Head Coach Lovie Smith
"The program has gone about the way we wanted it to. Everything is scripted, leading up to the final week, which is here. For us we're going to go to our minicamp. It will be two days. We're going to go of course, today, so tomorrow is kind of the fourth quarter. Most games are kind of won or lost in the fourth quarter. That's pretty important that we finish it the right way.
Most of the guys have been here throughout the entire time unless there's a good reason for not being here. Of course, Laremy (Tunsil) is here today. It was good to see him get back out on the football field. That was a final piece of this puzzle that we're putting together. Great work."
What have you seen from QB Davis (Mills) throughout the spring and off-season? How do you feel about him right now?
"We feel good about him, improvement. If you go through I think maybe 38, 37 days or so we've gone through of actual work here, and you're a guy like Davis who's the first guy in the building and the last guy to leave, he's gotten a lot of reps, a lot of instructions. I've seen him make some of the type of plays we know he's capable of making."
What did you have to say to OL Laremy (Tunsil), and how do you think he looked?
"You know, just first date. First date you get to know each other a little bit.
No, we've been communicating with him throughout, but it was good to see one of your best football players, one of the best offensive tackles in football. You add him to our team, we're a better football team. It's as simple as that. It's voluntary work in the off-season for most of this. In an ideal work, yeah, I wanted Laremy to be here every day. But sometimes guys aren't here. When they come here, we're not going to make him change his last name or anything like that. We're going to let him keep the same number, and he's going to help us win a lot of games this year."
You talked about the attributes of fourth quarters, when games are typically won and lost. What are some of the traits and attributes that you're looking for in sessions like this to help you get clued in on what the kid is able to do?
"As we finish up, our last practice has been about situational football, and that's where games really are kind of won and lost. The last drill that we did today of course was our two-minute drill. Finishing and keeping that discipline throughout four (quarters) or maybe into overtime is what we're looking for, the grind.
As you can see here, most of us in short pants. It's warm in Houston right now, so for us to train that way, too, just being able to finish, these are some of the things we're looking for. And then for the guys that have been here - daily improvement. That's what we've gotten."
What have you seen through this off-season workout that you feel like you have to continue to build around the team positionally and what you still need?
"When we started the off-season program, we asked the guys to show up every day and let us coach you up. Let our strength and conditioning staff build you up. They've done all of that. Our program, the guys have bought into that, and they're following.
A part of the program, too, is to put in all days and now take a break. So, at the end of the week, we're all clearing out for a while. That's a part of getting ready for football season, too, is unwinding a little bit, reflect on what's happening and get ready to go."
Another chance to see your rookies out there. How are they transitioning to this next phase?
"They're blending in right now. Looking at the rookies now, they're in offense, defense, defensive huddles and making plays. You want them to blend in. We liked the class before they got here. We like them even more now. Quite a few of them will contribute this year."
Have there been a couple of things you've liked from what you've seen what your guys have been doing so far?
"The first, again, what you can get done this time of year, is show up. They've been here. We establish our roles. First step to getting better is to show up on time. That's what they've done. And then just work hard. They have good coaches, so technique-wise, every player that's been in off-season program has gotten better. I mean, in the weight rooms, you talk to Mike (Eubanks) and our strength staff, they'll say the same thing. That's what we wanted to do, just get ourselves in the best position for a great training camp. I can't wait for training camp. This phase is over. It's like, hey, the second quarter is over, its halftime, and you can't wait to come back out for that third quarter. We're pretty close to that."
What is your message to all the people that are fans and might want to be fans because they like football?
"Well, I mean, Houston is a football town, and there's tradition that we have here. In order for us to accomplish our goals, we can't do it without our fans. Since I became head football coach here, I've talked about that core phase, the fans being a part of this. So, I'm looking forward to answering their questions. If they're part of the team, I want them to be able to know, get some inside scoop on what's going on. I'm looking forward to it. Eventually, it's going to be fall season, and we're going to expect them to come in their colors and support their football team. It's our responsibility to put a better product on the football field, which we plan on doing."
Do you have a specific workout plan, repetition plan for your rookies, CB Derek Stingley Jr. and OL Kenyon Green?
Where do you anticipate they'll be when camp starts?
