HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
"First day in full pads. Some good, some bad. That's to be expected. We haven't had the pads on in a long time. Really proud of this team for grinding it out on the first day there. It was a good start that way. We just have to keep getting better every day."
What did you think about your defense getting a few goal line stands early?
"Yeah, the defense did a good job. That's kind of the way it is most times. We've got all those guys back on defense. Offensively, we just need to – next time we get down there, we have to do a better job."
Does practice change at all with pads on?
"Well, we run the ball. We run the ball. I mean, we just threw 6,000 passes since OTAs started. So now we ran the ball most of the time. You run the ball in pads. We're behind in the running game on both sides and we'll just continue to get better at that."
What did you think of your offense today?
"Some good, some bad. I think, again, that's to be expected on the first day. We have to be more consistent. We're having a lot of things thrown at us defensively from an offensive viewpoint, so we just have to keep getting better. But there were some decent runs, some nice runs down there in the red area at the end of practice. When you walk off the practice field, it's never as bad as you think and it's never as good as you think. As long as you have that attitude, we'll get everything corrected and try to get better tomorrow."
How concerned are you about the injuries to the offensive line?
"Look, they're a tough bunch of guys. They're well coached. Basically, we had 10 or 11 guys out there today because we have some injuries were dealing with. Those guys are tough. They're getting better every single day and well coached by Mike Devlin."
You said WR Jaelen Strong had a really good offseason. How has that helped him so far?
"He came in, he nailed the conditioning test and did a great job in that. He's been able to really refine his skillset as a receiver. I think he picks out one or two things every single day to get better at. That's good to see. I think he's going to be better and better every single day."
In the past, it's been obvious who the number one running back was going to be.
"I don't know about that. The last two years, I wouldn't say that's the case. Based on injury."
Most teams are now running back by committee. How do you see that position for you this season?
"Lamar (Miller) is the starting running back. Then we have a very diverse running group behind him. We have guys that are big guys, first and second down, short yardage, goal line type guys. We have some third down guys. Then we have what we call some edge-type players. Guys that can play receiver a little bit, play in the backfield, back and forth. So we feel really good about the skillset of the running backs that we have. We just have to keep working them."
RB Tyler Ervin has looked good returning punts and kicks. How does that help a young guy to do multiple things for the team?
"Absolutely. That's one of the reasons why we drafted him. One of the last plays he made in college was an 82 yard punt return for a touchdown at San Jose State. He's a very good punt returner. We've got a number of those guys back there. Some of them we are teaching because we think they have the skillset to be able to do it. But Tyler, that's one of the things he's going to have to do. One of his jobs is going to – he's going to have to be able to return punts."
Last season, WR DeAndre Hopkins had a lot of targets. Is that something you see happening again this year?
"I think it's dictated by game and how the teams are playing us. Starting in the preseason with our defense. If teams are going to do certain things to double him and take him away, then we have to have other guys who can get open. If teams are going to play it pretty balanced on both sides, then he's going to get his share of targets. We're going to have to wait and see on that. We're very much of a game plan offense. We look at the defense that we're playing and we try to utilize our skillsets based on what that defense does and how we can exploit some weaknesses on defense. If that means he's getting 20 targets in a game, then he's going to get 20 targets. If that means it's not as many because of how they're playing him, then we have to be able to adjust during the game. That's why these other guys are here."
What do you think about how the secondary has been playing?
"It's an experienced group. There are some good young players in there. You look at the corner position, it's a fairly deep position. You've got a lot of competition after basically the first four guys. You've got J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), Kareem (Jackson), Kevin Johnson and A.J. Bouye, who's had an excellent offseason. Then after that, you've got some really good competition, Charles James, Terrance Mitchell. Robert Nelson has stepped in here and done some good things. The safety position is very competitive right now. I'd say you've got Dre (Andre Hal) and (Quintin) Demps at the safety spot, but there's competition behind them with Antonio Allen, (Kurtis) Drummond, Corey Moore, and the guy we drafted, (K.J.) Dillon and when Lonnie Ballentine comes back in. You've got Eddie Pleasant that does a lot of different things for us. There's a number of different guys that are going to contribute for us in the preseason in that area."
It looks like CB Kevin Johnson put on some weight this offseason. Is that a good thing?
"He certainly needed to. He did. He worked hard in the offseason after he had some medical procedures. He's worked very hard to get stronger. He's a very aggressive player. That's something that he's been from day one, a mature player. I think right now because he didn't have OTAs, he's still kind of knocking the rust off. It's pretty early but I thought he was much better today."
