With Thursday evening's evening practice wrapping up near 9:30 p.m., head coach Gary Kubiak gave his players an extended curfew and a later, 10:10 a.m. start for Friday morning's special teams practice. Although the team had the option of practicing either indoors or out, players voted to work outside in sweltering heat despite a heat index that reached 108 degrees.
"They voted to come outside instead of inside," Kubiak said. "(We) have to check their IQ."
For the afternoon practice, the team moved indoors for a lively full-team workout in pads and helmets. The Texans will have their morning practice a half-hour early Saturday and have the evening off as George Strait takes over Reliant Stadium for a sold-out concert.
Week in review: With just over a full week of practice complete, Kubiak more or less feels that his team is on schedule so far during camp. With just one more practice remaining this week—a morning workout on Saturday with an off day Sunday—Kubiak and his staff will begin to get the team into a regular weekly routine in preparation for the preseason opener Saturday at Kansas City.
Despite the team's recent rash of injuries ranging from the serious—losing Jacques Reeves for 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula—to the routine nicks, strains and bruises of an NFL training camp, Kubiak feels that his team's offseason conditioning program has been at the crux of the Texans' success in camp thus far.
"We've had less IVs this year than we've ever had since I've been here," Kubiak said. "I think (strength and conditioning coach) Ray (Wright) has done a great job with them, and now we just kinda have to reel them back in here over the course of the next week and get them on the field to compete against Kansas City."
Coach Joe is no happy camper: Maybe it was the excessive heat, but the Texans' performance in special teams drills fell far short of the expectations of special teams coordinator Joe Marciano at numerous points during the workout. Marciano, who was frustrated with his players' blocking performance during a drill, screamed at one point that he was seeing something more along the line of a pillow fight than a football exercise. His disappointment didn't seem to disappear after practice.
"I got a long way to go, a long way to go," Marciano said. "The rookies aren't further along as they should be. They didn't retain from the OTAs. We come out and do the same drills competitively and combatively, the same drills we did in teach mode and they have no retention. Some of the veterans don't have any retention, sometimes."
Unfortunately for Marciano's vocal cords, Thursday's practice seemed to leave him nearly hoarse after seeing a number of plays he didn't like. Although he wasn't afraid to congratulate a job well done—he gave linebacker Brian Cushing the remainder of practice off after he fought through a challenging double-team block—Marciano was upset with the performance of his special teamers on Thursday and let it be known loudly. But although only seeing Marciano on Friday might give the impression that he is an old-school, in-your-face coach, Marciano doesn't consider himself as much of a yeller.
"It's going to take a lot for me to yell, it's going to test my patience to really curse a guy," Marciano said. "I've had my moments, you know. I've had my moments where I go back to the old school…(but) I'm not into that. I used to be into that, I used to throw tapes at guys, shoot it at them, towards the wall above their heads."
Marciano says that a number of factors have helped him adjust to a less confrontational coaching style, including his experience as a father, his time working with the notoriously soft-spoken Tony Dungy and a healthy dose of pragmatic perspective.
"We're in a profession where everything's got to be perfect right now, first time," Marciano said. "It's not that way, it's just not that way. I've learned from raising a boy, my son, that you've got to have patience."
Working on the wedge: Another focus of Thursday's practice was to continue work on adapting to the new NFL rule that has banned the wedge formation on kickoff returns. The new rule, which was explained to the team and local media by NFL referees at Reliant Stadium on Friday, only allows a two-man wedge to form when a team returns a kickoff.
"Rules are rules, it's equal sticks for everybody so everybody's got to try to figure it out," Marciano said.
For more on how the Texans are adapting to the new wedge rule, see Nick Scurfield's blog on HoustonTexans.com
Notes: Defensive end Antonio had an impressive practice, making a disruptive impact on the passing game during team drills. Smith elevated and almost came down with an interception of a dump-off screen pass from Matt Schaub to Steve Slaton, before batting down another pass from Schaub at the line of scrimmage two plays later....It wasn't Schaub's lucky day on Friday, as he threw two interceptions in addition to the passes contested by Smith. Cornerback Mark Parson snared one acrobatic grab in the end zone, while safety Eugene Wilson notched the second on a floater over the middle...after missing practice to attend a family funeral in North Carolina, fullback Vonta Leach was back at the Methodist Training Center to participate in the Friday afternoon workout....Kubiak said that there was little to report on the injury front Friday. Wide receiver Mark Simmons returned to action in the afternoon, while wideout Mike Jones was held out of the day's second practice.