Texans Transcripts: September 26

HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN

Opening Statement

"I just want to talk about a couple roster moves. We signed outside linebacker Daeshon Hall to the active roster, promoted tackle David Sharpe. We had to place Dylan Cole on injured reserve, Bruce Ellington on injured reserve, and we added Malachi Dupre to the practice squad. I just want to talk to you about something that's a lot bigger than football. Today's one of those days that just really is bigger than football. Just very, very happy, a very special day here to announce that (Andre) Dre Hal, his Hodgkin's Lymphoma is in remission. Dre's a very special guy to us here, very special guy to me. He's been here from the start, we drafted him in '14. He was a corner, we moved him to safety, he's been a leader for us, he's just been an unbelievable guy in this organization. Dre never wavered in his belief that he would beat it, and he has. Right now, Andre's health and wellbeing is our main priority, that's our main deal. We'll take it day by day. And, Dre's here to talk to you guys next, after me, and our head trainer, Geoff Kaplan, is also here. They can answer any specific questions about his treatment, but I just wanted to announce that. It's a great day for us, great day for Dre."

What do you want QB Deshaun Watson to take out of the start to this season?

"I think all of us are on the improvement track. We've got to get better. I don't think it's just about one guy. Everybody. Everybody in the organization has to improve. We have to practice better, we have to eliminate mistakes. We're doing a lot of things to beat ourselves and we have to stop doing that."

What coaches do you work with to develop a game plan for play-calling?

"Work with the whole offensive staff. We all work well together. Really it's not about that. I think it's more about trying to get these guys, relative to that, into a better rhythm during the game, and that's my job during the game. That's what I'm going to try to do."

What happened on the goal-line play where RB Lamar Miller was tackled for a loss and the Giants had 10 players on the field?

"They had 10 men, and that's about how I saw it. I don't think it was a tackle for a loss. That was a goal-line play. I think if you go back and watch that, we ran it down to the two-yard line on that play."

What can be done for the offensive line to improve?

"Just keep working to get better. Just really working hard to get better. There's no magic wand, no magic dust, there's nothing I could sprinkle over it. Everybody's just got to work hard to get a lot better."

What are your thoughts on the Colts offensive line, specifically rookie G Quenton Nelson?

"They've got a good offensive line. Quenton is a really good, young guard that we watched coming out. I actually recruited him to Penn State when he was coming out of high school. So, I'm very familiar with him. They've got some good guys up front."

Do you talk to Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob McNair or Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair often? What are their thoughts on the season?

"We talk all the time. Almost every day, I would say. We've got to get better. Bottom-line business. We have to win. We all understand that. Bob has made it very clear to me that we need to improve."

What kind of inspiration has it been to have S Andre Hal around here while he's undergoing treatment?

"We've dealt with this twice, with David (Quessenberry) and now with Dre. It's like I said in the beginning, it's bigger than football, and Dre – it's hard to explain in words, he's just a very special guy, very hard worker, loves football, has a passion for football, passion for his teammates and it's always been great to have Dre here."

In what ways have you seen QB Deshaun Watson improve from the first half of the New England game in Week 1?

"He's made a lot of improvement. I think everybody has to get better. We're all looking to improve, quite obviously, but I think he's done a really nice job of getting us into the right play, getting us out of a bad here and there, he's made a lot of plays, and I think he's really improved every game he's played."

What have you seen from Colts DT Margus Hunt and LB Darius Leonard?

"Hunt is 6-8, a really, really disruptive guy on the inside. Probably the best field goal block guy in the league, which may not sound like a lot to you guys, but that's very, very difficult to protect. Darius Leonard we had in the Senior Bowl. South Carolina State, great guy, athletic guy, doing a really good job for them as a young linebacker."

How do you plan to make up for WR Bruce Ellington's production?

"We have a number of different ways to do that. I'm not going to go through all of the things we're going to do to deal with that, but we have a number of ways to deal with that."

Do you feel like WR Keke Coutee is close to returning?

"Yes."

What have you seen from Colts QB Andrew Luck?

"Same guy. Very competitive, very smart, very accurate. What's always stood out to me, the reason why I have such great respect for him is how he competes. He never feels like the play's over. He keeps his team in the game and he's a great player."

SENIOR DIRECTOR OF SPORTS MEDICINE AND HEAD ATHLETIC TRAINER GEOFF KAPLAN

Did S Andre Hal have brain cancer?

"He didn't (have brain cancer). He had nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma."

What exactly is nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma?

