"If we could get this weather every day, that would be great. So I don’t know who you’ve got to talk to do that, but it would be really appreciated." J.J. Watt
For the first time in the Deshaun Watson era, Texans training camp kicked off in Houston (not West Virginia) and was greeted with almost spring-like temperatures and the surprise return of two starters to the field.
After being placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list on Sunday, J.J. Watt surprised everyone when he showed up in shells and an elbow brace ready to work.
"I mean, I'm sure it was just precautionary," Watt said. "I think it was probably for those early training camp days, they didn't want me to have to go out there and do all of that, and just make sure I was 100 percent ready to go. So, I feel great. Today was really good and I'm excited to be playing football."
Even though Watt is back, he says the team will be smart about his practice time. Like with most veterans, expect Watt to have some scheduled off days throughout camp.
Noticeably absent from the PUP list was Will Fuller V, a very good sign for the fourth-year wideout heading into camp. A healthy Fuller was a full-go in Thursday's training camp practice, for the first time since his season-ending ACL surgery.
"He's had a really good offseason relative to the things he had to do to get himself back on the field," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He was here every day. Really put a lot of time into it. Just did an excellent job so it's great, great to have him back out there."
Watson and the offense got a lot of work done in the red zone. According to O'Brien, Watson "did a really nice job" with mechanics, quick decision-making and communication in the huddle. Side note: he's also very neat and tidy, according to Keke Coutee.
"Last year was last year, but you can learn from those mistakes I did last year and learn from the good things also and kind of build on it," Watson said. "This year is just taking another step, taking that leadership role to another level and just taking my whole game and taking this team, not just the offense, but this team to another level."
Rookie offensive linemen Tytus Howard and Max Scharping took part in their first training camp practice, and will get to work in pads on Saturday. Veteran tackle Matt Kalil, who signed in free agency and was rehabbing during the offseason, also returned to the field on Thursday.
"Matt (Kalil) came back for the early training camp, did a nice job in those practices that we had," O'Brien said. "We had two practices. It's obvious that he studied a lot in the offseason. He knows what to do, veteran player, really athletic, good guy. Obviously, very excited to have him out there."
While temperatures were cooler than normal, players still got a chance to try out the team's new Cold Recovery Zone (CRZ). After each period, different position groups jogged over to the standalone unit and took turns cooling their body temperatures. The CRZ fits about 35 players at a time and will get plenty of use in the next few weeks and months.
Jadeveon Clowney was not at camp, but O'Brien was effusive in his praise for the two-time Pro Bowler. The Texans placed the non-exclusive franchise designation on Clowney in March.
"I can tell you unequivocally that we want Jadeveon Clowney here," O'Brien said. "He's a part of this team. We want him here. There's always a difference when you're talking about money relative to wanting him on the team. That' something that the agent and our organization are working on but relative to the player and the history that he and I have together. We would love to have him here. He's a really talented football player that's made a lot of good football plays for us in the past."
Jordan Thomas and the tight ends have been working on their chemistry Watson and it shows. Thomas caught several touchdown passes during team drills. Now in his second season, Thomas showed off his training camp look with what he calls the "Keke" shorts. Inspired by Coutee and the wide receivers, the 6-4, 243-pound tight end is sporting some short shorts during practice these days. Thomas did promise to keep the tights on underneath. Until that Houston heat returns.