HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
How do you feel about what you were able to get done through OTAs and minicamp?
“I think we accomplished a lot for what we were able to do out here, in the classroom, in the weight room and in the cafeteria. The guys have really done a good job of understanding what we’re trying to get done and I believe we’ve laid a good foundation for training camp.”
What are you most proud of what you’ve accomplished this offseason?
“I don’t know. It’s OTAs. We’re just trying to lay a foundation for training camp. We’re looking forward to going to The Greenbrier and getting ready to go for the season.”
What have you thought of TE Jordan Akins?
“I think with every rookie it’s a process. It’s a lot different. I can’t emphasize that enough. The speed of the game, the strength of the guys you’re playing against, the playbook, the schedule – but I think all the rookies have made progress. I think the key will be these five weeks, what do they do to prepare themselves for training camp? That’s the real test, but I think all the rookies have made progress.”
What do you want to see the players do during their break before training camp?
“I think we’ve made so many gains relative to their conditioning level and their strength levels. What I’ll recommend to them tomorrow is to keep it going. A lot of guys will stay here and train here, which is a good thing. The guys that don’t, they’ll be ready to go. These guys are pros. They know how to get ready, but we’ve made a lot of gains and we need to keep that going for the next five weeks.”
What kind of athlete is TE Jordan Akins, given he’s been drafted in multiple sports?
“No doubt he’s a good athlete. He’s a big guy that can run. He’s a smart guy. I don’t think there’s any question about that. He’s got good quickness for a guy his size, and like I said, he’s an intelligent guy.”
How critical are these next five weeks for your players?
“That’s what I was saying. They’re critical. We’ve been going at this for nine weeks and it’s really important for these guys to continue to, obviously, work out, stay in shape, work on the things that we ask them to improve on coming out of this camp, eat right and just be ready to go on July 25th.”
Do you have an update on WR DeAndre Hopkins after he was ‘carted off’?
“Nobody got carted off. Maybe he got a ride. I don’t know. I didn’t see anybody get carted off. I don’t think he got carted off. He got a ride. However you want to phrase it, I think he’s fine.”
What have you seen from WRs Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller and the level of competition between the wide receiver group?
“I think the receiver position is very competitive. I think it’s very competitive. I think you have guys, you mentioned two names, I could mention four other names. So, I think that’s going to be a very competitive position during training camp, absolutely.”
Do you think the wide receiver group will be strong?
“I think that the proof will be in the pudding. I mean, they have to go out there and produce, but we do feel good about where that position’s at right now from a competitive standpoint and a skillset standpoint. No doubt about it.”
What were you able to see from the tight ends during minicamp and OTAs?
“It’s definitely a passing camp for those guys, but it’s just like receiver in a different way. It’s a very competitive position. Obviously, a lot of that will depend on when the pads come on, how well do some of those young guys block and things like that. We’ll see, but that’s a position that is definitely crowded right now, no doubt about it.”
What’s the biggest improvement you’ve seen from QB Deshaun Watson from this time last year until now?
“There’s just so many things. With the work ethic he has and the mindset that he has, you’re going to get better at knowledge of offense, knowledge of defense, your own mechanics. There’s just been a lot of improvement in a lot of different areas, and he’ll keep it going over the next five weeks and he’ll be ready to go for training camp.”
What are similarities or differences between the quarterback position this year compared to years in the past?
“Every year is different. This year, we know who are starting quarterback is and obviously we’re very comfortable with that. That’s a good thing for our football team. Obviously, all that means is that we’re settled there. It doesn’t mean anything relative to last year. It just means, ‘Hey, look, we have to come in ready to go in training camp and we’ve got to continue where we left off from when he was the quarterback.’ That’s kind of what it means relative to that position.”
Does having a starting quarterback put you ahead of schedule for the season?
“No doubt. You know how the reps are going to be divided. You’ve already had a year in the meeting room and more than that, really, because you’ve had a year and then the nine-week offseason program. So, you’ve had a lot of time. You’re not wasting time getting to know each other. You know what the expectations are. I know what he expects from me, and he knows what I expect from him. There’s a lot to be said for getting into more of a normal routine, no doubt it.”
How do new additions on the offensive line affect you and is it important for them to build continuity?
“It is. I think that has looked, relative to having no pads on, I think the continuity up front has looked good, though. With basically three new guys there with Seantrel (Henderson), Senio (Kelemete) and Zach (Fulton), all three of those guys have played a lot of football in this league. They’re pros. They understand how important communication is. There’s been a lot of meeting time. Now, really the continuity has to come together when we put pads on and we really start to play real football, but I like the foundation that we’ve laid moving forward here.”
Do you have any apprehension and want to limit QB Deshaun Watson’s reps in training camp to protect him?
“I don’t know if the right word would be apprehension. It’s more about being intelligent that you can’t throw the kitchen sink at him when he comes back just thinking that all of a sudden, snap a finger and he’s back to full-go. I think we’ll have a really good plan for how many reps he gets relative to practice, relative to the preseason games. We’re going to talk a lot about that over the next couple of days here as a staff with everybody, with Brian Gaine and our medical staff and everybody. I do feel that when it comes from a mental standpoint, I feel really good about what we’re going to be able to throw at him from a playbook standpoint.”
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan said you studied college offenses when reworking the playbook. Was that fun?
“We looked at a lot of different things. We didn’t just look at college game tape. We looked at pro tape. A lot of different things that we looked at. We looked at different players, different skillsets of quarterbacks, different offenses. We spent a lot of time really researching a lot of different areas.”
