HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
What have you seen from CB Kevin Johnson so far this year?
"He's had a good offseason and he's come back in great shape. It takes a while. You come in as a rookie, experience some injuries. It just takes a while to develop your game at this level and I think he's come in and had a really good offseason. It's been good to see."
What does it mean to have CB Johnathan Joseph back out here for another season?
"J-Jo is a great pro. He really is. He brings a lot to the table, obviously, as a player, but also as a leader. Just does a really good job for us in the locker room, does a really good job out on the field. He's a very smart player, very smart player. You have to run really good routes to get him because he's seen it all. So, it's good to have him on our team."
What was it about the secondary that you wanted to improve upon from last season?
"I think every year is different. We're always looking to upgrade our roster. We really are. Brian (Gaine) and I are always talking about whether it's how we're coaching on the field, where we're putting guys on the field or maybe some things that are out there available to us. We're always talking about the roster and how we can have the most competitive roster we can possibly have."
What have you seen from RB Lamar Miller and what are you looking to get out of him this season?
"Really impressed with how Lamar's come back. He's really come back in good shape. He's really improved in the passing game – these two practices are mostly about the passing game because we're not wearing pads. He's really improved in that area. He's a good runner. He's got good vision, good speed, but the big thing that I've seen is he's just come back with a real determination and a focus that's good to see."
Can you address the challenges college free agents face when trying to make the 53-man roster?
"I tell them, 'One day at a time. One play at a time. Try to study a little bit extra. Try to stay out here after practice.' You see our whole team stays out after practice to try to do things to get better. Whether you're a 10-year veteran or an undrafted free agent, you need to do those things. In our philosophy, once you're here, we don't really care about where you were drafted, when you were drafted, anything about that. We just care about guys that care about winning, that have a passion for the team, that embrace the team concept. That's what we're really looking for."
Do you think DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney's contract negotiations are playing a role in him not fully participating in practice?
"Very fair question. I don't ever talk about contracts publicly. That's Brian's (Gaine) job. I have no idea about contracts. I really don't. I'm all about the roster and improving the roster relative to coaching. JD was in a rehab mode during the offseason. So, in the best interest of the player and the best interest of our team, it's important to bring him back at the right pace. That's really all we're doing. We're just trying to bring him back at the right pace, and when it's time, Kap (Geoff Kaplan), myself, Luke (Richesson), Brian, we'll sit down and we'll say, 'OK, he's full-go.' Until that time, we'll keep incrementally bringing him back at the right place."
What do you think about the linebacker group collectively?
"Really great group of guys, different skillsets. You have a guy like B-Mac (Benardrick McKinney) who's just a big, tall, athletic guy, tough guy. Then you've got a guy like Dylan Cole who's going to help us on special teams, good cover linebacker. You have Zach Cunningham, who really had a good rookie year, athletic guy, good on special teams. Then we have other guys. Brian Peters, a really good – I think it was 2015 he led our team in special teams tackles. Very competitive position. We have outside linebackers, obviously that's a very competitive position. You have two draft picks there, you have Whitney (Mercilus) there. Nobody ever asks me about Whitney. Everybody always asks me about the other guys. Whitney Mercilus has come back in great shape and he's a hell of a football player. So, we're competitive at that position. Brennan Scarlett is another guy that's really playing well for us right now, so there's a lot of competition there.
What makes Whitney Mercilus special?
"Whitney cares about the team, cares about winning, works extremely hard, has a great consistent daily approach to being a professional football player. He's the same guy every day. He's always in a great mood. He does a lot for the community. We've got a lot of guys like that. They're true Texans. They care about the Houston Texans, they care about the City of Houston and they want to win football games."
When making the move from Texas to here for camp, what is the one thing you have to have?
"I think one of the things that is important here is, like I just said about Whitney (Mercilus), everybody needs to have a daily, a consistent daily approach to how they come to practice every day. Waking up at the same time, eating at the same time, working out at the same time, getting ready for practice in the same mode because they've been kind of on their own for a long time now, and now we're back into doing it the Houston Texans way. I think as soon as we can get on that train – that train actually left the station a couple nights ago – as soon as we can get on that train, everybody on that train, that's a big deal. I think we're on the right track."
Personally, what's the one thing you have to have here at camp?
"Personally, I need Dunkin' Donuts coffee."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How are you feeling going into this season?
