HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"Good afternoon, good start. A start, I guess I should start the conversation like that. For rookie minicamp and what we're trying to get accomplished, we have a few guys that are on a tryout basis. In the past, I've had players that didn't have a contract that came in on this tryout weekend that ended up starting for us at both of my last stops, so that part is important. For the guys that we have signed up, whether through the draft or undrafted players, it's about starting the process. We will integrate them in with the rest of our veterans Monday, so it's really about catching them up as much as anything. We've seen them workout, we have a pretty good idea of who they are. Rookies are never in the type of shape that they think they're in, but down here you start the process. It was good to get out on the football field and see them in a Houston Texans uniform."
Why were you and General Manager Nick Caserio hugging after the LB Christian Harris draft pick?
"We like Christian a lot. We had him ranked high on our board. When you don't take a player, we thought he would go a little earlier. To have an opportunity to get him in that round when we did, it's excitement. The cameras just didn't catch Nick and I (as we) were high-fiving on most of our picks that we had throughout. We like this draft class."
What was it like going through the draft process with General Manager Nick Caserio?
"It was great. Of course, it had been a while since I've gone through it. That's an exciting time. Our scouts, personnel people, coaches, so many people evaluate it. A lot of miles in, a lot of workouts, a lot of videos watched, and then to see it play out. Going into the draft, there was a lot being said on who we were going to draft, but we thought that Derek Stingley would really fit in with what we wanted. You always want to start fast. We have Indy coming up on our schedule, we want to start fast. We want to get off to a good start, I felt like we did that. From there, I thought Nick did a great job working the draft picks, trading back, getting more picks to be able to end up in the position we're in."
Was there anyone that stood out to you that really made an impression today?
"Maybe back in 2004, I would come in here and talk about how well all the rookies did, but it was just a start. Instead of rookie minicamp, we kind of see it as rookie orientation as much as anything. But all of the guys are in decent enough shape to start the process, and I know that they were eager. We've had an opportunity to go through meetings already, and they're showered and getting ready to go to more meetings. Not displeased with anyone and the process that's started."
In this rookie minicamp environment, what are you looking for and what are things you can find out in this situation?
"Practice-wise, again, it's an orientation. We're teaching the guys our drills. The early part of practice out there today, we wanted to go through testing and get a baseline of where all of our incoming guys are. What we're trying to accomplish with our practices, with camp as a whole, I mean meetings. As I tell the guys, it's like finals week into two days. We're trying (to get) them to cram as much information as possible. Monday when they blend in with our veterans, they don't want to hear about them being rookies. We're not going to stop, go back. The process train is taking off, so you're just trying to catch them up as much as anything. Not just the football part, on just how we do things. I had to tell the guys exactly how to get to our practice fields. There's an awful lot that goes into guys getting somewhere for the first time."
As a linebacker, how much does LB Christian Harris have to catch up to what you guys want to do?
"All of our rookies have a lot to learn. Contrary to public opinion, we (don't) just play Cover 2 every snap and linebackers just go out on the football field and start playing. There is a little bit to learn and we ask a lot of them, but he'll be able to pick it up. He's been eager to get started and now he's there."
Knowing that you'll be facing some top offenses, how much are you focused on covering space differently and how those teams will attack that spacing?
"What's changed? I'm not trying to run away from your question, but we do play Cover 2. In an ideal world, you win or lose games based on how you can play man coverage. If you look at our defense, we play man, we play three-deep, we play quarters, we play two, we blitz. We have a multiple package. Most of the ones that our defense calls out are corners by himself. If you have a guy that you feel comfortable covering their best receiver at that slot, it allows you to do some things. We're looking forward to the opportunity to do a few things differently this year that we would like to do in an ideal world."
After you drafted DB Derek Stingley Jr., you asked him how he would feel covering the No. 1 receiver each week. Is that something you are still looking for from him?
"What I need to get from this draft is I've got to watch what I say during that draft. I've got to watch who I hug and I've got to watch what I say when I'm excited. That's what I think most corners (would want) if you ask them. First off, you get a No. 1 corner, you want to (say), 'Hey, who's the No. 1 receiver,' each week. I think most places I've been, that's what they'd say. To be in a position where you first have a definite No. 1 and a definite No. 2 and everybody knows that, just look forward to a day when it's like that."
When you see RB Dameon Pierce get his helmet knocked off and still score as a downhill, tough-nosed runner, what do you see from him?
"I see the exact things that you just said. We drafted Dameon in mind with having a guy that can get yards in between the tackles. He is a tough football player, confident football player. We feel like we have a role for him. You can't ever have too many good running backs. I think as you look at our running back position, they all bring something a little bit different, little bit unique to the position. I know Pep (Hamilton), Danny Barrett, the rest of our offensive staff are looking forward to seeing how that all plays out. All the guys pretty much that we have in our group have had their moments carrying the football. Can't wait to get to OTAs coming up and then training camp."
