HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
"Today was a tough practice. These guys competed hard. I thought the offense came out and practiced well, then the defense really responded well. That's what you want to see. You want to see a team that's very competitive. With that, I will open it up."
Do you feel like RB Lamar Miller is getting in a rhythm?
"No question. He's getting a rhythm into the run. Again, it goes back to that first day when I was talking to you guys about you don't run the ball at all in the offseason because it's no pads and it's a passing camp so it does take a while to get back in the rhythm of playing in pads at any position. He's definitely back in the rhythm of playing in full pads."
Is OLB Jadeveon Clowney having a good camp?
"Yes, Clowney's been out here every day practicing hard. He's a guy that's gotten better. He understands our system, he understands the scheme, and he understands his role in it. I think he's added a couple of pass rush moves. He's getting better every day."
What about the inside linebackers?
"Very competitive position, very competitive. You've got (Brian) Cushing and B-Mac (Benardrick McKinney) in there. Max Bullough has had a good camp, Akeem Dent. You've got Brian Peters on special teams that's done a really good job for us. You've got a number of guys in there and some of the young guys are doing a good job so it's a competitive position."
Is there a focus on the linebackers until DE J.J. Watt returns?
"I don't think we think about it that way. I think all of that is just about 'Hey, next man up'. When any injured guy is ready to come back, we'll insert him back in there and he'll be back part of the team so we don't really look at it that way."
How does practice typically change when ILB Brian Cushing is out there doing his thing?
"He's a fun guy to coach. He loves football, he brings it every day. He's just a guy that brings a lot of energy to the field. I don't know what his secret it but he's a fun guy to be around. Love coaching the guy."
Will you be working on different things at camp for the new kickoff rule?
"I think the new rule is going to be interesting and the answer to your question is yes. I think that people think - maybe the NFL thinks they're going to limit returns and things like that with the new rule. We'll have to see how it plays out. It may be more directional type kicks to try to funnel the coverage into the corner of the field. These kickers are so skilled at being able to place the ball at certain areas of the field so it'll be interesting, but the answer is yes."
How do you like how the players responded to a day off tomorrow especially under these conditions?
"Look, it's hot. There's no two ways around it. I really can't tell you how much I respect this team. They're tough, they grind it out. It's not always pretty right now because it is training camp but they're out here grinding. It is hot and we have to do a good job as a coaching staff and training staff of being aware of that and I believe we are. Tomorrow they're off so I thought they responded well knowing that tomorrow is an off day. We'll get back Saturday. To the fans of Houston, sometimes we do go in the Bubble. We make that judgment basically the day before practice. We look at the weather forecast, we look at our team injury-wise. We feel bad that sometimes we're not outside here for the fans but we're just trying to do what's best for the football team."
As a coaching staff, when you see the players dealing with the heat, can you tell which guys can fight through the adversity?
"I think there's definitely some of that. Certainly all these guys that are out there today who are in full pads. There were a lot of contact drills today. They're really mentally tough. I think that's the thing about our locker room. I tell these guys all the time I look forward to coming in and coaching this team every single day because of the effort they put through every day."
What message do you have for the traveling Texans fans?
"The Houston Texans traveling fans are the best in the NFL. When we go to different places, especially within the division, and we're winning on the road and the stadium clears out and our fans are able to come down to the front row, it's always amazing to me to see how many fans made the trip. I think the Houston Texans fans overall are the best fans in the NFL and I know our players love playing in front of them."
G JEFF ALLEN
Was the heat what you were expecting out here?
"The first couple of days, I was like 'oh this isn't bad.' Then you put the pads on and it's a whole different game. It's a lot different then what I'm used to but I'm adapting."
Can you talk a little bit about the offensive line group coming together?
"Every day I think we're coming out and we're getting better. Right now, we're working on our communication, coming together and coming off as one. As you know, as an offensive lineman, if one of us doesn't do our job, it's usually not a good place. As long as all five of us are doing our jobs, it's going to be good."
Does QB Brock Osweiler's leadership extend to the offensive line?
"Brock is a natural leader. That's something I saw the first day we stepped foot in here. This guy is a leader. He's not only going to lead the offense, he's willing to lead our entire team so that's good."
Does RB Lamar Miller make your job easier?
"Oh yeah, anytime you got a special playmaker like him in the backfield, it's going to make your job easier. We just have to cover guys up and give him opportunities to break one."
CB A.J. BOUYE
What's the biggest difference for you comparing last year to this year?
"I believe I'm a lot more confident. I got beat a lot and last year I was just worried about what people said. But I just can't let that get to me. This year I have a lot more motivation off the field, there's just certain people I have to take care of. I just know to go out here and compete and help this team and that's what I'm going to keep doing no matter what. Defense, special teams, wherever they need me at."
Do you want to take care of family and people like that?
"Yeah, I'm just taking care of my Dad and taking care of my daughters. That's pretty much it, just making them proud. "
Looking back at when you started, how much did you think you knew then as opposed to what you know now?
