HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"Offseason work is just invaluable on what we can get done out here. For the most part, we have most of our football team here, which has been the case throughout the offseason for these voluntary workouts. Everything we've been doing, phase one, phase two, has been leading up to our NFL version of spring ball, these OTAs. As you can see, it's one thing to go through a lot of drills, but once you start getting offense vs. defense, decisions have to be made. We have good competition throughout at a lot of positions, so this work, just love it as much as anything. You get a chance to see the initial group that we put out there, but don't put too much into who's getting reps right now, who isn't. We don't have first, second, third teams right now. We kind of have a starting rotation and as much as anything, we want everybody to have an opportunity to show us who they are."
What's the plan for DB Derek Stingley Jr. right now?
"To get him better each day. Coming in, we know he's coming off a major injury, so for Derek and some of our other players, you can see we have quite a few guys that are out right now. Some are getting no reps, some are getting a limited amount of reps, which we're doing with Derek and Kenyon (Green) and a few of our other players."
Is it the same thing for WR John Metchie III?
"Yes, same thing for John. Again, as you look, the guys that aren't getting reps, they have something going on. If a guy's getting a few reps, we're kind of easing them back into full competition."
Is DL Jonathan Greenard still dealing with the foot injury from last season?
"Yes, last season."
Is TE Teagan Quitoriano's injury something that just happened?
"Yes, if there's a rookie that's not out there doing anything, he has something maybe minor as much as anything. We don't have many guys that are out completely. Jonathan Greenard and a few of our other players, Eric Murray, you see some of the guys had offseason surgeries and you probably won't see them until training camp, but everybody's right on schedule being able to do something."
Is this a situation where you would like to see DL Maliek Collins and OL Laremy Tunsil around?
"At Big Sandy, voluntary is voluntary. You can show up as you like, you don't have to. I kind of go on that in the end. Yeah, I'd like for guys to be up here all day, staying with the coaches and putting in as many hours as we like, but they have some options. Rules are in place, we follow the rules and it's no more than that. Every player that's not here right now, I've communicated with them and I'm okay with that. Eventually, we'll have everyone here. There's one thing that's mandatory in the offseason, and I expect everyone would be there unless we've come to an agreement and they have something that I want them to take care of, too."
What does it say about that group that you have about 95% of the team at a voluntary activity?
"No one was satisfied with what happened last year. How do you get better? Come to work every time you have an opportunity to get better. You show up, some more than others. It's not like we're going to make Brandin Cooks get every snap. We have some of our veteran players that I'm going to take some of their reps off a little bit. When you have as much competition as we have, you don't have to tell guys to show up. They want every opportunity they can to show us who they are."
What are your thoughts on WR Brandin Cooks and the importance of him signing an extension?
"Brandin's one of our best players, he produces. He's also one of our best leaders. He does it the right way, practices hard, reps our organization on and off the field the way you want him to. He says a lot that surprises me. That's who he's been all his life. He's that guy that I lean on quite a bit and the rest of our team does."
What are you hoping to see in these early OTA practices?
"Not running away from the question, but it is just individual improvement. Up until this stage it's just been a lot of technique work, but there are so many things that you can learn. One of the main things is just teaching them. Last year, COVID year, we didn't have a chance to just go into all of the details, so you have a chance to do all that right now. But individual improvement, and we'll touch on a lot of the things we're going to do, not everything. I'm talking about offense, defense, special teams, maybe a few things, a little tweak that we're going to make, you have a chance to look at that a little bit in the offseason also."
What have you seen from QB Davis Mills this offseason?
"Every day we've opened up the building, he's been in here. He's our quarterback. When you're the leader, you've got to be visible. It's been documented on what I think of Davis. I think he's going to be an excellent quarterback in the NFL for a lot of years, but it's about this year. Having a year, he and Pep Hamilton getting on the same page with our offense, and him being in a role from the start, that's different also. But that's what you do. You have a chance for him to establish himself as one of our primary leaders each day."
What have you seen from LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and what do you expect from him?
"We added him to our mix because he has excellent speed, he plays hard every down, and we're always looking for defensive linemen that can rush the passer. Everything I've seen from him, he's exactly who we wanted and thought he would be. Local flavor ain't all bad."
It feels like there is more of an urgency on the defensive side of the ball. Is that because of the familiarity of the returning staff?
"I hope there is. We didn't play as well, no position played as well as we need to. That urgency to get it better, to correct some things, and I think just knowing, too. We brought back a lot of guys, the core of our group was brought back this year for setting that tone. There is a sense of urgency for us to get it right and be ready. Before we know it, we're going to be talking to you and the Colts will be coming to town."