How good was it for your players to be together at The Greenbrier last season and are you excited to go this year?
“We really like The Greenbrier. It gives us a chance to get away. I think it was good last year for the team bonding. Obviously, it didn’t lead to the successful season that we all want but we felt like we came out of there with some good chemistry, with guys feeling good about their roles on the team and The Greenbrier itself is a great place. We won’t be there as long this year. We’re going to come back to Houston right after Kansas City to begin to get ready for San Francisco. We’ll scrimmage San Francisco out here when they arrive in town, but we’re looking forward to going to The Greenbrier.”
How does experiencing it last year help you prepare more for The Greenbrier?
“Just having the lay of the land and knowing where they stay and where the football building is and other things like on their days off I guess guys were riding ATVs around the mountainside. I don’t know if we want to do that. So, things like that, we’ve learned. I definitely think we’re used to it. It’s not going to take any time to get back into the swing of how it all operates from a facility standpoint. I think it’s going to be a smooth transition from here back to there.”
What’s the schedule for tomorrow?
“We’re going to meet tomorrow. We will not practice tomorrow. We’ve gotten a lot done here and it’s time to tie up some loose ends in the meeting room and then send them off for the break there and then see them back for training camp.”
QB DESHAUN WATSON
Can you give us an update on your knee? Are you physically where you wanted to be by the end of the offseason program?
“The knee is doing good. Able to do some things on the field with the team. Physically-wise for the nine-week goal that we put in from the beginning, I’m pretty much where I wanted to be. Kind of passed it inside in the weight room, mentally and also on the field. So, everything is going smoothly right now.”
What percentage would you say your fitness level is at right now?
“I’m light-years away from where I was last year. Coming in as a rookie, just kind of knowing what I knew from college and what I learned in the pre-draft and then what I learned in the QB room. Everything was going so fast. A lot of information at that time, but having a full season and offseason with Coach OB (Bill O’Brien) and Coach Sean Ryan being able to advance my game and take my game to another level, it’s been great. Light-years away from where I was last year.”
What percentage would you say your fitness level is at right now?
“I have no idea. I have no percentage, really. It just depends on when my heart and my mind tell me that I’m ready to go.”
Does where you are at physically surprise you at all?
“I’m not really surprised. I kind of knew where I was going to be because I put the time and the effort and the work in every morning. I’ve just been grinding, so I’m not surprised at all. I’m right where I need to be, and where I want to be.”
How have you matured in the last year?
“I guess the game of just football, really. Off the field, I tend to think I was mature before just the way I was raised and the experiences I went through. But on the field, of course being the starter, coming into the offseason and into a new season and being able to lead guys around me and continue to take their games to another level as I take mine.”
Was it a big deal when you took the brace off?
“It was really just between me and the doctors, and where we feel like we stand and the work and the preparation I put in.”
Is your rehab different from when you were at Clemson?
“No, it’s pretty similar. Those guys, Dr. (Walter R.) Lowe and Dr. (Larry) Bowman back at Clemson, kind of come from the same family tree of doctors. So, they kind of do the same rehab stuff, but I feel comfortable and I feel very confident in myself.”
How satisfying was it to not only reach your nine-week goal, but surpass it?
“It’s cool, but never satisfied. I feel like I can be better, and will get better. But, like you said, in those nine weeks, I’ve gained a lot on and off the field; mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I’ve been able to take my game, and just me as a person, to another level.”
Who are you going to root for in the World Cup?
“USA’s not in it, so I don’t know. I like some of the Germany guys. I know FC Bayern Munich, but all the guys are not on Germany so I’m kind of spread out.”
What do you have to do to be even better than last year now that you know defenses will be gearing to stop you?
“Go ten times harder than I did before last year, keep improving my game and just focus on me. Stay in my own lane, don’t worry about what the other teams are going to do. Whenever that time comes, be prepared for every situation and for a situation that I haven’t been through and a look that I haven’t seen, play fast through it and learn while I’m doing it. Just kind of continue from there. Keep gaining trust, keep getting better each and every week.”
How do you feel like you’ve made progress with those defensive looks?
“Regardless of what year you are in this league, I’m playing football. You’re always learning something new from a defense because the defense is always changing or getting more advanced. So, I’m gaining a lot of trust in my preparation and the tools and things I do before I take the snap, and kind of recognize what the defense is in. So, I’m doing a good job and I have to continue to get better.”
You sent a message to fellow Clemson alumnus and Houston Astros first-round draft pick Seth Beer. What do you think about welcoming another member of your Clemson family here?
“We’re turning this city into a little bit of orange. A little red, navy and orange is not bad. But, Seth is going to do a great job wherever he’s placed in the Astros organization and he’s going to continue to work. Being able to watch him at Clemson and now have a chance to watch him in the same city again, it’s going to be awesome. Great memories back then and kind of continue that as we grow.”
What is the kinship like that all you former Clemson athletes have?
“It’s just family. The program that Clemson is all about. That’s one reason I wanted to go there when I was young in high school, because of the family atmosphere, the relationships that you build throughout the different organizations with the sports and also the students. It’s so much love for Clemson and that university and all the people that are there and helped me get through it.”
What specifically have you done in practice these last couple days that is giving you confidence to say your knee is coming along well?
“Just being who I am, doing what I did last year, if not better, and just keep grinding. I’m not really focusing on little details or anything like that, I’m just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do and just trying to improve my game and let confidence come from there.”
Anything specific like lateral movement that you feel like is a sign of progress?
“Not really, honestly. I’m kind of just playing football and doing what I do.”