"It feels great going into year six. New team, it's exciting to see everybody back from the injuries we had last year and to see everybody out here running around. It feels good to see everybody out here."
How much do you like hearing the fans cheer for you when you make one of your one-handed catches on the sideline?
"We had some kids out there. You know, just trying to get the crowd into it. That's something I feel like I can do whenever I want to but I can't do it in the game all the time. I just have to make sure I catch it. But out here, it's just having fun."
Was that a premeditated move to fire the fans up?
"Yeah, that was a premeditated move. Did y'all record it? All right, just making sure."
What have you seen from the rookie wide receivers, particularly WR Vyncint Smith?
"Andre Johnson did a great job of mentoring me so it's only right that I do the same for those young guys and help them become whatever they want in the NFL."
Have you seen some good things from WR Vyncint Smith?
"Yeah, I have. He's always asking me questions. He has probably asked me the most questions out of everybody."
What do you think about the new additions to the defensive backfield?
"Oh, you have to love it. Tyrann Mathieu plays with a lot of passion. Having him and (Aaron) Colvin out there, I think those are two great additions."
What is it about S Tyrann Mathieu that creates a buzz around him?
"That's Tyrann. He's the quietest and chillest guy outside of the football field but once he's on the field he's the Honey Badger."
Do you still feel like you're underrated amongst your peers in the league?
"I definitely feel like I'm underrated. I think I'm the best receiver in the NFL so I'm always going to feel like that even if I have zero touchdowns."
How exciting are you for this season if you and QB Deshaun Watson can stay healthy?
"It's very exciting. Not just for what Deshaun and myself can do but what this team can do as well."
What drives to be even better you when you are already one of the top receivers in the NFL?
"Team success comes first but besides that, having guys ranked in front of me that I know I'm better then. That's always going to drive me."
What is the one item you have to bring to training camp?
"I'm getting old, so I have to bring Advil and stuff like that. I'm just messing with you. Just come out here and be competitive every day."
What about the one personal item you have to bring?
"One thing I have to bring is my pillow. I have a pretty good pillow. It's Tempur-Pedic, it's soft. It's comfortable."
S Tyrann Mathieu says he likes competing against the best and says he feels like the defense has had an edge so far. What do you think about that?
"I don't know. You have to watch the film. But it's definitely a lot of competition out there on the field between the defense, a lot of competition in the secondary between those guys, lot of competition in the wide receiver room, so when we go against each other it's a lot going on."
What have you seen from RB Lamar Miller?
"Lamar has always been a key piece in this offense and he's always exceeded expectations, I think, especially last year. We aren't going to talk about that but Lamar is always going to strive for greatness for himself."
After getting a new contract last year and now entering your sixth year in the league, how much have you embraced being a leader on this team?
"I'm a role model to a lot of people, to a lot of kids. I always have to watch what I do off the field and be aware that I have a family, so whatever I do can jeopardize my family. On the field, it's the same: go out there and ball. I don't think about the contract. I'm thinking about catching the football and helping this team win."
Are you aware of the bet between the offense and defense?
"There's a lot of competition out there. We like to make friendly bets between pushups and stuff like that. We don't bet for money. That's illegal, but there are a lot of bets out there. A lot of bets."
What's your motivation?
"Because we went 4-12 last year. I haven't won a Super Bowl in the NFL yet, so that's my motivation."
General Manager Brian Gaine said that he expects this team to be hungry and humble. What do you think about that?
"I would totally agree. I think the guys that weren't here, that came from other teams, they are hungry, too. They feel that this team wants more than what we've ever had."
Where do you think QB Deshaun Watson has grown the most from last year to now?
"Deshaun (Watson) has grown a lot, off the field and on the field. On the field, I would say he's studying and being a student of the game. He's going to make plays. He's the most athletic guy out there on the football field. He's putting in a lot of work in the film room."
What's special about the way QB Deshaun Watson delivers the football?
"It's a soft touch. He's not forcing it in there. The timing – he can throw it hard if he wants to but he has a good touch to the football."
What do you see from WR Keke Coutee?
"Keke is going to be good. He's asking a lot of questions and he's learning every day. He's progressing but we'll see once the pads get on and we go against another team."
Are you looking forward to pads going on tomorrow?
"Always, always. I'm a football player not a basketball player."
What have you seen from CB Kevin Johnson?
"Kevin has improved a lot. He had an interception on me today. He's definitely learning every day from going against me and I feel like he wants to. He wants to compete against me every day. I love it."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
What have you thought about training camp so far?
