
"Not yet. But I see them in the locker room and I spoke to them and introduced myself and they introduced themselves. So just introducing ourselves right now."
How much has the speed you faced in the Pac-12 helped prepare you for the NFL?
"Yeah, the Pac-12 is the Pac-12. They have speedy, tall and short guys. But this is the NFL, everybody's fast. Just have to get acclimated to that and go from there."
How much will going against WR DeAndre Hopkins and WR Will Fuller V in practice get you ready for games?
"Definitely. I think those are some of the top guys in the NFL so going against those guys every day will prepare me for the days on Sundays and Thursdays."
What was your mom's reaction to all this?
"She is just as humble as me. She said, 'Just go in there and work and leave it up to God.' Just do what I'm supposed to do and hopefully I can be here with the Texans."
Is it difficult to process all the information they have given to you?
"It's cool. You just have to stay in the playbook and you'll be all right. So that's what I'm trying to do, just stay in the playbook and learn terminology from the coaches and just learn from other players."
RB D'ONTA FOREMANWhat are some of your goals as far as getting in shape?
"First of all, I just want to come in and just learn the playbook and just make sure I'm doing all the right things, doing what the coaches are asking me to do. As far as like conditioning, we just all have to go out there and just keep working hard, just keep doing what they ask us to do. The conditioning will come. Like Coach (Bill) O'Brien said, we were doing a lot of combine stuff, so just getting in the shape of football and getting back into the routine of football, all of that will come."
You grew up watching this team. What has it been like being part of it and being in this building?
"Just seeing the inside of it now – my dad was a big Houston Texans fan and I watched the team all my life, really, growing up. Just unreal, me being a part of it, but like I said, I just want to get in and do what I'm asked to do and just take it all and embrace it all."
Is it encouraging to see what rookie running backs have done in recent years? Does that give you confidence?
"It's definitely encouraging, just seeing those guys go out there and compete at a high level early. It's something to strive for, definitely, but I just want to go out there and do what I'm asked to do. I think that's the biggest thing, is just learn the playbook. If you don't know the playbook you can't go out there and be on the field, so my biggest thing is just learn the playbook."
Texas ran you pretty hard last year. How do you think that helps your resiliency at that position coming in as a rookie?
"It helps a lot. Just being able to run the ball and carry a load like that, I feel like at any time I'm ready to step on the field and be productive whenever they call my number. Right now, like I said, just learn the playbook and learn the protections. I think that's the biggest thing right now. That's what I'm focused on the most."
How good you feel about your skills catching the ball out of the backfield?
"I feel great about my skills catching the ball. We just didn't do it a lot at Texas, but I'm very confident in the way I catch the ball and I'm just ready to go out there and show it."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien is always talking about versatility. Do you think you can show your versatility here in rookie minicamp?
"Definitely. With me going over the playbook and us learning our routes and everything – we have a lot of routes that we run. (I'm) just going in and learning those and just finding a way to get open. When I get the ball I just make sure I catch the ball and make a play."
Have you had a conversation with Hall of Fame RB Earl Campbell since you've been drafted?
"Yes, sir. Actually, Earl called me – I forgot what day it was but it was the other day – he called me. We had a conversation. He's a great man. I've learned a lot from being able to talk to him. I just continue to talk to him and just get advice from him. He's been here. He's been in the NFL, he's done great things, so that's somebody I definitely have in my corner, somebody I definitely can call and talk to whenever. He's really close with my family. He's very welcoming. That's somebody that I definitely keep in touch with."
What can you do to learn to protect the ball more now that you're up at this level?
"Just carry it high and tight in traffic, put two hands on the ball – the things that they teach us all the time. With me being at Texas I ran the ball a lot in a lot of those games. I'm not a type to make excuses for me putting the ball on the ground but (I'm) just focusing more on keeping it high and tight and putting two hands on it in traffic."
Have you talked to former NFL RB Ricky Williams about this experience as you enter this next chapter?
"No, I haven't talked to Ricky. I'll definitely give him a call, though, and talk to him. He's another great guy, somebody I've built a relationship with at my years at Texas. Somebody that I'm looking forward to talking to and just getting insight of how he did things and how I can be better and stuff like that."
What made you get in the car early in the morning and come to the Texans' local pro day?
"For one, I'm a competitor. I like to compete. When I get a chance to compete I want to do that and I want to show what I can do. It was the draft process, something that you just want to take advantage of every opportunity that you have. I'll say just me growing up watching the Texans, this is a place that I really wanted to be a part of, so it was like a no-brainer. When they asked me I was like, 'Let's do it. Let's go for it and just go out there and compete and work hard.'"
How much better do you feel now that the hand is fully behind you?
"I'll definitely be 100 percent. My hand is fine, ready to go."
QB DESHAUN WATSONCould you please start us off with what you've been doing since the time you got here and also, Head Coach Bill O'Brien talked about QB Tom Savage as the starting quarterback. This will be the first time you have gone in as not the starter since a freshman. How are you dealing with that?
"We came in, we reported Thursday, started meetings and practice. Savage is the veteran guy. I'm a competitor. I will learn from him, learn from Brandon (Weeden) and continue to improve each and every day."
