Texans offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam (74) loves coach Gary Kubiak's practice schedule for veteran players, which allows them to participate in only one of two daily practices.
Walking through to Saturday: Preparation for Saturday's preseason opener was again the theme at the Methodist Training Center Thursday, as the Texans ran through a jerseys and shorts morning practice consisting mainly of scout team drills and a light afternoon special teams workout.
Although the original training camp schedule called for full pad practices each day this week, Kubiak decided to run the team through lighter practices in order to include as much of the roster as possible.
"We had a lot of little things, that if we were in pads, a lot of guys would miss some time," Kubiak said. "If we were out of them, I could get them out on the field and get the reps. (We're) just trying to get everybody back out here. We want to get them on the field Saturday night, so that's why we did that."
Although injuries are certainly part of the game, Kubiak feels that his strategy of lighter practices is an appropriate path to lead to success down the road.
"You hold your breath," Kubiak said. "You don't want to lose any players, but you've got to go out there and compete. I just want to see our team do two things growth wise: I want to see them play with more poise than they did last year, and I want to see them play more physical than they did last year. Those are two things I want to see our team improve on. If we do that, we're going to be a much better football team."
When asked whether the players are closer to those two goals, Kubiak said that live game action would be the truest indicator of his team's progress.
"Yeah, we have, but we're stepping on the field this week," Kubiak said. "It's real bullets, so let's see how it goes. Next week we get to go down there (in Arizona) and deal with crowd noise, so we have to find a lot more composure as a football team to compete week in and week out."
Vets like lighter load: Even with lighter practice schedules and limited full contact workouts, many Texans veterans have benefited from Kubiak's policy of allowing older players to take a practice off during two-a-days. When dealing with more experienced players like tackle Ephraim Salaam, Kubiak knows that a lighter preseason workload will keep his veterans stronger for the entire season.
"For me to run them into the ground for the first two or three weeks is not going to benefit us, our football team, or them," Kubiak said. "I'll tell you the truth, as a coach, you can do that with people that you trust know how to take care of their business and get ready. It just tells you that I believe in the guys we've got. That's a complement to them."
Salaam is quick to point out that their lighter training camp load is still no walk in the park, but that the relaxed practice routine lends longevity to both his season and his career.
"Don't get us wrong," Salaam said. "It is still a tough camp. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But the fact that he lets guys 10 years and above get one-a-day's, that's huge. We've got a lot of training camp miles on our back and a lot of two-a-days under our belt. So at this point in our career, if we need two-a-days to help us get better, we probably won't be here much longer."
Rookie realization: As Brandon Harrison gears up for his first professional football game, the 6-2, 215 lb. safety from Stanford is still wowed by the talent gap between college and the pros.
"Everybody's just a great athlete," Harrison said of his NFL teammates. "It's amazing. You play against some good competition in college. You play against the Notre Dames, you play against the USCs, but when you step out on this field for the first practice, you realize all those guys from all those best teams are all on the field at the same time. Everywhere you look you've got great athletes; you've got speed, size, strength, all across the board. It's just an enjoyment out here playing with these guys, being a part of the team, trying to win some games."
Injury report: Grateful to be back in his jersey and on the field, guard Chester Pitts was present during the team's afternoon special teams practice at the Methodist Training Center. Although Pitts did not participate in any drills and will not play in Saturday's game, he was in a joking mood when talking about his initial thoughts before receiving the doctor's diagnosis.
"I had thoughts in the back of my head of, 'Well, at least I got five seasons in,' and I was going to have to throw a party for my retirement," Pitts said. "I got a little bit of medicine in me, and I calmed down, and it just feels a lot better now."
Linebacker Charlie Anderson, who was withheld from a portion of practice on Wednesday due to an elevated heartbeat, was back on the field Thursday. Kubiak said that other than Anderson, one other question mark for the Chicago game was defensive lineman Tim Bulman.
"All the tests were fine, Charlie's ok," Kubiak said. "The only one that's a big 'if' right now would be (Tim) Bulman. It's a question of whether or not he'll play. He says he'll play. That's Bulman. (Texans head athletic trainer) Kevin (Bastin) questions it, so we'll see."
Miscellaneous: The team will conduct a walkthrough for Saturday's game on Friday morning before checking into the team hotel in the afternoon…Kubiak said he was not certain about his playing rotation for the Chicago game, but he did plan to play quarterbacks Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels and Bradlee Van Pelt. Jared Zabransky, in competition with Van Pelt for the team's third quarterback slot, most likely will not play this weekend, but should get the lion's share of the third-team playing time against Arizona.