"He had Hodgkin's lymphoma in his lymph nodes. One in his armpit and one in his abdomen. So, he did not have brain cancer."

How did you decide to go with the treatment that S Andre Hal ended up choosing?

"Andre met with the physicians at MD Anderson, specifically one physician named Dr. (Swaminathan) Iyer. Dr. Iyer walked him through all of the options. Andre thought long and hard about the options and what he wanted to do and the potential side effects of all the options. Dr. Iyer gave him a really good prognosis that if he chose the treatment that he chose, that this would be the result."

What does S Andre Hal need to do now to get ready to play football again?

"We're just going through the last steps of meeting with the doctors at MD Anderson, meeting with Dr. (James) Muntz, kind of getting everybody on the same page. He's rolling hard and making progress every day."

Is there a chance S Andre Hal could play again this season?

"I think everything's on the table. I think everything's on the table. I think we're just taking it a day at a time, a week at a time like he's done during this whole process. He's been incredible. Some things that stuck out to me is his amazing attitude. From day one, he knew this was going to be the outcome. He never wavered in his faith or his spirit. Every day he came into work, keeping himself in tip-top shape. He did things inside the box, outside the box to assure that he had the best chance to make this a successful story."

Were you with S Andre Hal every step of the way during his recovery?

"I was with him at most of his appointments. I was with him at the beginning. I couldn't be with him for every treatment that he got, but I've been to as many as I could be there with him."

Was this the best-case scenario for S Andre Hal?

"This is the best-case scenario that you can imagine. He's had a remarkable response to the medication that he was on."

Having experienced something similar with David Quessenberry, despite his being a different form of lymphoma, is that something you pulled lessons from to help S Andre Hal in his recovery?

"Any time you go through anything like this, a difficult situation, and you go through it again, you have everything based on experience. So, yes, things are a little bit easier, but for every individual person things are a little different."

David Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin T-lymphoblastic lymphoma and, as such, was presented different treatment options than Andre Hal, who had nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

S ANDRE HAL

Opening Statement

"First of all, I want to thank God. Without God I wouldn't be here today. I had my faith in God, but I had my confidence in myself. I just made sure that I did everything I could to beat this." 

What did you do to beat it?

"Many things. I started off with treatment at MD Anderson, many things. We did a drug called Rituxan. I didn't want to do chemo because I didn't want to miss this year. I wanted to play this year, and I don't think people really thought I was going to come back and play, but I kind of knew in my heart that I wanted to come back and play. So, I didn't want to do chemo, so I tried to do a more – they call it a 'less harsh' drug. So, I did Rituxan. It went through an IV. I did that for a month – once a week for a month – and the cancer went away. So, that's what I did."

Where do things stand with you and being able to play this season?

"That's something I'm really waiting on the trainers and the doctors to tell me whether they're going to clear me or not. But, I've been working out the whole time. I never stopped working out. I was obsessed. I wanted to get back on the field. That obsession made me do all the stuff that I had to do, like I did acupuncture. I met a doctor called Dr. Bing You, he does acupuncture. I had a long talk with Tiffany Smith, Rick Smith's wife. She went through cancer, so she made it a point for me to kind of – she introduced me to different people so I could learn the natural way to do it too, because I said I wanted to keep my body, I wanted to keep my strength. She told me a lot ways to do that too, so I did those ways and I just had faith. That's the main thing, I had faith in God and faith in myself that I was going to beat this."

How important was it to you to be around the team while you were going through this?

"It was very important. I needed to be around the guys, I needed to feel normal. I felt like once I felt normal, my body would start healing. I had to be around Kareem Jackson, J-Joe (Johnathan Joseph) – I've been around these guys for the last five years so I didn't want to just stay home just because they said I was sick. I had to come back and work out, be around the guys so I could heal and get better."

What was the moment like when you were told you were in remission?

"To be honest with you, I kind of knew. I felt it in my body, 'OK I'm getting better'. I feel great, I don't feel anything, so I kind of knew that something was getting better in my body. I knew that, and I was doing all the right things to get better. It was only a matter of time before I got better."

When were you diagnosed?

"May 17, I think, something like that. Around May 17 I was diagnosed."

What were the symptoms that drove you to get checked out?

"I just had blurry vision. I came out to practice one day, my vision was kind of blurry and we did an MRI, they took me to the hospital and did an MRI and they saw something going on in my brain. They didn't know what it was, so we did multiple tests and they found the lymphoma in my armpit and around my belly button and we just attacked that first."