Do you get a sense this is more of a veteran group than last year?
"I've just never been around a good team that didn't have great veteran leadership. Older guys that know how to do it, they do it a certain way each play for the young players coming in. You know coaches, we're hitting them every second. There's not a whole lot of rookie restrictions, but of course to have those veterans there to show them the way, that means a lot."
What does OL A.J. Cann bring to the group?
"A.J. is another veteran presence that's done it at a high level. For him, comfort in his offensive line coach also being here. Everything I've seen from him, another pro. Every time we've opened up the building since he's been with us, he's been in the building. That says an awful lot."
What does a guy like DB M.J. Stewart, who has played multiple positions, do for a defense? What about DB Jalen Pitre?
"M.J., first off, he can do an awful lot. We brought him here for what he'll be able to do in the secondary, but we put a big emphasis on special teams and he will be a core special teams player for us. So, that's important. I think every year I've been in the NFL, we have gone to our fifth safety some kind of way to play, so you need a lot. And Jalen, he's a sponge, he's picking up quickly. Very bright, athletic, all those things, but he needs reps. Offseason work helps those guys so much, and that local flavor is good also."
What do you see from QB Davis Mills in comparison to other young quarterbacks across the league as they develop?
"Well, I just know about ours. Quarterback is the toughest position in football and you have to put time in. There's no substitute for experience, though. Every year there are some things Davis will get just based on playing the game for a long period of time, but I think a lot of the good ones, they play good ball early on, too. Did I tell you he's a smart guy that went to Stanford? He picks things up fairly quick and he'll be okay."
OL A.J. CANN
Having experience working with Offensive Line Coach George Warhop, what are some things that you can teach some guys on the offensive line?
"Coach Warhop is going to be very detailed. He's going to be about his work each and every day. I know he's a laidback coach but when it's time to get after it, he gets after it. He's never going to change for anybody. He's going to be him and that's what I respect about him."
How would you describe your style of play?
"I feel like very physical. Trying to be exact mentally. Not a lot of screw up. Every offensive line I've played with would say this, being as physical as you can in the run game. It's something I look forward to."
What's it like for you to be a part of this group?
"It was very, very welcoming and I respect it so much. When I came in the door, it was a team that was asking so many questions about me. What do I need? This and that. Something I really didn't have and I really respect that a lot."
How would you describe the process of developing chemistry on the offensive line?
"Offensive lines, they really don't change as far as personality and that's what I like. When I came into the room, you had guys with similar characteristics that I'm used to. In an offensive line group there are a lot of interesting people but all those guys are really, really cool and it's been a great two and a half, two months here so far."
What's been your impression of QB Davis Mills so far?
"I love Davis. Very humble, laid back, doesn't really talk much but he's a very, very cool quarterback. I got a lot of respect for Davis."
Do you see any similarities between QB Davis Mills and QB Trevor Lawrence?
"Trevor was a quiet dude. He was a leader. Didn't really need to speak unless he had to. I kind of see a little of that in Davis. Really doesn't talk much but when he gets in the huddle you see he is very poised and very confident and I love that about a quarterback."
With a guy like OL Kenyon Green coming from the SEC, is there a certain type of expectation for him coming in?
"A guy being drafted where Kenyon was there is going to be a lot of expectations for him, but I've just been telling him to take it day-by-day. Try to get better each and every day. They are going to expect a lot of him but be who he is every day and that's who he's been. A humble quiet kid. He's been working hard for the past two weeks he's been here and I think he's going to be a hell of a player."
What is it like to see 95 percent of the roster here?
"It feels good seeing most of the team here. Everybody wants to be here. Everybody wants to get better. Everybody is contributing and that's what you want in the early part of the OTAs getting ready for the season to role around."
What kind of coach is Offensive Line Coach George Warhop?
"Like I said earlier, Coach Warhop is going to be who he is. He's going to be very disciplined, a very detailed coach. He's never going to switch that up. He's going to be the same each and every day and like I told y'all, that's what I like out of an offensive line coach."
Is Offensive Line Coach George Warhop the reason you wanted to play here?
"He's one of the reasons I stepped up to be here but there are a lot of people here that I know decently. I felt like it was time to make a change and I felt like this would be a good change for me. I've been liking the vibe so far and I love what's going on. I love the situation right now."
What's your impression of Head Coach Lovie Smith so far?
"I spoke to Lovie a little bit on the phone when I decided to come. He reminded me of myself a little bit. Really laid back, quiet coach. He really doesn't say much but you can tell he's got a little spark about him. I kind of like him to stay cool and quiet. You don't want to piss him off."
