HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
"I just want to start with, we have the Santa Fe High School football team here. I think everybody knows, obviously, what happened in Santa Fe. It's just great to have them here, to be able to see practice, meet our players and there's a good example of what I was talking about the other day with our players. Our players really are hands-on when it comes to the community and Houston, and it's good to see this here today. I also want to announce that the Texans will be making a $100,000 donation to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund to be earmarked for grief counseling and support services to help the families and those dealing with trauma since that tragedy. Just want to announce that, too."
Can you talk about S Andre Hal and what he means to the team?
"He's a special guy. He came here, seventh round draft pick, moved him to safety. He's played a lot of football for us and he's played a lot of good football for us. It's one of those things where it's part of life and we're going to do everything we can to support him in his battle. Like he told the team, he's going to beat it. He's going to beat it and we'll be there every step of the way for him."
What do you think of S Justin Reid so far?
"He's been good as relative to being out here in the OTA tempo that we're in. He's been smart, good communicator, studies tape. Really a guy that works very hard at his craft. It's been impressive so far."
Can you talk about T Martinas Rankin and when do you expect him to be back?
"I don't know. Like I always tell you guys, we don't have to file any injury reports. We'll let you guys figure it out on your own until the season starts. He's doing well. He's a smart guy. I think he's picked up the things we've taught him. He's picked them up well and I think he has a good future here. We'll see how it goes."
Are you seeing what aspects of your offense are working well now or will you wait until training camp?
"Obviously, this is more a passing, teaching time of the year. So, the running game, that will come into play a lot more in training camp when full pads are on, but the things we're doing here, we don't want to waste a lot of time out on the field. So, there's not too many things that we've looked at and said, 'Oh, we can't do that.' These are things that are well thought out and we feel pretty good about where we are right now and then we have a good foundation going into training camp, which is the key for this time of the year."
Has ILB Benardrick McKinney showed you even more this offseason?
"He's probably – I don't want to speak for him – but when you look at the numbers, you look at his body comp numbers, his weight room numbers, he's probably in the best shape of his career. It shows out here on the field. He's become a leader now going into his third year. I think he's a very important part of our team and I'm glad he's on our team."
Is today a day that feels like football is a little bigger than X's and O's with the Santa Fe football team in attendance?
"Look, I think when you're the pro football team in town, I think it's important, and I know that Bob McNair really believes in this that we give back to the community. I think if you look back at the history of the Texans, whether it's charitable causes throughout the city or when things happen like the Santa Fe shooting, I think that the Texans have always been there for the community. I think that's something that we believe in and it's great to have those kids here today."
What's the importance of versatility in the secondary?
"There's a lot of things. I think versatility is important at just about every position. Really it is, with the exception of – to a certain degree of quarterback, punter and placekicker and things like that. I think those guys play those positions, but when it comes to the other positions, not just the secondary, if you look at the gameday roster, you look at the seasonal roster, there's not a lot of guys. The more you can do, the more jobs that you can fill, whether it's in the defense or special teams, the better your team is going to be and the more value you're going to have to the roster."
If you had control of the offseason program, what changes would you make?
"I think the big thing is, especially with younger players, obviously rookies but first- and second-year players, three groups of players and the positon of quarterback, to me, should be allowed to start at least two weeks before the normal offseason program starts. So, if the offseason program starts on, let's just say the middle of April, then those groups of players – first-year players, second-year players – obviously, it's before the draft so those two groups and quarterbacks to me should be able to – maybe we can in the next CBA talk about those groups of players being able to come in a little bit early. Maybe not necessarily even do field work but do classroom work and weight room work and educational work. That's just my humble opinion."
Why is it important for a quarterback to understand defenses?
"I don't think you can really be as successful as you want to be at that position unless you have a real good understanding of defensive football. I think that you have to obviously know your playbook, you have to know your offense, you have to know everything from the cadence, to formations, to motions, to the plays, to protections, to everything, but at the end of the day, you have to know how the defense is going to line up against your offense. You have to really study that. It takes a lot of work. Nobody masters that in one year. Nobody masters that really ever because defense is always evolving now, just like offense is. We spent a lot of time on that and hopefully that shows up on the fall."
Do you work with QB Deshaun Watson on understanding defenses?
"We all do. I'd say Sean (Ryan), myself work a lot in the classroom with him on those things."
Do you teach QB Deshaun Watson defensive schemes by watching film?
"It's film, it's board work, it's testing, it's communication. There's a lot of different ways to do it."
What's the significance of QB Deshaun Watson practicing without a knee brace?
"I don't know. I didn't notice that. I'm sure that was cleared with the proper people. I'm not the brace doctor or the brace coach."
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
What are you guys going to do to help support S Andre Hal as he endures this battle?
"We don't even think about it from a football standpoint. It's just about whatever he needs, us being there for him constantly. It's not just when it initially starts, it's about through the whole process, beginning to end. We're there for him."
He said in a statement he doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him. Is that the kind of guy he is?
"Absolutely. Most of the guys talked to him in the locker room. That's the way he is. He doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him. He's a fighter, he can beat it. That's the approach I think he's going to take and we're going to let him take his own lane, but at the end of the day we're going to do our part, and our part is supporting him 100 percent."
What's the main emphasis for the defense over the next few weeks?
"Taking care of our bodies, everyone coming back and being on top of the playbook. I think the new guys will mesh in and jell well."