What was the moment like when you found out it wasn't just blurry vision?

"Well, the past two years I've been just self-development, reading books and just getting closer to God, stuff like that. So, when they told me I kind of knew that it's time, this is what I've been preparing for. I was preparing for this actual moment. So, when they told me, I wasn't scared, I didn't cry, my mom was on my side, I had God on my side so I wasn't scared at all. I was just kind of like, 'OK, let's go. Let's go, I'm ready'."

When did you get the exact news that you were in remission?

"The exact news, it had to be on last Tuesday. Last Tuesday when I went. Last Tuesday."

During the process, did you ever talk to David Quessenberry about what he went through?

"Yeah, I talked to David. He's one of the reasons why I didn't want to do the chemo. I saw what he went through, I saw how he had to fight because he was really fighting for his life and I didn't want to go through that. I wanted to keep my body, I wanted to keep my strength because I wanted to come back and play football. I can only play for so long. I don't have too many years to play football so I didn't want to lose a whole year. I made sure that I would beat the cancer but also keep my body."

David Quessenberry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin T-lymphoblastic lymphoma and, as such, was presented different treatment options than Andre Hal, who had nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma

S KAREEEM JACKSON

What are your initial thoughts on hearing that S Andre Hal is in remission?

"It was a tough time for his family, for us, his teammates. We just wanted to try to support him as much as we could. To hear he's in remission now, we're all definitely excited about that."

Did S Andre Hal's energy and attitude while battling lymphoma inspire you?

"Yeah, definitely. The way he carried himself throughout the whole process. He's pretty much been here every day with us and was still working out, in meetings and stuff. It was just a testament to the strength he has, the type of guy he is and it's definitely a blessing for him to be in remission now. At the end of the day, it's just all about us supporting him. We're all here for football, but at the end of the day, we become closer as men. We all have families and we all want to support each other off the field as well. So, any time we're going through anything tough like that, we definitely have to have each other's back." 

CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH

Was the locker room as certain as S Andre Hal that he would defeat lymphoma?

"Absolutely. He's always one of the first guys in the building, one of the last guys to leave. He did extra when not asked to. One of the hardest working, most humble guys I've been around in my life. There's no doubt in my mind that if there was anybody who could beat it, it would be him. I knew the type of guy he was, the type of work ethic that he has and he would put it to the test of that, and he did it."

What was it like having S Andre Hal around the team every day while battling lymphoma?

"It's big just because it shows you that life is so much bigger than football, but at the same time, he's able to still able to come out here and be around the game he loves. To go through what he went through and be out here participating with us, that just shows how he's committed to this team."

Could you see a situation where S Andre Hal could be back on the field this year?

"Absolutely, because I think that's what having a peace of mind about it is. Sometimes you kind of go into a deep sunken place, and I think he just kept a clear mind about everything, stayed focused and took care of his business off the field and kept himself ready, so if he had a chance to get back on the field, he'd be ready. If you take a look at him, he's in tip-top shape. I'm pretty sure he's eager and ecstatic to get back out there, but I think he'll let that process play itself out. Me, I'm ready whenever he's ready."

QB DESHAUN WATSON

What lessons do you learn from starting out 0-3?

"As far as football, just deal with adversity. Try to take the good with the bad and really dig down each and every week to find out what the problem is. It's really just the details. When you're winning and if the tables are turned and we're 3-0, you wouldn't really be talking about the little details, you would kind of continue to do the same thing. Once you start losing and you really want to find out what the problem is, it's the little things. We just have to take care of that."

Has Head Coach Bill O'Brien changed at all in terms of intensity or situations like this? Is he pretty much the same?

"He's the same guy. He's going to coach you hard regardless if you're 3-0 or 0-3 in our situation. He's going to coach you hard. He'll make sure that he puts us in the best situation to win. He's going to bring out the best of you."

What's the difference between this year and last year in the redzone?

"Penalties. Negative plays. That's it. You take those two away and we pretty much are scoring those. Once you have a negative play or penalties in the redzone, the percentage goes from about 50 percent to 20 percent of scoring. You take away that and execute, and we'll be fine." 

You've had 300-yard games the last two games. How do you feel like you've played through these first three games?

"I played well. I guess not good enough, not to win. I'm not a really big stat guy. Of course last year everyone was talking about it. For me, I just want to win, regardless if we run the ball in five times and I throw for 100 yards. I just want the ball in the end zone and this team to win. That's what I'm about. I don't really worry about the stats and things like that. I do my job, make sure I'm doing the right things, making the right MIKE points, getting us in the right play and execute."