"It's been pleasant. Obviously you hear the stories about how camp used to be but here it's very peaceful, so I don't have any complaints. I mean, it's just good to get back into the rhythm, back into the flow of things with my teammates, constantly trying to build that chemistry. The first couple of days it's been going OK but we have some things that we could work on."
What do you want to bring to this team?
"I just want to bring some energy, man. I want to make as many plays as possible. I just want to be a leader back there. Obviously, stepping into a new role, I have some teammates. All those guys have been doing a great job of really supporting me and embracing me. I just want to be the ultimate leader for those guys and just show those guys that I'm going to show up every day."
What's the key to being a leader when you come to a new team?
"I think it's really just by following the right guys. I've been leaning on J.J. (Watt) and J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) a lot. Those guys have been helping me out a lot so I'll continue to lean on those guys and I'll do my part trying to push the younger guys along."
How much do you feel like you rub off on the other guys and set the tone for others?
"It's all about your attitude, how you approach things. Obviously camp is long and it can get tedious sometimes. You get tired of looking at your teammates sometimes, too, but it's a lot of things you have to push through. I think me wanting to be a leader on this team, that's something that I have to make sure I hold myself accountable as well."
S Treston Decoud lists you as his favorite player. Does that make you feel old or good?
"You know, I'm going into my sixth year but sometimes it feels like I'm in Year 10. Obviously I get lot of respect from guys around the league. I have a lot of respect for a lot of guys in this league, so hopefully that continues."
What's the one thing you have to bring to training camp?
"Like I said, your attitude and your energy level. Those two things have to – even if your body isn't there every day, I think your attitude and your mindset, you have to be there. That's what I'm going to try to do every day."
How about a personal item that you have to bring to training camp?
"I don't know. I like Crunch 'n Munch."
How important has it been for you to be healthy all offseason?
"I think it just adds to my confidence level. Obviously, I know what kind of player I am. It's a violent league. You're going to have setbacks. You're going to get hurt. I'm just very fortunate that I have a group of guys that believe in me, that are continuously pushing me along. I think I have a lot of guys around me that believe that I am who I used to be."
What's your message to the team now that you're here?
"It's not really a message. For me, it's about coming here and playing my role, playing my part, trying to implement myself as a leader on this team and making plays. At the end of the day, making plays is the only thing that matters in this league. That's what I'm going to try to do."
What's your relationship like with CB Johnathan Joseph and S Kareem Jackson?
"I think it's important, especially as defensive backs. Any time we have a miscommunication, it's a touchdown. We don't get that benefit of the doubt. We have to be on the same page constantly. We have to understand how each other plays each coverage and we have to understand how each one of us sees the game. It's going to help us out."
Are any of the Texans defensive backs trash-talkers?
"A little bit. I just got here so I'm trying to ease my way into talking a little bit, but it's fun hearing J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), hearing Kareem (Jackson) and a lot of different guys just bring that energy and that attitude. Like I said, that's something that I want to help with the team as well."
Has anybody stood out to you the first couple of days?
"I think Justin Reid. I think he's going to be a great player for us. He's obviously going to add some depth for us at the safety position. He's very smart. He's sharp and he has a passion for the game. I think any time you can find guys like that and put him on your football team, you've got a good chance of being successful."
What does that say about S Justin Reid that a veteran has had a rookie catch his attention?
"For him, I played with his brother. He reminds me so much of his brother. Very sharp young man, very respectful, but when he gets on the football field, he has a mean streak. That's what I like to see from my teammates, but especially younger guys. I like them to come in, understand what they have to do, but also come in with a chip on their shoulder."
When you watched film of the Texans defense from last season, what stood out about the secondary?
"The D-line wasn't healthy. I think that plays a part in how we perform on the backend. Everything goes hand in hand. We'll get a couple of guys back, obviously, like I said, we added some guys in the secondary. It's going to be important for us to kind of get a feel for each other because we do have a big game Week 1. So, we have to be ready."
Does it excite you to see players return from injury like DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus?
"It takes some stress off."
What have you thought of WR DeAndre Hopkins so far?
"D-Hop, he is who he is. He's very physical. He wants to compete, and he only wants to compete against the best players on the other team. Unfortunately, the defense is the other team in camp. So, we're going to try to get him better knowing that in the long run it'll help us out."