HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
Can you give us an update on WR Will Fuller V and will he be ready for the New England Patriots Week 1?
"Will's doing good. It's day-to-day. We'll see."
Will OLB Duke Ejiofor be ready for the New England game?
If WR Will Fuller V is in the lineup, what does he mean for this offense?
"Generally speaking, Will has been a guy that's a smart player, real good route-runner, been everything that we expected when he came in here. He's a good guy to have on the team."
Is RB Lamar Miller a three-down back?
"Yeah, yeah I said that last week. He's in there on third down quite a bit. That would equate to being a three-down back."
What do you think about adding a cornerback like CB Kayvon Webster?
"I don't know if that's official yet. I think it's getting close to being official, but we have some guys on the staff with some history with him and things like that. Looking forward to getting him here and seeing how it goes."
Will WR Keke Coutee play against the Dallas Cowboys?
"I don't know yet. I'm not sure. We'll probably make that decision before the game."
Are you being extra careful with WR Keke Coutee?
"No. We're just trying to make sure he's ready to go. You never want to put a guy into a National Football League game that might not be full speed."
What are your thoughts on the information DE J.J. Watt released this morning regarding the $41.6 million he raised for Hurricane Harvey relief?
"I just talked to the team about that. I mean, it's incredible. To think about – he set out to raise, whatever it was, $200,000 and then it ends up being $41 million. I don't even know if words can describe that, what he's meant to the City of Houston, everything that he's done. He was hands-on with it. He's been hands-on with how to distribute the money, where it goes, all those things. We have a great deal of respect for what he's done and I know the city does too."
How important is Thursday's game against the Dallas Cowboys for the players vying for a roster spot?
"Very important. It's a tough week because certainly there are some guys that are on the team, but the majority of guys are fighting for a spot. That's the majority of the team. That's a tough week for those guys. Relative to me, any time you have to release a player, that's not fun. These guys have really worked hard for us, but everybody in the league works under the same rules. We have to get down to 53 by, whatever it is, 3 (p.m.) central time Friday or Saturday. We have to follow the rules, and everybody else does too. That's what we're going to do."
What are you looking for from the wide receivers in Thursday's game against the Dallas Cowboys?
"I think with receivers, it's always about two things: it's getting open and catching the ball. I think if they can just keep improving on those things, knowledge of assignments, being able to make plays with the ball in their hand, we'll see how it all plays out. It's a very competitive position."
DE J.J. WATT
When you look at the numbers, what do you think about it all?
"When we were sitting there and we were compiling it all and really putting it all in one document, it really was incredible to look at. And it's incredible to see just the generosity of strangers and what it's able to do and what it's able to accomplish, and the fact that that's just year one. We still have more to do and we still have a lot going on moving forward. So, the work isn't done by any means, but it's pretty incredible what these organizations have been able to do and what – I mean, like I said, this is a generosity of strangers. This is people from all over the world, people from all over the country, people that may not know anybody in Houston. They just wanted to help, and that's pretty cool."
With what you've done and the impact you have made, how does that hit you?
"I think when it was happening, everything was happening very fast and it was all pretty wild and incredible. There were a lot of emotions going on and I felt unbelievably supported from people all over, but I think as you look back on it, you really understand how incredible it really was and how thankful that I am for so many people to help out and to be willing to help out. I was going through some tough times myself the last two years, so I think that it really helped show me the good side of people and that I should have hope and I think have positivity."
Did you feel any pressure to make sure that that money was as impactful as it could be?
"Oh, of course. I mean, I think there's a tremendous amount of responsibility that comes with the situation that I was in. Obviously, I wasn't planning on being in such a wild situation from the start, but I had an incredible support team around me and I had tons of people help me out. I mean, we did loads and loads of research and we spent hours and hours doing the phone calls and the meetings and talking with everybody and gathering as much information as we could so we could do it the right way. Because that's the only thing that we wanted out of all of it – we wanted to do it the right way and make sure that we did proud to people who trusted us."
Out of all the donations from around the world, did any stand out to you?
"You know, obviously, the big ones of celebrities are really cool, but there were some small ones that were really awesome. I've talked about a couple of them before, but my high school football coach calling and saying that his kids donated their allowance and they wanted to do extra chores just so they could get some more money to donate. There's a lemonade stand, I think up in Philadelphia and they were kids from – I mean, they were just kids. I think that was the coolest to me, was seeing that kids wanted to help out, and knowing that we have a generation coming up who understands what it means to help others out and who are willing to help their fellow citizens, even though they're so young."
Can you talk about how you chose those nonprofit organizations?
"We spent hours and hours and days and days going through every possible scenario and all different ways we could go about this. We settled on these nonprofits because of the work they do and because we could – in our conversations, we made sure that it was all staying in Houston. That was the biggest thing is, Houston, the surrounding areas were the areas that (were) affected and that was where we wanted the support to go. So, we made sure that it all stayed here and it all went right back to helping these people out who were affected. They've done an incredible job and I've been fortunate enough to go out there and witness, firsthand, people going back into their homes, people getting meals, kids going back to childcare centers. Really, I wish I could put into words what that means and what those days are like because there's really nothing like it."
