After a much needed day of rest Sunday, the Texans opened up Day 10 of training camp with a chippy morning practice in full shoulder pads. With the preseason opener in Kansas City just days away, the morning session took on a strong game week feel, with speakers blaring simulated stadium noise during practice in order to prepare the Texans for a loud and hostile Chiefs crowd at Arrowhead Stadium.
"We created some chaos out here this morning with some noise, got everybody off the field, and a little panic showed up in a few guys," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We've got to get rid of that…but our football team is practicing well."
Daniels focused on football: On the opening day of training camp, tight end Owen Daniels voiced his displeasure about not being able to successfully negotiate a long-term contract with the Texans over the summer. Daniels said that he would play camp as if he were a rookie with everything to prove.
With 10 days of camp under his belt, the Texans' Pro Bowl tight end is less concerned about using his contract impasse as a source of motivation for the upcoming season.
"I don't know if it puts a chip on my shoulder or what it does, or if people want to put a chip on my shoulder, but I'm out here to work, to work hard every year," Daniels said. "I don't need any extra little motivation and things like that, but since it's there, I guess I'll take it."
From his perspective as Daniels' head coach for each of the tight end's three seasons, Kubiak knows that Daniels is going to give full effort regardless of what might be in the back of his mind.
"I know it's been disappointing for him that we weren't able to get something done, but he's a pro, and we all know that," Kubiak said. "He never says a word, he just does his job and makes 10 or 15 plays a day. That's why he's going to last a long time and play great football. I think he's going to be fine in the other situation, too."
Inside the D-line: As the Texans' first round pick in 2007, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye was expecting to have a breakout season in year three as a middle pass rushing anchor the Texans' defensive line. Although Okoye was slowed during the first days of camp as he recovered from a June arthroscopic knee surgery, the rust finally seems to have come off just in time for Saturday's preseason opener.
"The first few days, I didn't think he was himself, but then he settled down and practiced pretty darn good," Kubiak said. "Usually, with most players, that relates to how they play the game, so we'll see, but he's definitely going to get his time on Saturday night. But I like the camp he's having, and I think he's been brought along the right way."
Outside of Okoye, Kubiak is more than happy with his personnel options at the interior defensive line spots on passing downs. He said on Monday that he sees more situational pass rush combinations than ever before in his time with the Texans. Kubiak listed defensive ends Tim Bulman, Jesse Nading, Connor Barwin and Antonio Smith as just some of the possibilities of players who could shift inside. Even Williams, the Pro Bowl defensive end, was cited by Kubiak as a candidate for playing tackle in some pass-rushing situations.
O'Neal progressing: Newly-signed cornerback Deltha O'Neal admitted after his first practice that it would take some time for him to get accustomed with the Texans' defensive system. Monday's workout showed that he still has some ground to catch up. While covering wide receiver Jacoby Jones in the team phase of practice, O'Neal bit hard on a 10-yard hitch-and-go by Jones, swiveling around to see his man dart upfield for a wide-open catch that likely would have been a touchdown in a game situation.
But despite a tough break here and there, O'Neal has done enough to impress Kubiak with his early performance, especially considering that he is still working to get back into football shape.
"The good news is he's able to practice with us and develop his conditioning at the same time," Kubiak said. "Whether he plays this weekend or not, I think we'll answer that at the end of the week. I like where he's at, we just have to keep in perspective what we're trying to get done with him."
Always Ready André: Wide receiver André Davis, who hauled in one of the top catches of training camp Monday with a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab, has impressed on more than just one play during training camp. For a player who Kubiak considers a starting receiver talent-wise, Davis has not only excelled at wideout but also in special teams as a kickoff returner. Next on Davis' list—returning punts.
Davis has not returned a punt since playing for the Cleveland Browns in 2003, his second season in the NFL. But in an effort to utilize his speed and natural return instincts, Kubiak and special teams coordinator Joe Marciano plan to give Davis a chance to return punts during the preseason.
"Punts are so much different because everybody is standing there when you're catching as compared to a kickoff, so just a matter of him getting repetitions in the preseason," Kubiak said. "I think he knows if he wants to be a Pro Bowl type returner in this league, they usually do both, so we're going to give him a chance here in the preseason."
Davis also will have to adapt to the new league rule banning the wedge formation on kick returns, limiting the ability of the receiving team to clear out space for a long kick return. But with all teams being required to adhere to the new rule, Davis' isn't too concerned about losing the wedge.
"I think it's just a matter of getting everyone on the right page," Davis said. "Just the difference between having three guys in a line compared to two and making sure that we aren't lined up in a position to get penalties. We just have to make sure that we're aware of the rules and that when we go out there we can be successful doing it."
Injury report: Nearly all media in attendance at practice held their collective breath as wide receiver Andre Johnson knocked into a metal guard rail after being run out of bounds on a sideline pass play. Luckily, Johnson was not injured and did not miss a play of practice…Kubiak said that he hopes to have starting center Chris Myers, who is out with a high-ankle sprain, back on the field in time for the Minnesota Vikings preseason game on Aug. 31...left guard Chester Pitts participated in the afternoon workout, marking the first practice Pitts has participated in since the opening days of camp. Kubiak said that Pitts is not cleared yet for full contact drills, but that his participation in the afternoon learning walkthroughs should pave the way for a full return....Kubiak said that Williams had suffered from some numbness in his thigh over the weekend as a result of a training treatment, causing him to miss the tail end of Saturday morning's practice. However, Kubiak said that Williams has all feeling back in the affected area. Williams participated in all drills on Monday morning....after missing time with a tweaked hamstring, running back Arian Foster participated in the team's afternoon walkthrough. Although both Foster and wide receiver Mark Jones returned to practice for the first time, neither is clear to participate yet in contact drills during morning practices.