Is it a little different than the vibes you've had from previous head coaches?
"A little different."
What stands out to you about an Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton style offense?
"He knows his stuff. He's a very detailed coach. He shares a lot of information, but he makes sure we all know what we are doing, each and every day. It doesn't matter what it is. Something small going in. Something big going in. He's going to make sure we have a meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page and that's what you need in an offensive coordinator."
Having gone up against some of these guys in Jacksonville, does that give you a role as a teacher when going up against them?
"When that time rolls around, I'm pretty sure the guys in the group are going to ask me about this guy and that guy and I'm pretty sure those guys know me down there. It's going to be a hell of a game to get prepared for and it's going to be the same for those guys down in Jacksonville."
You had an injury last season. Can you tell us about your recovery process?
"This was my first time being injured, having a surgical injury and missing a majority of the season. The first time since I was playing ball since I was six. It was a little different for me but I think it was something that gave me a lot to think about but now I'm feeling really good. I've been out there with the boys doing everything, involved in everything and I feel really good right now and can't wait to show what I can do."
WR BRANDIN COOKS
What was it like to sign your contract extension this offseason?
"It was huge, not just for my family and I, but believing in what this organization is trying to get done and what Nick (Caserio) and Coach Lovie (Smith) are building. It's definitely a blessing. I'm glad we can put that behind us and get back to work."
Were there things you learned from previous contract extensions about what you wanted in your latest deal?
"No, I trust my agent, Ryan Tollner, to be able to do that. I got full trust in him. For me, I just stay back and continue to work and let him handle that. I've got a lot of respect for the way that he does it and goes about his business. I'm blessed to be able to have great representation."
What are your thoughts on the chemistry you can build with QB Davis Mills this season?
"Times like this, being here at OTAs, being able to get some of those live throws, and then summertime comes and be able to get the guys together and just keep that thing going before going into training camp. As we all know, everything is just about reps."
What stands out to you about Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense?
"I'm going to keep it simple. Pep, he is special and a great mind. I've got a lot of trust in him and just trying to help him be right. We love going to work with him every day."
Is there a level of excitement knowing you all will be doing something different under a new regime?
What are your thoughts on WR John Metchie III? Have you gotten a chance to talk to him?
"That kid's special, you can just tell it. You know when you talk with someone, you just get that feel about a guy. The way that he goes about his business, obviously right now he's not going with us, but his focus and paying attention to the little details that he can pay attention to, I like him and I can't wait to get to work with him, for sure."
What's the overall feeling among the team under a new coaching staff?
"Guys are bought in and believing in that message that Coach Lovie (Smith) is portraying. He brings a lot of energy every day. I've got a lot of respect for him, he coached in this game for a long time so we're all excited."
What kind of growth do you see from QB Davis Mills?
"I just think his leadership and his confidence is really taking control in that huddle. He's not that rookie anymore. He comes in, he knows that's his huddle, and that's what you look for in your quarterback and he's definitely doing that."
Is OL A.J. Cann's observation about Head Coach Lovie Smith true, that he's quiet but you don't want to anger him?
"That's exactly right. He's like a parent you don't want to disappoint."
How do you think the new additions to the offense are going to help the team?
"All hands on deck. We've got a lot of special guys on this side of the ball that we added, not just at the receiver position but in the backfield, whether it's from tight ends, the offensive line. I think Nick (Caserio) did a great job in the draft and free agent-wise. Like I said, the biggest thing that I see right now is that everyone is bought in and everyone's unselfish. I think that's where a great offense starts at, just unselfishness."
What's the biggest adjustment for a rookie wide receiver?
"I would say the biggest thing is just slowing the game down again. Obviously, college to the league, the game gets a little faster, so how fast you can slow that game down is going to be critical."
How important is it for you as a veteran to be at a voluntary OTA practice?
"To lead. Obviously, they look at me to be able to help lead in areas. If I'm not here, it's going to be hard. Obviously, there's been some time I'm away from my family, but when I can be here, I'm definitely going to be here to help lead and set that standard that we all are looking for for the season."
What do you see in some of the new guys in the defensive backfield, such as DB Steven Nelson and DB Derek Stingley Jr.?
"Steve (DB Steven Nelson), I played with him in college. He's played a lot of ball, guy is smart. I look forward to having him on my team. And then Sting (DB Derek Stingley Jr.), what he's done in college was awesome. I look forward for him to be able to come in and do that here as well."
When do you know if rookies can play?