"We expect them to be full speed, ready to go. Both players have had off-season surgeries. We knew that. So, we had a plan. We wanted them to first come in, we evaluate, see exactly where they are. We don't play tomorrow, so we're going to take it slow with them. The mental part has been good. Everybody is exactly where we thought they would be, talking about WR John Metchie, too, all the players that have had injuries.
Again, we come back in the fall, we're going to be pretty much at 100 percent first day of training camp. We're excited about that."
What are specific things you're seeing as he kind of puts his own spin on the offense?
"Well, our offense, we want to be a team that can run the football. We're going to have a fullback on our roster, so we wanted to establish that. You've seen our plays that we run. You can't get good physical work of course without pads, but the players know now their roles and how we're going to win football games. That's what we've seen, and I'm excited about what our offense will look like this fall."
QB DAVIS MILLS
After this spring and off-season, where do you feel like you're at as a quarterback right now?
"I feel like I'm at a good spot. Obviously there's still a lot of room to grow, but more confident, more comfortable out there with the offense and my teammates around me. Ready to keep progressing and head into the season."
Davis, what excites you most about this team and kind of some of the new guys, the new pieces that there are around you this year?
"We've brought in a lot of guys with a lot of experience. I feel like everyone is really bought into what we're trying to do out here. I feel like we've really set the standard for how we want to treat things around this building and how we want to go at things, practice and working out wise, meeting wise. I feel like we're in a really good spot and we have a lot of good leaders on the team who are leading the team in that direction."
What has been the biggest area of growth from this past season to this one?
"I think one big thing that's helped me a lot is just comfortability out there. Just having experience and being able to make fast, smart decisions and protect the football."
What's it like playing for Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, some particular aspects of his coaching style you see with him?
"I like him a lot. He's been coaching the quarterback position for years now, so he really understands what we see back there and how we can react to things and how we can progress forward after bad plays. It feels like -- we've only been together for a year now, but he's known about me since before I was even at Stanford. We have a really good connection in that regard. We feel like we're on a really good similar page with a lot of things, so we're excited how everything is moving."
When you look at the growth that you made from training camp last year to maybe the end of the season, is it exciting now with all that experience under your belt, what you can maybe accomplish with this off-season and heading into the new year?
"Definitely. I think experience is a big factor in how my game progressed through the last season. These reps I've gotten in this off-season are extremely valuable and I'm excited to keep progressing. I still have a lot to prove to myself and to my teammates to go out there and win games, but we're all excited for it, and I want to keep moving forward."
What does it mean to you that the team is seemingly investing in you as the quarterback for this organization and the guy who's going to lead this team?
"It's awesome. I still have a lot to prove. Got to go out there and win the job each and every day and put my best foot forward each and every day out here at practice. It's exciting and I want to keep proving that to the guys."
What does it mean to have OL Laremy Tunsil back on the field, and how did he look?
"He looked great. Obviously he wasn't here for most of the off-season, but came back and really there was no time lost. He came in with a really solid feel of the playbook and I thought he stepped in today and performed extremely well. We're excited to have him back."
What have you seen from WR Nico (Collins) here in year two?
"He's been great. Really good grasp of this offense. He ran a similar offense with Pep Hamilton at Michigan, so he has a good feel for some of the things we're trying to do. Obviously his talent is off the charts. We've just got to find ways to get him the ball."
How much has your off-season work with the wide receivers transcended over into this minicamp?
"It's been great. As much time on task with the guys as we can get as possible is how we're going to be the best. I feel like we've put a lot of really good work in. Everyone is on the same page and our chemistry is at a really good spot right now, but obviously we can keep growing and I'm excited for it."
In terms of the likes of QB Kyle (Allen) and now QB Kevin (Hogan), what do they bring?
"It's good. They've all been in the league for multiple years, so everyone kind of has some different coaching points that they've had in the past that they share with the room. We kind of like to bounce things off each other to make sure we're all progressing at the same pace, and everything is moving in the same direction."
Does Kevin have particular information about what you're doing here, just with his experience?
"Yes, he does."
What's it like throwing to TE Pharaoh Brown? Is your chemistry with him much further ahead now that you've had a year with him?
"Definitely. I think he's looked extremely well this off-season. He's running some really good routes. Has a really good first step, has been really explosive this off-season. I'm looking forward to getting out on the field with him."
