HEAD COACH BIILL O'BRIEN
Do you feel confident in C/G Greg Mancz's ability to step in at guard if needed?
"Yes, he's done that many times for us. No doubt."
Do you expect C/G Greg Mancz to start at guard on Sunday?
"I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see, but Greg has started games for us. One year, he started 16 games for us. Played a bunch this year and plays really well for us."
What does having good tackling safeties like S Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid do for your run defense?
"It's big. Safeties in this league have to be able to – when they read run – they have to be able to trigger and make the tackle. I think one of the key stats in this league right now is missed tackles. We've missed our share of tackles and that's always an area that's hard to improve during the season because you're not in a lot of full-contact practices, so you have to work on angle tackling and things like that. I think that our safeties have done a really good job of tackling and that has to continue."
Do you feel like the development players enter the league with in terms of their tackling ability is any worse now than it used to be?
"I think tackling has a lot to do with – if you've ever heard the phrase, 'willing tackler'. Is the guy willing to tackle? Does he have the mindset to want to make the tackle? Does he have the physical nature to want to be able to bend at the ankles, knees and hips, face up and put a shoulder in there and wrap a guy up? Does he want to do that? That's a big part of it. Every college team, every professional team drills that. It's all about, to me – at the end of the day, once you drill it, once you're out there on the field – are you willing to make that tackle? We have a lot of guys here that are willing tacklers."
How do you balance taking a game-by-game approach while allowing the players to enjoy the nine-game winning streak?
"It's all about the next game. That's what this league's about. What do you want to enjoy? It's great what they've done, but I think enjoyment is the camaraderie in the locker room, the bond that they have relative to the enjoyment of winning. It's great to enjoy the win after the win for a little while, but you better turn the page pretty quickly because the next opponent only gets harder relative to where you are in the schedule. That's the way the league is. But, this team has a lot of enjoyment, though. Everybody's been in our locker room. Our guys have a lot of fun in the locker room. They know when to go to work. There's a bond with our football team and hopefully that helps us continue winning. This game on Sunday is going to be a huge challenge for us."
Did you see progress from WR Keke Coutee this week in practice?
"I think he's trending upward. I think with Zach (Fulton) and Coutee, we'll have to see relative to as we get closer to game time. During this time of the year, with all of these injury questions and I understand you have to ask them, but really unless they're season-ending injuries, a lot of them will come down to what's going on the day of the game. We'll make that decision – Brian (Gaine) and I with the medical team – relative to however many hours before kickoff before we have to make that decision."
With Texans Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert C. McNair's Celebration of Life today, can you reflect on what Mr. McNair meant to you?
"I don't even know where to begin with that. He's meant so much to myself, Colleen, our family – Jack and Michael. To be able to celebrate his life today is an honor. Our whole organization will be there. Our whole football team will be there. We're really looking forward to it. Bob gave me a chance. Bob gave me a chance to be a head football coach. He trusted in me and I owe a lot to him. I learned a lot from Bob about leadership. I learned a lot from Bob about what type of organization he wanted here, the respect that he had for everybody in the organization, the way that he led, the love that he had for the City of Houston. Bob meant a lot to me. Bob and Janice McNair, Cal McNair, Hannah McNair, they've meant a lot to myself and my family."
How much does DE J.J. Watt have to practice during the week?
"That's a good question for him. With these veteran players, there's a lot of communication that takes place there, whereas maybe with a rookie that communication wouldn't take place. We would do what's best for the rookie just based on his inexperience in the league, but with a veteran player like J.J. that really understands where he's at, where he needs to be for game time – J.J. loves to practice. J.J. wants to be out on the practice field. He feels like he really needs those reps, and so we try to work with him on that, but also get him ready for what he needs to do on Sundays."
Do all of the injuries from last season play a role in how you have handled players battling injuries this season?
"Every year that I've been a head coach, I've always learned a lot about that. I think the most important thing for your football team – as much as you can balance the work that you need to get done during the week and what you have to do on Sundays – the most important thing is the health of the team. There's nothing more important than the health of the football team, but at the same time, you have to get some work in during the week on certain things. It's hard to run the ball unless you're in pads or stop the run unless you're in pads, but I think we do a pretty good job of balancing that. I'm not the only one that makes the decision on that. I make the ultimate decision on practice, but I have a lot of input from Luke (Richesson) and (Geoff) Kap(lan) and the guys in the building that are experts in recovery and health and things like that, but it is a fine line that we try to walk."