"Game time, game time. Week 1, that's when you can know about rookies. Practice is one thing obviously, but you really learn about a rookie in that game time. I think our rookies got something to them."
Does it make it easier to transition with a new coaching staff having some familiarity with returning coaches?
"No question. We still got a lot of guys that are on this staff that you may see as a new head coach, but obviously these guys have been around and that makes things a lot easier."
How has the vibe changed from last year?
"As you can see, we're all excited and having fun. I think that speaks for itself for sure."
LB OGBONNIA OKORONKWO
How special is it to be back home?
"It feels amazing. It's a dream come true to be able to come from what we did last year in Los Angeles and to be able to come home. It's a dream come to."
How much did that play a role in wanting to be here?
"Everything, including Lovie Smith's very pass rusher friendly defense."
What about this defense fits your skillset?
"Just features of the defense. If you can pass rush and you can run around and you are real relentless, nasty player, this defense will work really well for you."
What does it mean for you to win a Super Bowl championship to now be able to play for your hometown team?
"It means the world to me. It was a journey. You and me, we've been talking since high school, so you've watched my journey. So, it's a real beautiful thing to be here right now just to be able to come home and play for my home team."
What are some similarities between Sean McVay defense and Lovie Smith's defense?
"I'll start with the front, the even versus the odd front. There is a difference there. Some of the two gap that might happen in Sean's defense compared to the penetrating and aggressive nature of Lovie Smith's defense."
Have you gotten your Super Bowl ring yet?
"Not yet. I've gotten fitted but I'm still waiting on the ceremony."
What are you going to do with it?
"I'm going to put it up. I'm going to put it up in my man cave."
Can you talk about the football camp that you are putting on?
"I have a football game on June 11th. I'm doing it at Crump Stadium where I used to play in high school. I'm really excited about it. I'm just trying to pour back into the community for as long as I'm here in Houston."
Does it make you a little more excited for you to give back to your community?
"100 percent. It's great to be back. I plan on doing a bunch of stuff like that for the kids in the community."
As a veteran who has been to the Super Bowl, does that make you feel like more of a leader on this defense?
"I feel like everybody on our defense is trying to lead by example. We are trying to do what we need to do. Just do everything in our power to win a championship this year."
There are a lot of Houston area guys in the NFL and especially on this roster. What do you think about that?
"Everybody knows that Texas high school football is the best. Houston is the biggest city in Texas so of course we are going to have the most athletes."
Is there something you feel you needed to do when you got back home?
"I just wanted to take my mom to dinner. Kick it at Pappadeaux's like we used to."
When do you set expectations for the defense line?
"Day one. Day one we know we are going to be the most physical, the most relentless defensive line in the NFL."
What's the strangest way someone has tried to pronounce your name before?
"I've heard it all, but I try to keep it easy and let everybody call me 'Beezy'.
How did you develop the spin move?
"It started natural, but after working with a bunch of guys like the Von Millers and the Clay Matthews, guys with my similar stature, they've helped me refine it over the years. So, I've added a lot to it."
What do you see in how you can build relationships on the defensive line so that it's a deep unit?
"We've all got to do it together, so we've got to be connected on and off the field. That's what we plan to do this offseason, just build those relationships so that you can see exactly how much we love each other on the field."
How do you seek those relationships out when you're new?
"You just lead by example. When it's real, people know. You don't have to fake it. You come in and you just show love, you show the young guys the way and you respect the older guys, and everything falls into place."
What are your impressions of some of the rookies on defense?
"I'm really impressed with those guys. Very, very, ready. That's what you look for in a rookie, when you see them out there in practice and there's no fear. They just look very confident, I like that."
How did you get into photography?
"I was always into the creative arts before I really started playing. It sort of took a backseat role when football got serious for me. When I was able to accomplish a couple things. I was able to pick it back up. It's something I love to do, but right now I'm worried about football. I'm in football season, I'm trying to maximize everything I can do with football."
What's one of your favorite places you've been to take pictures?
"I think it's Red Rock Canyon in Vegas. That was my favorite place so far to take pictures. It was beautiful."
What did you gain from shooting photos at the NFL Draft this year?
"That was a cool experience, just being able to watch those guys get drafted and seeing them with their families. It was a beautiful thing to see."
When did you realize that you have an artistic side?
"I think I realized that before I knew I was athletic. I grew up and had a little blog I wrote poetry on when I was a teenager. I love music, but when I started playing football, I felt like it sort of helped with football because I started the game very unorthodox. I played it in my own way because I started playing so late, so it sort of helped me."