What are your thoughts on S Andre Hal beating cancer?

"It's a blessing. It's awesome. I've dealt with that in my family – my mom, firsthand. She's beat it and been cancer-free for seven years. Having a teammate now go through the same situation and to see him work, see him stay positive, see him stay strong – it's a blessing to me. It's a blessing to this whole team, especially for him and his family. It's awesome to see that and I'm glad that he's doing great and always carrying around a smile, working out with us and keeping the energy and positive vibes around this locker room."

What is it like to have to throw under so much pressure?

"It's not really what a quarterback wants to do, but if I have to do it to make the offensive linemen right and try to make a play, then that's what I have to do. I kind of don't focus on it. I just try to focus on getting the ball downfield, getting it to the playmakers. I always tell the O-line, just do your job and I'm going to make you right if something happens. Keep them encouraged and keep them motivated and keep working."

Did it mean something to you that S Andre Hal was not only around, but he was working out and attending games with you guys?

"For sure. It means the world to him. He told us once the information and news got out to the team and the outside world, he looked us in the eyes and said he was going to beat it, he was going to be right back, don't worry about him, we just focus on us and he's going to be right there with us. Everything he told us, he stuck with it. That's a true teammate, true brother. He's excited about the news just as much – probably even more – than everyone else."

What can you do to pick up the spirits of T Julién Davenport when he's struggling?

"Just encourage him. Make sure that I'm doing what I have to do to help him out. Ask him questions. Just keep encouraging him. People make mistakes. It's about confidence once you step on that field. So, keeping his confidence up, keep his spirits up and continue to have that positive energy. You can't bring him down by yelling and screaming at him. You have to tell him that you're there for him and everything's going to be all right. Just focus on the next play."

When you look at the tape, are you guys close to turning things around?

"Just a couple of plays away. You score one time in the redzone these last three games, we would be sitting here 3-0. It could be a different story. Just five plays away out of 60-70 plays in a game. I think we're top 10, top 5, something like that in getting in the redzone. As far as capitalizing and scoring, we're at the bottom. You just turn one or two plays around in the redzone and we're sitting here 3-0."

Are you right now where you were at the Cincinnati game last year, physically?

"I'm ahead, actually. Last year, I was weighing 200, 207 (lbs.). I really didn't know too much of the offense – kind of halfway there. I know the offense, Luke and his staff have really gotten me built up (to) 216, 217 and being able to manage the hits and move around and feel stronger than I have before. I feel comfortable. I feel just right where I need to be."

What have you seen from the Colts defense?

"A defense that is real disciplined. They do a great job up front of creating pressure on the quarterback, making you make the throws. You have to take the profit and be patient. They're going to make sure that you're taking your time and trickling down the field. They're not going to give up the big plays and once you're in the redzone, it's very tough to score on them. We just have to do our job, focus on us executing and see how the game goes."

What is a loss like WR Bruce Ellington like for a wide receiver group that has dealt with a lot of injuries this season?

"It's a big loss. Bruce is a guy that brings a lot of energy to that group. He's a veteran guy, played a lot of football. He does a lot of great things for this offense and this team. It's a guy that you never really want injured, so we just have to stick with it and continue to bring Bruce along, but at the same time, just focus on what we have right now and just take it one day at a time and try to get a W."

Can you talk about TE Jordan Thomas and his progress on the field?

"JT is a guy that still learning, still coming along, but has all the skillsets. He's a big guy that can run and do a lot of great things, strong hands. We try to get the ball to all of our playmakers and skill guys, and he's one of the guys that once the ball is in his hands, he can make something happen."

Do you have mixed emotions about the recent roughing the passer calls?

"Of course. It helps me out because I'm a quarterback. I've been playing this game for the past 12, 14 years. Some of the calls are kind of – it's crazy. I'm cool with it. Of course, I want to be safe and sound, but at the same time, just play football. Some of the stuff that the defensive guys are trying to hold up, they're getting hurt. It goes both ways. Some of the calls are just kind of crazy, for me, being honest with you even though I'm a quarterback. Let the guys play and see how it goes."

DE J.J. WATT

What do you think about the S Andre Hal news?