What have your thoughts been on TE Stephen Anderson?
"He's been one of those guys that comes in here and is mature. He's a hard working kid. A very, very smart kid. He's able to lineup in a lot of different positions. He's got good hands. He's got good route-running ability. Now is the true test. When the full pads go on for a young guy like that, how does he perform when he's pressed or when he has to block somebody? Things like that. So far, we've been pleased with his progress."
How has WR Will Fuller V looked?
"Will Fuller is doing good. He's had a good early training camp. Good couple of days here. All of these rookies are getting used to the physical nature of an NFL training camp. The heat, the amount of running, it's all different. It's just not the same. It is what it is. It's not the same as college and I think all of those guys are, for the most part, progressing every day."
S QUINTIN DEMPS
What does it mean to you to continue your NFL career in your home state?
"It feels good. Any time I can put this suit on, it's a blessing. And then to be able to do it in Texas, it can't get any better for me."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien was talking about the experience in the secondary. Do you think he's counting on you guys?
"Yeah, no question. We have to continue to build our trust with each other and keep playing well."
CB Kevin Johnson came in here as a skinny, tough kid. Now his upper body has a little more muscle.
"Yeah, he added a couple pounds. I'm glad to see him out here healthy and competing with us."
You have some great athletes in front of you, but what is your role on the team?
"You have to communicate, do your job and then help out. Always do your job first and then help out when you can."
With this being the first day of pads, is this where you look around and see who's tough and who's not?
"Yeah, anytime you put pads on. We've been in panties for OTAs, so the first day of pads is always when you find out who the football players are that are not shying away from contact. It's a good feeling."
Was it a good day for contact?
"Yeah, it was a great day for contact."
Describe what is was like when you get those first couple of hits?
"It feels good. I got one early and even if you get hit, it feels good. It reminds you we're playing football now. I've got to be aggressive. I get paid to be aggressive and it's a good feeling."
What is your defensive perspective on RB Lamar Miller?
"Today is the first day of pads so we don't know too much. We already know what he does on tape so he's a great (running) back. I'm looking forward to playing with him and I'm glad he's on my team."
CB KAREEM JACKSON
How is training camp different as a married man?
"Honestly, it's not really different. I think the biggest difference is my daughter. First training camp with my daughter being here. She's nine months now, so just kind of getting a chance to get home and see her at the end of the night. Some nights she sleeps, some nights she's up, so just kind of being away from her all day is definitely a difference, but at the end of the day you have to come get the work in. I definitely love coming to work, seeing all of the guys, being in training camp, the grind, getting your mind back in the swing of things and your body and stuff, so I definitely love it."
Can you explain how intense it is when the offense and defense are in full pads?
"It's real intense. It's been brewing since OTAs. Just kind of talking smack back and forth to finally that first day of pads and like I said you're just kind of going at it. The tension is there. It's there naturally, just because it's offense against defense, so they're the only guys we can beat on right now. We definitely have to come with a high level of intensity and we have to bring it every day."
What is the first hit like during the first full contact practice?
"It's kind of like getting that first kiss when you're a kid. It's a lot of fun. I think every guy in that locker room definitely loves the game. Like I said, to come and to grind with these guys every day and to see the smiles and the growing pains and us getting better as a team. We're definitely embracing the process and we're definitely willing to put the work in to get to where we need to be on the first week of the season."
Do you keep a tally of how many touches you get during OTAs?
"I don't want to say a tally. As a competitor, you kind of keep things in mind that happened to you a while back, you know OTAs, whenever it may have been. End of the day, we're out here as a team to compete and to get better and whoever is across from you, they're definitely going to try to put the best work in against you and you have to do the same. Like I said, we all have the same goal in mind and that's to get better as a team and we're definitely going to work towards that."
What do you think about the speed some of the rookies bring to the outside of the offense?
"Definitely a lot of speed. Definitely a lot of speed. Hopefully the guys can step in and be a big part of our offense and definitely help us on Sundays. Like I said, it's all about getting better. They're here, putting the work in and getting better each and every day. I think they'll definitely be successful."
Have you seen enough of RB Lamar Miller to say that he is perceptibly faster than backs that you have played with?
"Obviously we know he is as quick as he is advertised from the game last year. I think he's been doing some great things. He's been looking pretty good. He did a great job with the conditioning test. Just looking forward to him, to seeing him on Sundays. He'll definitely help us win as a team."