As long as you've been around the game, how excited do you still get to be able to teach these young players?
"Last night was our first meeting with our rookies and I talked to them about the anticipation of them getting into town, the excitement that goes along with that. Yeah, I've done it a few years, but I felt the same way. It's something about getting a group together for the first time. It's something about getting around a group that's been waiting for this opportunity all their life. That's the case with our guys. I feel like we really got a chance to know them. Having that first meeting, setting the standard on what we're trying to do with our program and just teaching them the Texan way, and you can't put a price on that. It's just special to be in that situation."
How does WR John Metchie III look as he goes through his recovery process? Do you think he will be ready by the start of training camp?
"A part of this minicamp is for us. I talked about us initially just taking everybody through a certain amount of tests to see exactly where they are. We're in the process of seeing exactly when John would be ready to go. Eventually, he will be ready to go. There's a lot that he can do before that. He's no 100 percent yet, but in time he will be. I don't have that timetable set yet, but in the upcoming weeks we'll be able to tell that a little bit more. For us, he is going to play this year. It's all, as much as anything, about the mental preparation, them catching up, getting in the playbook. You'd be surprised the amount of things we ask of young people and what they have to get down."
Is there a common question that you get from rookies?
"I wouldn't say one particular question, but I think the same general theme is just when you start over again, a lot of these guys have been in the man all along. You can see on their faces that now you're getting in a group where when you start at the bottom of the barrel again, you have to put yourself all over again. It's not a whole lot of questions being asked. Most guys kind of keep their mouths shut and just try to see how they can fit in. For us, giving them an opportunity to really show, and that's what we try to do. There are a lot of voluntary workouts that go on before rookies get on campus, get to the facility. Veterans have to take advantage of that because wherever I've been, when rookies come in, you have to get a look from them. They're going to get reps and they know that. It's more of that, just guys kind of glad for the opportunity. Nothing special question-wise."
It sounded like there was a Motown flavor to the music at practice today. Why was that important?
"Well, for a couple of reasons. I wake up every day to music. I'm a music guy, to say the least. You can tell I'm probably a little bit more towards Motown than rap music, that's probably easy to see. But you kind of start practice off the same way just about everywhere I've been. Thursdays, "Keep on Pushing" by The Impressions. That lead singer, Curtis Mayfield, that's where we start things off. And it's culture a little bit, towards. We don't want R&B music to leave completely. So that's an important questions right there. You get me started on music, I can talk a while. No, seriously, music has become a big part of practices nowadays for young people. You go in our locker room, there's nothing wrong with it. There's a time for it. The game isn't played in silence, so I like music at practice, and at certain times, loud music at practice."
Do you think it's important to expose your players to music like that?
"It is very much important. Most of the time when I say something, I really believe it. I am old school, and there's a lot of things that you don't want to leave us completely, and music of the past is one of them that says an awful lot."
What have you learned throughout your career, and even as a father, about dealing with fresh faces and first-timers?
"I don't know if it's changed an awful lot, but as you've mentioned, I'm a dad. I'm a grandfather. There are young people around me always, and I know what they're looking for a little bit. And that's why when you get to a minicamp, there's plenty of time for us to get everything in. So these first couple of days, it's about this, 'Welcome to our group. This is how we do things.' Letting them know that it's going to be okay. We're not going to play tomorrow, and just to trust the process as much as anything. Letting them know about our coaches a little bit. Now that I'm going to go philosophy-wise, sense you asked that question. One of the best Mother's Day sermons that I ever heard was (when) T.D. Jakes talked about mothers, mentors and moments. So last night I kind of started off our meeting a little bit with that. We all had a mother that gave us this opportunity, let the guys know that. Mentors, who are the mentors? This weekend we talked to a couple of guys, and they were there hanging out with their high school coaches. A lot of mentors. Mothers hand the baton off to the mentors, and we're a part of that too, coaches, leading up to the moment. The moment of having an opportunity to play in the NFL. It kind of says it all right there of where the guys are. They've been working out a lot for this moment, and we're going to do everything we possibly can as mentors to help them through it."
LB CHRISTIAN HARRIS
What are some of the things that are jumping out that you are learning?
"I'm just trying to really learn as much as the defense as I can, not just my spot but everybody's. Just make myself a little more comfortable so I can play faster and do whatever I can to hopefully bring some more wins to this team."
You weren't a linebacker until college. How much did you learn there and how much more do you feel you have learn?
"I definitely learned a lot from Coach Pete (Golding) and Coach (Nick) Saban playing linebacker. A lot of players there. I just try to really pick everybody's brain and learn as much as I possibly can. It's kind of the same mindset I'm having here. They got Christian Kirksey here. He's a vet. Obviously, I'm pretty excited about that to get the chance to ask him as many questions as I possibly can."