And TE Brevin Jordan?
"Same thing for Brev. He's looked good obviously. Showed some big-time play-making ability at the end of the last year and he still brings that into this year. We're excited to see what he can do."
TE PHARAOH BROWN
What do you feel like you can accomplish in year two?
"I feel like I can accomplish a lot this year. Really just taking it day by day. One-day focus for me. I'm comfortable. I've been meeting with the quarterbacks all year, so getting on the same page with them is really big. Just knowing where they want me to be, where I want to be. The game has just slowed down understanding all the fine line details. That's going to help me be an all-pro this year."
What was the off-season like?
"My off-season was pretty good. Really just working on freeing my mind, just doing a bunch of meditation. I did a couple retreats. Just clearing my mind, getting that focus. I think that's pretty big for me. This game is pretty easy. It's just consistency and just me versus me on a daily basis. That's why this off-season has been great. Just been one day at a time."
Is the hot yoga beneficial?
"The hot yoga is great. I love hot yoga. I think everybody should do hot yoga."
Do you get the sense this offense will utilize you, TE Brevin Jordan and the whole tight end group?
"History shows that this has been a very tight end friendly offense everywhere Pep (Hamilton) has been, Stanford, Colts, at Michigan. I don't think the trend will change. It's a great opportunity for me and Brevin. Just helping the young guys. It's really just day by day. Day by day, and that's it."
Do you notice a difference in preparedness or mentality of how he approaches things versus last year?
"He also has another year under his belt so he's starting to understand the game and be a pro. Like I said, it's a mentorship for all of us. I help him. He helps me, and we just learn together. I think that's going to be the difference."
What is some of the other extra work that you do to get your body right, in terms of recovery and just trying to train?
"I kind of do it all. Like I said, I'm a big meditation guy - yoga, going down to Mexico, doing temazcals, just energy work. I'm really big into all of that. Cold tub. Been getting a lot of work in with my personal trainer, Justin Allen, just off field. I'm moving like a receiver out there right now. Just way quicker, way smoother, way more body control.
That's really been a big thing, and I've been seeing a difference day by day, even down to working with (Texans Director of Team Wellness) Ladd Harris on a daily basis, just changing my whole body, way slimmer. When I come back, I'll be looking like The Rock. I've finally got my dad bod going, got some abs now, so I'm going to be like (Cleveland Brown's TE) David Njoku with my shirt off in pregame."
How does it feel to have that familiarity coming into minicamp, going into training camp, in terms of being able to do what you need to do?
"It's big. I'm going into my fifth, sixth year, and every year I had a new coach, new quarterback. I don't take it for granted. Being able to have the same guy, knowing that guy, knowing the coaches to be able to bond with. Knowing what we want, and just being able to get a whole year in, a full off-season in with these guys and being around them, I think is going to be huge. In the past years with COVID and different changes, we didn't have that. I think just having that full year is going to be amazing."
DB JONATHAN OWENS
What's your comfort level like, your understanding of everything?
"It's always better when you're able to be in the system a year before and the next year you get to come in and teach the younger guys just from your experiences and what you felt and the stresses you feel in certain defenses. It's definitely a great feeling to have playing time. It gets your confidence level higher because now you know you can do it. It's not just seeing plays on film or having to get mental reps. It's been great just coming and trying to build off last year."
What did you learn from watching other people's and your own film looking back as you're preparing for another year?
"Man, just stay down. It's actually a pretty humbling experience because I'm trying to learn off everybody else, or Justin Reid was here last year so he's a guy I always ask a bunch of questions. It's just a great feeling, man. It's a confidence boost, and you want to keep going. You want to build off of it. You don't want to be complacent. Last year did happen, but that's over with now, so my mindset is moving forward and getting better. One percent better every day."
Do you feel 100 percent now? How is your health after rehab and everything?
"Yeah, it's been a great rehab all off-season. The trainers we have here are amazing. They've done a great job of preparing me and getting me to be able to come back out here and do everything in OTAs and just continue to improve and get better."
What are some of the things you think you need to improve on going into training camp?