What have you seen from QB Brock Osweiler during the first couple days of training camp?
"Big, strong guy, strong arm. Can make any throw on the field. Definitely smart. He's doing a great job of leading the team and leading the offense. With him as a leader we're definitely looking forward to doing some great things."
What have you seen from CB Kevin Johnson from year one to year two?
"He's definitely progressing in the right way. Just glad for him to be back out here healthy. Like I said, as a DB group, we're all coming out here to get better as a group. We all help each other. Kevin helps some of the young guys. We help the guys that are younger than us. We're just trying to get better as a team."
What do you expect from the secondary?
"Definitely have great expectations for myself. It's definitely not about being comfortable. I think as an older guy now, it's all about helping the younger guys and definitely coming out here and getting better myself. Just improving my game in every aspect, working on every little thing, every little detail, just getting better, working my way into the shape I need to be in for the first game."
You said the first day was a lot of fun, does that mean the defense won more than the offense did?
"I think we got after them a little bit at goal line. It's definitely going to make things great for tomorrow, so definitely going to be interesting."
Is it good that you started practice on the goal line to up the tempo?
"Definitely, definitely. We did it last year. We started out on goal line, so we were kind of looking forward to it for this year, to start it out competitive, kind of see where everybody's competitive juices are. For me, it's a lot of fun because I like to watch it as well. Goal line, they kind of take the smaller guys out and we get to watch. But it was a lot of fun today, a lot of fun."
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
When you look at last year for CB Kevin Johnson, he said that he felt that he belonged by the end of the year.
"No question. I think now more than ever in this league, it's a passing league. When I got into the league 11 years ago it was run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, pass the ball. Now it's pass the ball, pass the ball, run the ball. So I think there's more pressure on the defensive backs coming into the league now and I think last year he handled it better than anyone that I've been around at a young age."
What is your biggest piece of advice to all these young guys out here?
"Be a constant professional, prepare and come into work and be the same guy each and every day, whether it's on the practice field, in the building, off the field, all those things. Obviously, everyone here has talent. But there are certain things that separate guys and I think if you do all those things you'll be okay in this league."
What do you think of some of the young corners on the team?
"I think we had a great OTAs, but now is when the real football kind of starts. I think those guys came back in great shape for training camp and they're catching on really quick that things happen out here pretty quick and fast when you hit the practice field. Overall, I think those guys are adjusting well."
What about WR Jaelen Strong?
"He's worked hard at it. He's lost a lot of weight, he's trained himself like a professional. I think now this is a speed league, and when you drop 25-30 pounds being a big body, he's a fast guy, great hands, so overall I think he's helped himself come out here competing with us."
Does it feel good to get that first hit under your belt today at practice?
"No question. We came out here and first period was goal line live and that was just to get guys excited and get everyone going knowing that we're back into the flow of things. I think today was a great start. But I think any time you have a chance to put the pads on at this level, it's something special."
It looks like the defense dominated but I guess that's the plan.
"It's like that sometimes in this league. Sometimes they get the best of us, and today, obviously, I think down on the goal line, we won that period. But that's part of football and having a great team. You have to go out there and compete."
Do you find out pretty early on who on this team is going to physical, aggressive or not?
"No question. I think today is when guys can kind of separate themselves because with helmets on everyone looks good. But when you get the contact some guys shy away from it and some guys try to initiate it. I think today was a step in the right direction. Obviously, we get to go in and watch film and get a closer look at it actually and see what guys wanted to do those things."
This defense seems like they have a chip on their shoulders, do you have to have that edge?
"Of course. You've got to have that mentality from a defensive standpoint because any chance the offense has to make you look bad or score a touchdown on you, you can better believe they're going to do that. So on defense, you have to go out there every play and whoop the offense."
Is it different going up against the receivers one-on-one with the pads on?
"Yes, because everyone can't run with pads on the same way they run with the helmets on. You add the pass rush and everything else that goes into a single play and that kind of helps the defense out some all along. But one-on-ones is an offensive period, seven-on-sevens and then you have the team period where it's really live and it's like a true game feel. So I think all those things kind of help us out when you get the pads on."
Is there a difference with young guys when pads are on?
"I think the young guys just have to adjust with being more physical at the line of scrimmage and things like that. Its different rules than what you have in college, obviously. But I think we have guys that are smarter and just as quick as some of those guys. So I think the more they adjust to that, the more they'll be okay."
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
ILB Brian Cushing really got pumped up during the first goal line drill.