Head Coach Lovie Smith compared this to finals week and trying to cram as many things as possible in to two days. What has it been like?
"It's fun for me honestly. I'm obviously with some guys that I know and I think for all of us we are excited. It's an opportunity to be in the NFL. It's obviously our first time so we are pretty excited for it."
What's it like trying to learn this much information so quickly?
"Humbly saying, Alabama prepared me pretty well. There are still some challenges, but I'm getting through them so I'm good."
Did you see the video of Head Coach Lovie Smith and General Manager Nick Caserio hugging after they drafted you?
"I did actually. My mom showed me."
What did you think when you saw that?
"I thought it was funny. I was laughing. There was so much going on for me because I was excited to have the opportunity. I think that's pretty cool to see that."
What was the conversation like with Head Coach Lovie Smith after you were drafted?
"I took my visit on the 18th and we talked then a little bit. Just having the opportunity and they were congratulating me and telling me I can do good things here, and that's really all it was. Just get to work."
Coming from a program where you didn't lose many games and coming into a program in the midst of a rebuild, how do you get your minds prepared for that?
"It's the same mindset for me honestly. I want to dominate every snap that I can. I think I bring that type of energy to the field. We have a lot of guys in this class for sure and guys on this team that think the same way. Collectively getting everyone on that same mindset to want to win and do whatever it takes. That's what we did at Alabama. That's the same thing I'm trying to do here."
How is it to come to an organization your rookie season and have a teammate like WR John Metchie III that you already know?
"It's exciting. It's truly a blessing to be able to be here. We actually both wore number 8 in college. It's crazy to see it all play out but it's definitely a blessing."
What excites you the most about playing in this defense with Head Coach Lovie Smith?
"Just hearing about the history of the linebackers that have been in this similar defense and have had success like Derrick Brooks and Lavonte David. I mean those are two guys I've watched a little bit. I think in my spot and my role, whatever they want me to do, I feel like I can have a high success rate with that and be very successful, so I want to keep that going."
What are your early impressions of Head Coach Lovie Smith on and off the field?
"He's a leader. A father figure. He's a great guy. For me, these two days just sitting there and being able to talk to one of the greatest has been kind of crazy and legendary. It's definitely a blessing. I'm about to pick his brain as much as I possibly can while I'm here."
DB JALEN PITRE
What was your first NFL practice like? What are some of the things the team has been teaching you?
"It's been wonderful. The coaches and the support staff have done a great job showing us around the building and making sure we were up to tempo when we got on the field today. I think today was a good start and we are headed in the right direction."
What are some of the things you learned from Dave Aranda at Baylor?
"I learned a lot from Coach Aranda. The biggest thing that I learned was just to be patient with things and just to wait on my turn. Coach Aranda is a very patient individual. That's something I've been trying to work on."
Have you had that cliché 'oh wow' moment yet?
"Not yet. Just trying to take it a day at a time but it really hasn't hit me yet. It's been fun for sure."
What are some things that you've found to be surprising?
"Nothing to be honest. Nothing has surprised me."
What did you think of Head Coach Lovie Smith's playlist today at practice?
"It was good. Coach Smith switches it up and is very versatile. I love hearing different genres of music. It was some good taste on the playlist today."
Do you set goals for yourself before each season? If so, have you started working on those for this year?
"I haven't. I'm just trying to earn trust from my coaches and my teammates. That's the main goal."
One of the things Head Coach Lovie Smith said was he wanted you guys to learn to do things the Texans way. What have you learned about the Texans way so far?
"It's all about being a professional and doing things the right way, making sure you are being respectful to all of those around you and just of your space. I think when you do that you end up being successful in wherever you are and whatever you are doing. That's kind of the main things that Coach is preaching right now."
Now that all the rookies are together, is there any teammate that you've gravitated toward?
"Not really. All the guys are real cool and we are a pretty tight group but I wouldn't say I've gravitated to a certain person."
Head Coach Lovie Smith talked about this being the first day of your dream job but also like cramming for finals. How do you balance both ends of that spectrum?
"Just try to take it a day at a time. I want to show up and like Coach Lovie said, 'Just be a professional every day.' I feel like if you look to far ahead you'll start to trip over the things in front of you. I'm just trying to take it a second at a time, a minute at a time, a day at a time and take care of what's happening right now."
You're from Stafford. You're back in Houston again. What in the past two weeks have you enjoyed most since you've been drafted?
"It's really close but I feel like football is football anywhere. I'm very thankful to be home but I'm just happy to be on a team again and just be able to play football."
Have there been any interactions with people about you being a Texan?
When you were at Baylor you were part of a rebuild there. You're here with an NFL team now that is in similar stages. Is there anything you draw from that experience that you are able to apply coming into the NFL?
"Definitely. Like I said earlier, I'm just trying to take it a day at a time, and I know if I continue to stack days then eventually I'll see some success. Just taking it a day at a time."