Could you give us a rundown since you got to town and what you have done up until now?
"All I've really been doing is focusing on the playbook, trying to improve each and every day, make sure I master my craft and learn about the system, learn about how Houston do the things they do, how Coach (Bill) O'Brien coaches. That's pretty much it."
How have you started to build a good relationship with Head Coach Bill O'Brien?
"It just starts with the meetings and on the field, being able to communicate, being able to talk to each other, learn about each other, learn about how he teaches, learn how I learn and just making sure we're on the same page."
Do you feel like you came to this rookie minicamp really prepared after everything they gave you after the draft?
"I think so. I think I came in prepared and in shape, but it's a whole new system, it's a whole new learning curve. There's a lot that I have to continue to work on and improve on."
What was it like for you when you signed your contract?
"It was awesome. It was pretty cool. I thank all the people that were a part of it, especially the people that are a part of this organization. Thank you for the opportunity. Now it's time for me to go to work and show that I deserve it."
What does it mean to you that now you will be able to things for your family that maybe you couldn't otherwise do?
"It's pretty cool. It's kind of new to me, so it's a cool thing. My family understands that, but they know that the ultimate goal is to be here and play football and win games and do my job. All of the material things, they aren't even worried about. They just want me to be successful on the field."
The last time we saw you it was your mom's birthday the next day and you got her the car. What was that whole thing like for you and for her?
"It was real cool. Just be able to come home that next morning, and as she got settled at home I came with the car and she was very surprised. She loves it and she's enjoying it."
How would you describe how hands-on Head Coach Bill O'Brien is with the quarterbacks and with you specifically?
"I think it's cool just to be able to have your head coach and the main guy that knows this system very well to be hands-on in the meeting rooms with you and on the field with you, because you can learn it firsthand, see what he sees and for you to be that same coach on the field whenever you are practicing, scrimmage or in the game."
What are the differences like coming from Clemson and how difficult is it to grasp everything?
"It's just a different environment. This is the NFL. College is a different level but this is the National Football League. It's your job, it's your career. The things you do is different than what I've been doing before."
When you talk about expectations versus reality, what has really stood out to about this process so far now that you are actually in the building?
"It's going to take the hard work and the grind. You can expect a lot of stuff and want to be great, want to be successful, especially early, but it's a process. It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take long nights, early mornings to be able to put in the work and to get what you need to get in to be successful on the field."
Since Head Coach Bill O'Brien has been here there's been a narrative that there's a vast complexity to the offense here in Houston. Can you describe what the challenges have been for you just learning the offense? Bill talked about just the terminology. It's like learning a new language. Has it been a challenge for you? How much time have you spent with the offense so far?
"Bill is right. It's a whole different terminology. It's like learning Spanish if you don't know Spanish. You have to flip everything you learned before and turn a page and learn something brand new and make sure you are on the same page with not just the coaches, but your teammates. Telling everyone what to do and doing things that I haven't done before. It's going to take time and I'm going to continue to improve each and every day."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien was talking about how this whole thing is new for all of you. Have you found herself figuring out where everything is in this building? Did you find yourself getting lost at any point?
"As far as finding my way around the building, I think that was pretty easy. The playbook is a whole different level just because like I said before, it's like learning a new language. Outside of that, it's been fun. It's been fun. I'm enjoying my time. I'm just going to continue to learn the system, learn the organization."
Who are some of the quarterbacks that over the years you've emulated and admired as a part of their game?
"As far as really admiring other quarterbacks, really all of them because I'm a guy (that) when I watch football, I love watching quarterbacks. I feel like I watch every quarterback to succeed and just be successful. As far as just taking my game and trying to be like theirs, I just kind of try to be my own person and learn. That's pretty much how I've operated."
It's been so long since you've had to compete for a starting quarterback job. What do you even remember about that the last time you had to go through this?
"For me, that's easy. Of course I was a starter at Clemson the past three years, but each and every day I would go into the day thinking I'm not the starter and I could lose my job, so for me that's natural. I'm a competitor. I'm going to compete each and every day to get better. Everyone else around me is getting better, so that's how my mentality has been, is competing and trying to find a way to get better. As for as the competition, I'm just working on improving my skills."
Is it possible to put into words how you lead and coming into an environment where you are one of the young guys, how do you think that will translate? Second question, have you been here long enough in Houston to be a Houstonian to be disappointed in the Rockets Thursday night?
"For the first question, I'm not sure. I guess it's just my personality, how I was raised. I'm a quiet guy, soft spoken, but people, like you said, just gravitate toward me and I just lead by example, do it the right way, do what the coaches ask me to do and make sure I'm impacting others around me in a positive way. For the second one, I hope I'm here long enough for the Houston people to accept me. I wish the Rockets would have pulled it out, but I guess it wasn't their time."
Did you feel like you are a Rockets fan?
"Yeah, it's a team I'm of course going to pull for – all the sports teams around here. I hope for all the success for all the sports teams."
What do you believe your strengths are that will help you make this transition smooth?
"Just being competitive, being smart. My hard work, my work ethic, my leadership skills and just trying to improve each and every day and having mental toughness and being able to go through the things that I have done before in life to get to this point."