"Cush (Brian Cushing) is a great player. He loves hitting, he loves flying around, he loves seeing guys around him make plays, including me. Me and him are always talking about making good plays. He's telling me 'congratulations', 'good job', 'just keep doing what you're doing'. Vince Wilfork, like I said, is always holding it down. So all I have to do is do my job and help the defense out."
When you all put the pads on do you find who wants to be aggressive and physical pretty quickly?
"You get to see who wants to be out there. I love hitting anyone. I love flying around and having fun. Like I said, as a defense we all love hitting, we love flying to the ball, we have a great coaching staff who's pushing us to make a lot of tackles and just have fun and just play our game."
How satisfying was your hit on the goal line today?
"It felt good to be back. (It's been) a long time without pads on. Every day I was walking through the house just imagining making plays. Like I said, guys like Vince Wilfork, I couldn't have done it without them holding it down, just penetrating into the backfield. I'm just doing what my coaches ask me to do and fly to the ball."
How do you feel about the defense as a whole at this point in training camp?
"We have juice, we're going to always have juice. Camp just started, we're trying to get back into a groove, go out and try to prove every day, just improve every day. Just try to get better as a whole and as a defense, not just as individuals. We're just trying to make our way to the top and be a dominant defense."
Does the defense come into this year with a chip on their shoulders based on how well it did last year?
"Like I said, we have guys all across the defense, including the coaching staff that want to come out here and just have fun. Really the most important thing is to have fun. When you have fun, you trust the guy beside you and everyone flies to the ball and has fun. It complements a lot of things."
NT VINCE WILFORK
How good can this defensive unit be?
"We're going to be as good as we want to be. If we're willing to put the time and the work in, the dedication and blood, sweat and tears, we can be pretty good. But it takes work, it takes consistency and it takes a grind. That's what it takes. If we're willing to do that, we'll be okay. But if you're not willing to do that, you're going to always have problems. I think everybody's mindset now is what we have to do individually to make this team better. Not just this defense, but the team. I think the first couple days of practice and the first day of pads, we kind of came out on both sides and did some things very well. But at the same time, it's the first day of pads. There's some things we need to clean up. It's a good stepping-stone, it's a good building block that we can go in and watch film, see what we need to correct and come out tomorrow and correct those things. The key is going to be going in and making corrections and coming out tomorrow and making sure it's correct. That's the key. But, so far, so good. Camp is camp. It's a grind. I think everybody's mindset is where it needs to be."
Were you surprised no one gave you any grief about the ESPN Body Issue?
"I don't know. Who knows, it might come up later on, but as of right now everything's been good."
What are the players' expectations going into this season?
"We're trying to be as good as we possibly can be. That's just holding each other accountable. It starts there. Everything has a starting point and that's where we're at right now. There's 32 teams in the league and we all start at the bottom. I don't care what you did last year, I don't care what you did a couple years ago. I don't care what your individual stats were. You all start in the same position right now – at the bottom. We have to build that up. That's why you have camp. That's why you have preseason and games like that, to kind of get to where you want to be. That's where we're at. It's nothing else. We haven't played a game. We're in football practice. There's going to be tough days. It's going to be hot. There's going to be some days that we don't want to practice, but that's what we have to do if we want to be good."
With DE J.J. Watt out, what's the mindset of some of the young guys who are going to be playing alongside you?
"Everybody comes to work. Everybody comes to work ready to work. I don't care if you're up, you're hurt, you're down or whatever it may be. Individually, we come to work. We prepare well. We have some great coaches. Our coaches make sure we prepare well because you never know when it's your day that you have to step up. Now guys have to step up. With the best player on our defense down, guys have to get in there and step up. But the ball will never stop, no matter for who. That's one of the things about this business – no matter who you have and who you don't have, the ball will continue to roll. We can't stop doing what we have to do, and we understand that. I think guys are doing a good job of preparing well and coming out to work ready to practice well."
What are some keys to being able to play such a physically-demanding position at such a high level for as long as you have?
"I think the first thing is having a love for the game and a passion for the game. I think when you lose that edge, the game kind of leaves you. I think as long you have that, as long as you have your health and as long as you're willing to work and put the work in, you don't feel sorry for yourself. As long as you keep those tools, you could be around for a long, long time. I've kept those tools. I'm always hungry, I'm always willing to work, I'm always ready to come back to play football, I'm always excited about playing football. Until I lose that, that'll be the day I say it's over for me, but I don't see that anytime soon."