The Texans took a day-and-a-half break from training camp this weekend, with head coach Gary Kubiak giving the players Saturday afternoon and Sunday off for some much-needed rest. The Texans suffered injuries to players including Jacques Reeves, Chris Myers and Arian Foster over their first nine days of camp.
Two-a-days resume tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Until then, here are some Texans tidbits and random notes to chew on:
Room for three: Cushing, Barwin and a hyperbaric chamber
Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing, relentless about staying in shape, put his new contract to use by recently purchasing a hyperbaric chamber, a pressurized chamber that helps to increase oxygen distribution in the blood and helps bruises and other injuries to heal faster.
"I've always wanted one," Cushing said. "I'm one of those players that wants to take care of my body, so I'll do it in every fashion." (read: Cushing's intensely regimented diet)
Cushing said that Texans linebacker Kevin Bentley, who also has a hyperbaric chamber, helped him to get one. Texans receiver Kevin Walter also has a hyperbaric chamber. Cushing uses the chamber every day for about an hour in his room at the team hotel near Reliant Stadium.
Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin is living in that room with Cushing – and his hyperbaric chamber.
"The first time he brought back to the hotel, I was dying laughing," Barwin said. "It's just really funny to see. Half of our hotel room is this bubble or tube or something, and there is this little clear thing. I come in the room and Cushing is lying in this hyperbaric chamber and I just knock on the window and smile at him. But obviously, it's just another sign to how committed he is to staying healthy and doing the right things, but it's really funny every time I walk into the hotel room."
Special players on special teams
Special teams coordinator Joe Marciano was not happy with the players' overall performance in special teams practice on Friday, but there were some positives to come out of the morning session. It looks like the Texans have three special teams stars in the making in rookies Cushing, Barwin and tight end James Casey.
After Friday's practice, Marciano was discussing how far the Texans have come in terms of depth since 2002, when most of his special teams player were street free agents that no other club wanted, when he compared Casey and Barwin to Jim Thorpe – one of the greatest, most versatile athletes in history.
"They can do everything," he said.
They *did *do just about everything in college. Barwin was a defensive end, tight end and walk-on basketball player at Cincinnati. Casey was a tight end, running back, quarterback and punt returner at Rice – and that was after he played minor league baseball for three years. He is being groomed to be the Texans' long snapper.
"Casey was a quarterback, so that helps," Marciano said. "He can throw. You show him the motion. I did it. I snapped a perfect spiral back to him. So he did it, and did the perfect spiral. So if he can do that, he can put two hands on the ball and do it. If you watch on Monday, he'll be snapping for us."
Cushing, meanwhile, was let out of practice early on Friday morning after he dismantled a double-team block in punt coverage. It's unclear how much Cushing will play on special teams since he'll be a starter on defense, but his impact will be felt early and often if he gets many reps.
Contract disputes not a concern
When Vic Carucci of NFL.com was at Texans training camp a week ago, I talked to him at length about the team. Carucci has covered the NFL for 30 years, and one of the topics I brought up with him was the Texans' contract disputes with Dunta Robinson, DeMeco Ryans and Owen Daniels.
It's a new problem for the Texans, but such contract issues are fairly commonplace around the league. I asked Carucci whether the Texans' contract situations with these players were concerning to him as a national observer.
"No, it doesn't concern me, because it's sort of like the way it is in football business," Carucci said. "It's a sign of where this team is. I think when you're talking about players who see themselves as being good and the team defines them as being good – by good, I mean good enough for any other club in the league besides the Texans – they're going to want to paid at a standard for the market for their position.
"DeMeco Ryans is going to see, 'Hey, look: I'm a top linebacker in this league and I want to be paid like a top linebacker.' Owen Daniels, 'I'm a top tight end in this league and I want to be paid like a top tight end.' Dunta Robinson sees himself as one of the best corners, although I think his situation probably isn't as easy to figure out because from what I understand, what they're offering him would put him financially very near the top of the league at corner. That's a lot of cash. I don't get why he hasn't accepted that. But that's his thing, whatever he's decided to do."
Johnson's first national commercial
If you've watched ESPN over the past few days, chances are you've seen Andre Johnson's new commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods. It's the first national commercial for Johnson, who shot the commercial about two-and-a-half weeks before training camp at a Dick's store in Dallas.
Johnson said that it took about five hours to film the commercial (catching a hoagie probably took a lot of takes for the other actor in the commercial). He was chosen to do the commercial by Nike, with whom he is under contract, to promote their new receiver gloves.
"You never think about those things, think you'll be on a commercial one day," Johnson said on Saturday. "I got a lot of text messages and friends calling me the other day saying, 'Man, I just saw you on ESPN.' A lot of people didn't really know about it, but it's fun. It was my first time doing something like that. I think I did very well at it, and hopefully it'll open some doors up for me. Maybe I could do a couple more."
Johnson's teammates have had plenty of fun with him about the commercial in the locker room.
"My teammates were in there imitating me, just saying some of the things that I said in the commercial – most of them had seen it before even I had seen it," he said. "Everybody seemed to like it. It was a lot of fun, and my teammates thought it was real funny. We had a great time with it."
Looking ahead to Week 1
The New York Jets might be without two key defensive starters when they come to Houston for the Texans' season opener on Sept. 13. Defensive end Shaun Ellis, who led the Jets with eight sacks last season, is expected to be suspended for the opener because of his arrest last November for possession of marijuana.
Jets linebacker Calvin Pace already been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Pace had seven sacks and 80 tackles in 2008 while starting all 16 games.
In other Jets news, Kellen Clemens has been named the starting quarterback for New York's preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. Clemens and rookie Mark Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, are battling for the starting job. Sanchez is widely expected to be the Jets' starter come Week 1, but it appears that the competition is far from over.