"From what I felt last year, I knew with myself I wanted to get a little bigger, a little stronger because I felt kind of grown men strength in the games. I wanted to get my shoulders a little stronger. Be quicker with my eyes, quicker run-pass reads so that I can play faster. Just let talent take over from there. A lot of pre-snap recognition things. Slow your mind down. Okay I see this formation. This is what I think I'm going to get from this. That's been a big thing, just trying to learn and talking to vets and watching more film of other guys from other teams, just plays they've made and learn off of it."
What are your thoughts of Head Coach Lovie Smith and how he wants to do more this year on defense and how he can use you guys around the secondary?
"He really wants competitive guys that are going to come out, play the defense the way he wants and play full speed. Give your all out there on the field and make the plays when they're presented to you. I think we have a great group of guys who can go out there and do that and execute the game plan."
In your second year with Lovie are there things you're noticing more from him? Are there different things you're noticing?
"I got pretty close to Lovie (Smith) last year, so just with him becoming a head coach it was like an easier transition. Guys are just grinding in. Lovie is a guy that you have a lot of respect for, so you want to play hard for him, you want to make those plays for him. I feel like the whole team now, just not the defense that understood him last year. It's the whole team that understands Lovie's vision and how he wants the team to play and perform, so I'm excited."
To that point, what are your early impressions of DB Derek Stingley Jr.?
"Great ball skills, athletic, smart, and willing to learn, asks a bunch of questions. That's really a thing where you're a new guy, you're always going to be a sponge, anything anybody tells you. I'm relaying my past experiences to them, letting them know, okay, this is what you did, this is probably what you could do better, this is what somebody taught me. I'm excited."
What's that transition process been like for you from being the guy asking the questions last year to now being the guy that they have to come to you now?
"It's crazy, man, because it took a long time to get to that point. Even in my fourth year I still didn't have the playing time and the experience. It was just a confidence thing. You see those plays, you tell yourself you can do it, watch the film, but actually going out there and doing it. It's a different confidence you have, especially coming into the next year. Because younger guys are seeing you on the film, so they're coming and asking you, 'what did you do, how did you do that, what did you see'. It's a great feeling, man, just being able to relay information and teach guys stuff that I've learned."
You've always been a guy fighting for your spot, fighting for playing time. I'm sure that doesn't change but do you get hungrier after getting it done on the field?
"Absolutely, because now you have more to prove. You can't just live off of stuff that you did last year. Last year is over with. It's a new season, new team. You have a lot of new players. Everyone has to prove their self again. Last year was a confidence boost, but that happened last year, so I'm just trying to get better every day and prove things. I watch film that I think I need to do better, so I'm just trying to move forward and get better every day."
What is the difference you've seen between Lovie Smith, the defensive coordinator, and Lovie Smith, the head coach?
"Honestly it's not much that he has to say to us because of his respect level. Like you respect him so much, you want to go out there. You know, you're attentive and everybody is watching. I guess now he cracks a few more jokes now because he's running the team meetings now. But he's been the same guy since I got here. You see that beard and it's just a respect factor, so you want to go out there and do everything for him and execute the game plan the way he wants it."
When you're talking to other veterans on this team do you get a sense that things are different this year?
"Absolutely because it's our second year within the same defensive scheme. For me personally this is my first time with a defense in my second straight year because I've had a lot of just coaching shuffles since I've been in the NFL. It's a great feeling knowing that you have the same scheme. You learn from what you did last year. You know the plays that are going to hurt or the plays to look for or the routes to look for, the big plays teams are trying to hit us with.
Like I said, you can just relay that information and your past experiences to the young guys. Let them know to be prepared because we had to go through it in a game and learn versus now we can just watch the film, we've felt the pressures. It's a great feeling being able to relay those experiences."
How is the wedding planning going?
"It's been going pretty good. I just let her handle most of it and I kind of sit here and handle my business on the field."
From the outside looking in, it looks like there's a sense of calm in this practice as opposed to a year ago. Is that right? What's it like as a player?
"Honestly, Lovie was here with us last year, so a lot of the players are familiar with him. I guess you could say it's calm where people are learning more. He has that confidence in us. He believes in us, so he kind of lets us kind of run the practice and they'll coach up the film. He's just kind of taken, I guess, a player's approach to it He does a great job of getting us prepared, and we owe everything to him, so we're just trying to come out here and execute the game plan."