What does it mean to your team to have the Santa Fe High School football program out here at practice?
"It's big, just to come out and be a part of that, just to show their support, talk with some of the kids, some of the coaching staff, some of the people that came out. It's just a great feeling. They're thinking about us when it should be totally opposite around. Just having a chance to sign some balls, take pictures and lighten up their day."
What were your thoughts when you heard about S Andre Hal?
"It's a very unfortunate situation. We talk pretty much daily, and it's one of those things to where it's just personal business but you don't want to speak much into it. But, he has the support of everybody on this team, me and my family. It's not one of those things to where you just throw it out there in the initiation process; it's one of those things to where I'm there from beginning to end, and that's where we're at with it."
S JUSTIN REID
Regarding the S Andre Hal situation, can you sense what he means to this team?
"Yeah, it's terrible. I mean, Andre is just an incredible dude. You can feel it any time that you're around him. He just brings this aura around him. He's such a good guy. Kind, everybody on the team loves him. It's just a tragic situation what happened to him. We all just want to be with him, be around him. He's a strong guy, he's going to come out of this all right."
What did it mean having these Santa Fe High School kids here at practice?
"Yeah, yeah. I mean. you see a lot of them smiling. You're signing balls so you can hold a short conversation with them. You can really feel that these kids are all so strong. It's awesome being able to interact with them and try and make some impact, just try to give them a smile. I mean, we brought them out to the field today to sign a few balls and things like that, but it's really cool to get out into the community and speak with them."
How much has S Andre Hal helped you get to where you are right now?
"I mean, Andre's incredible. He's a mentor to me. I can go up and talk to him any time and ask him any question that I want to, and he's nothing but helpful. He walks me through it, he gives me tips and keys on how to play my position better and like I said, he's an incredible guy."
Has S Andre Hal talked to you about winning his position this season?
"No, what we're doing right now is we're just trying to get better every day. The preseason is still a long way away. We still have to go to Greenbrier and we have to prepare for camp for those weeks. Then, when the preseason games come, we have a competitive room. And, the man that comes out, we're all going to be supportive. We're a group. We're a unit, and the guy who comes out on top is going to be the guy who plays."
Do you think you have an opportunity to win the safety position this season?
"I'm going to compete and give it my best shot. We're going to put the chips on the table, and where they fall, they fall."
Where have you excelled in this offseason program?
"Getting really installed in the program and the way that we do things around here. Being able to make the calls on the field to check the adjustments. Being able to get – as a safety, you have to be the quarterback of the defense. You have to get the corners, the linebackers, you have to give them calls and signals to get everybody lined up and on the same page. I feel that I've done a good job of that so far. So, I've just got to keep that ball rolling, continue to get better, continue to get faster, make my checks and alerts sooner, give people more tips and alerts based on formation scheme. Anything that I can do to give us a hint at what's about to happen before it happens so we can have a step up on the offense."
What was the best piece of advice free agent S Eric Reid gave you?
"So, me and Eric talked all the time. In college I used to go to his house and he'd pull up his San Francisco film, and we'd break down film to it. And, he'd give me the game plan on what they were doing, why they were doing certain things, and he just gives me tips. Like, say if it's two-by-two, and the back releases away, then teams are usually doing slants on the backside. So, he just teaches me offensive philosophy from a NFL standpoint so that way I can come into the program with the mentality of a third-year veteran rather than that of a rookie. So, it's just a little bit of a head start, and he's been an unbelievable resource for me."
Most rookies are trying to wrap their heads around everything, do you feel this head start is valuable?
"It is, it is. It's really nice because it's calming. Because, I don't feel like I'm as much of a lost puppy because I've kind of been around the NFL for a couple years now and I know how things go. So, it makes it relaxing and calming that I kind of have a rough roadmap of how things are going to go before they happen."
What has been your biggest challenge?
"I said rough road map for a reason, because you know what's coming, but you still have to prepare and get adjusted for it. So, it's different when you're actually on the field and I have to make it my game. You know what I mean? I have to come out and I have to execute. So, getting used to the NFL speed – it's a lot faster than the college tempo, but it's not that bad. But, it's still the adjustment of getting used to it and being on your P's and Q's so that way you can make an impact on the defense."
What's it like practice against a diverse group of offensive players?
"You know, I feel like J. Cole, "idols to rivals", things like that, you know? You used to see these guys on TV and now you're playing against them. But, it's really cool. Like I said, one of the best things about the Houston organization – and I visited different teams – is that the locker room is so cohesive. You feel like you can go up and talk to anybody. So, being able to talk to those guys – and I go and talk to the receivers, and they'll tell me why they stem certain ways, why they do certain releases in order to try and attack my technique to do certain things, and understanding why they're doing things a certain way, can help me to better protect against it. So, having those guys as resources has also been very helpful."
Who was your sports hero growing up?
"I would say my dad. My dad, he has an unbelievable story. He was an NCAA champion and a 110 (meter) hurdle All-American for LSU. Hearing his perseverance and things he went through in college, whenever he torn his ACL, and all the schools dropped him except two, and he was still able to rebound and become a NCAA champion, I mean, it's an awesome story."
It seems like you can pull a lot of inspiration from your family.
"Yeah, we're all very supportive. Like I said, I come from an athletic family so we all have things that we add to each other to make each other better."
The Santa Fe High School football team visited the Texans after practice.