How does it feel to say, 'we're still not even done yet?'
"I wish I could say the work was done because that would mean that nobody's suffering anymore. But, the sad reality of it is that I think there's going to be work going on for a long, long time. Far beyond what we're able to do. That's just the reality of the situation. We went through something that we haven't seen in years, possibly ever, and people are going to be suffering for a long time. We're trying to help as much as we can but I know there's a lot of other great people out there trying to help, too. I think the more that everybody steps up and tries to help out, the better it will be. But, it is exciting knowing that we still have a lot of work left to do and there's many more people we can help."
What would you tell those who have donated?
"I would say thank you, I would say thank you. I'm fortunate to have been able to be a voice for this, but I think I speak for all of Houston when I say thank you to the whole world for supporting and backing us during such a difficult time. What everybody went through was nothing short of destructive disaster, and to see people willing to go out of their way to help out their fellow neighbor or their fellow citizen or their fellow human, there's really no words you can say besides thank you. I don't think that you'll ever really understand what it means and like I said, not everybody can be there when we hand the keys over to somebody as they go back into their home. But, I promise you that's one of the most special moments you'll ever experience – when you get to hand somebody the keys back to their house and say, 'Welcome home' and they walk in for the first time."
Have you had time to look back and appreciate all you've done for Hurricane Harvey relief or are you focused on what still can be done for the victims?
"A little bit of both. I think you have to look back and see what's been accomplished and be proud of it for everybody that put in the work and all the people that helped donate, but you can't help but look forward and see how much work is left to be done and see how many people are still struggling out there. It's a bit of both worlds, but it also gives you hope to know that we've put 600 homes back in action. However many more we can get going, we're going to try and get going in the future. It's such a difficult situation but you have to try to find the bright spots and be positive whenever you can."
Is there one particular organization or story that sticks out in your mind the most when thinking about Hurricane Harvey?
"There's one from early on. I've documented it a little on my social media, but there's a family that we went to when their house was still in the middle of being reconstructed. We went back when we got to give them their keys. I just remember the first day when I walked up – it was the Leonards. Just the joy and the happiness on their face for a family who had been kicked out of their house twice in a storm. They had to be rescued by boat twice. I've told this story, I don't mean to repeat it, but they were still so happy and supportive. She was on dialysis and they had to find a way to get her dialysis treatments while going through all of this and not living in their home and everything, but they still had smiles. When I walked in, they gave me a big hug and they said, 'Thank you' and 'Welcome'. To me, for somebody that went through so much struggle and so much trouble, I was thinking, 'Why aren't they more sad? Why aren't they more downtrodden?' But they were just so happy and thankful that people were willing to help out. That was one that always stuck out to me. Then, any time you visit the kids it's the best. Any time we go to a daycare and we see some of the kids back out on the playground running around with their friends. I'm a sucker for kids."
Do you know how many more people will be helped because of the money you raised and how much money remains?
"All of the money is out. All of the money has been working. It's all been out. We gave out the last round probably a couple of months ago now. All of the money is out in the community. It is working. I can't say specific numbers on exactly what it's going to be because it always ends up different in the end, but it's going to be great. It's very similar. We're working on houses again, we're working on medicine, we're working on food because it's crazy how many people are still – I mean, you talk to the Food Bank alone and their intake has skyrocketed because of the storm. You would think it would be kind of back to normal after a year, but it's not even close. There are still so many people without a home, without money to buy food, so they don't know where their next meal is coming from. It's not in the media as much because it's a year later and it's going to continue to kind of be pushed aside because the farther you get from a disaster, the less coverage it gets, but there are still so many people suffering. I'm very fortunate to know that there are people out there still doing great work."
Why was raising money for mental healthcare so important?
"That was one thing, when we were talking to organizations that had helped in other disasters, whether it was Katrina or other disasters that they said, 'Don't forget about mental health' because people have kind of a PTSD-type thing from that where they're kicked out of their homes, maybe they had to be saved by a boat, maybe they had to go through a traumatic situation. You can't forget about that. Just because you can't see it – it's not a cut, it's not a bruise or an infection – they're still going through something. We wanted to make sure that we help those people as well and didn't ignore that category."
How much has this past year increased your bond with the City of Houston?
"I've been very fortunate in my years here that the people here have always treated me like family, but I feel like we're a closer family than we've ever been before having gone through what we went through last year. When a family goes through a difficult time and they go through it together, they find a way through. We're still working our way through it, but we're finding our way through it together as one, and I'm very fortunate to have the City of Houston behind me. I'll always love this city like it's my own because they've been so incredible to me. We're one big family and we'll always work through whatever we have to go through and come out stronger (on) the other side."