"You come in, you think you know it all and you have a lot of humbling moments. Even on your bad things, you just have to learn from it. At the time, I was down but I appreciate certain times I got beat--as much I don't want to—because I learned from it and knew the mistakes. Just to have great teammates like J-Jo (CB Jonathan Joseph), Kareem (Jackson) and Kevin (Johnson) always staying by my side and motivating me. It just helped out a lot."
Is it a constant learning process for you out on the football field?
"I believe so because at the end of the day I want to do what I can to help this team. I ask a lot of questions on special teams, I'm motivated on special teams and I just feel we are going to do some great things this year. That's what keeps me going because I don't want to be the weak link to the team."
What kind of job does Special Teams Coordinator Larry Izzo do on special teams?
"He brings a different mentality to it. He told me that day one. He said no more soft stuff, be relentless. That's what I'm trying to do, just be relentless and feel like I can't be stopped, even on special teams."
Did you get bigger during the offseason?
"Definitely, I went home and worked out a lot. I probably gained about ten pounds and got way stronger. That's because of my trainer, staying in the weight room with Fitz (Craig Fitzgerald), working with Andre Hal, just keep getting stronger because I know I'm going up against big receivers. I feel I can lift with any of them and I got the same strength."
Did you keep your speed up?
"Definitely, I think I got faster, more healthy and I'm staying on top of the body."
That certainly helps, right?
"Definitely. Just to be able to jam (DeAndre) Hopkins, Hopkins is the best receiver in the jam. Just working with him every day is the best of the best and I just want to keep working with him because we're going to go against receivers like that in the season."
Why did you change your number to 21?
"21 is my favorite number. There's a lot of people I look up to, especially Deion Sanders. Just to be able to meet him my rookie year and being able to have #21, I just try to represent the number right."
WR BRAXTON MILLER
Where do you feel you are right now with your progress?
"I come out here on a day-to-day basis and just learn the playbook, come out here with my teammates and give my best effort day in and day out. I love the feeling of being out here every day. I'm telling you, I'm very blessed."
Has it been hard considering how little you played wide receiver at Ohio State?
"No, not at all. I pick up on things pretty fast. I've been an athlete all my life so stuff like this, just learn the playbook, that's all."
Wide Receivers Coach Sean Ryan said they give you as much as you can handle and you seem like you can handle a lot. Would you agree with that?
"Oh yeah. Coming from a quarterback mentality from those years at Ohio State, studying the playbook and learning the concepts, it comes pretty naturally for me."
You showed last year when you got the ball you were capable of making really big plays. What can Texans fans expect when you get your hands on the ball?
"Just a playmaker, just being an athlete. I want to get the ball in my hands. I'm looking for one thing – making big plays, getting into the end zone and celebrating with my teammates."
What is it like with this wide receiver group being so young?
"Our receiver corps, we're working hard every day. I really didn't think about that until you just said that. But we come out here, we work as pros, we come out here and we grind for each other and we just come out here and make sure we know our assignments."
What's it like having veterans like WR DeAndre Hopkins and WR Cecil Shorts III to lean on?
"It's great. It's a definite learning curve to learn from them, two guys that have been in the league and know how to take care of their body, know how to come out to practice. That's what I look forward to every day, learning from those two guys, putting my efforts in and making this whole receiving corps come together."
How special can this wide receiver group be?
"We just come out here and work day-to-day and hopefully everything is in place before we play the Chicago Bears."
How's your adjustment been so far?
"It's been great. The hardest thing is day in, day out we're getting new plays every day. But that's football. Just learn the playbook and you'll be fine."
Is it still the mental part or is it more reacting at this point?
"Some is mental, some reacting. Having rookie minicamp, OTAs and stuff like that help out a lot. I pick it up fast."
WR CECIL SHORTS III
What's it like being the veteran wide receiver with all these young guys around you?
"I just try to lead by example, try to be consistent each and every day and then try to bring them along. Just try to teach them how to be a pro. They are here for a reason – they all have talent. I just try to teach them how to be a pro."
You've been in this league for a couple years now. What have you seen from these young guys?
"This group has a lot of talent. They can be a special group, but we have to put the work in. We started off real good today and didn't finish so good, so we have to make sure we're consistent throughout the practice. But the talent is there from top to bottom."
Do you take it upon yourself to help lead them and get them ready for the season?
"Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it's my role to lead by example, speak up when I need to speak up. The guys are doing a great job right now. They're ahead of the learning curve. They're learning the offense pretty well. I'm excited for them."
What have you seen from the young guys that has impressed you?
"All of them look good. Between Will (Fuller V) and Braxton (Miller) and the rest of the rookies, those boys can run. They're all talented in their own way. They can stop on a dime, can move. I'm impressed with how they're picking up the offense pretty well. They're looking good."
What have you seen from QB Brock Osweiler?
"He looks good. He looks good. The biggest thing for me is his leadership – how he owns the offense, how he owns the offensive room when we're talking to him in the meeting rooms and stuff. He's a true leader and he brings it out to the practice field. I think that's the biggest thing that stands out to me. He's having a great camp so far."