"It's great. The thing about Dre is, he's been unbelievably positive and upbeat the whole time. He's never had an iota of a doubt in his mind what the outcome was going to be. It's great to see, obviously. Unfortunately, I've had two teammates who've had to go through things like this, but fortunately, I've had two guys who I can look to as inspiration for the rest of my life. Anything I ever go through, I can look at these two guys and unequivocally say that I have two guys I can look to and know that I can get through anything."

When you watch the tape of the Giants game, did you feel like that was how you were moving in the past?

"Like I've said all year long, I think it's coming back little by little. I think I just trying to get better from one game to the next, one half to the next. I think last game it started to show up on the stat line more maybe than it did the first couple games, but I think it's still a work in progress and I still have a lot to improve on and get better at. I'm by no means where I want to be yet, but we're getting there."

You tweeted about the recent roughing the passer penalties. What's your perspective on how difficult it has become to get to the quarterback and not get a flag?

"Obviously, the rule has become very controversial and a hot topic. You're asking guys to do something that's very, very difficult to do. There's guys out there that literally don't know what to do. I watched the game on Monday night and that's when I tweeted. I mean, there's a couple of those plays you're just looking at and you're like, you just want us to two-hand touch them or what? It's hard when there's not a – I understand what they're trying to prevent, but I don't think the calls they're making are on the types of plays they're trying to prevent. It's tough. You're highly prioritizing one player over everybody else on the field, and that's a difficult thing to do."

You can't go for the head, you don't want to go for the legs, you got to go for the middle, but then it's bodyweight and moving your helmet in the blink of an eye.

"I think the head and the (going) low, we've dealt with. We've accepted those, those are good. I think it's the bodyweight one that's becoming difficult. When you're coming in – you're playing ball. You're just trying to play ball and you got 290-300 lbs. person flying in and trying to stop all their weight and now you have a guy getting hurt trying to stop himself. So, I don't know. I get it, the quarterback is the most important person out there, but there's other guys out there that are trying to do their job, too."

At some point does the NFL have to be careful not to weigh too much toward the offensive side of the ball?

"I think there's another issue that comes along with it, is that guys are being fined. There's fines that are being handed out. That's money out of guys' pockets. I get it, we make a lot of money and it's good – I don't know if any of the guys from Monday night got fined, but if I'm getting $20,000-$40,000 taken out of my pocket for a hit like that, you're starting to really mess with real stuff, besides already having hurt your team, besides already giving up a first down. I just think they have to figure it out. I think that it's been a very clear and a very resounding response from the fans, from the players. I mean, you have quarterbacks saying that it's a little out of hand. I'm sure they'll figure it out, and I hope they do."

Are you worried you'll hurt yourself when avoiding a penalty?

"I just play the game the way I know how to play it. I just go out there, I play hard and I've always played the same way and I try and play as clean as I can. I let the chips fall where they may."

Would you like the NFL to change the roughing the passer rules?

"I'd like to see them figure it out and not wait until next offseason. I think a lot of guys would like that. I think that you have to – it's very clearly going in the wrong way, so I think that we have to figure something out sooner rather than later."

How important is it to get a win this week?

"Yeah, it's very important. We have to. We don't have one, haven't had one in a long time. So, we really need to get one and it's a very tough opponent, very tough place to play and we need to go on the road and put our best foot forward."

Do you like the attitude of the team from Sunday until now with how they've responded to the adversity?

"Yeah, I think we're very excited to get out to practice and get to work. The only thing you can do is get to work. We've watched the film, we've learned from the film, now we want to go out there and practice and get to work, because that's really the only way you can improve, is to practice and to play and to hone your craft. That's what we need to do today."

Can you talk about what you see from Colts QB Andrew Luck?

"He's obviously always been a great player. He's a resilient, tough, he can run a bit, he can throw the ball very well. Obviously, having been through some injuries myself, I know I'm sure how happy he is just to be back on the field. He's always been a great player. It's a good challenge for us and I always look forward to facing them."

Do you see some good additions they've made on the offensive line?

"Yeah, I know they're dealing with some stuff out there at tackle but their inside guys and what they've been able to do trying to build up their offensive line and drafting a guy early on like that. Yeah, they've made some good strides there. When you put emphasis on something, you try and improve it and I think they've done a good job there."

You mentioned that it's been a while since the team had a win, is there a feel in the locker room that it's been a while?

"I mean, 0-3 is enough. If you take it back further, you take it back further, but 0-3 is enough. It's a crappy feeling, there's no doubt about it. There's no better feeling than winning in this league and there's no worse feeling than losing. You want that winning feeling and you want it to be contagious, you want to get it and then just to keep getting it."

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