Head Coach Lovie Smith
"It's a great day for the Texans. Romeo (Crennel) retired. Think about it, 50 years in our profession. An outstanding coach, better, man. So, I'm excited about this new journey that he'll be going on. Also a good day for us. Whenever we get a chance to see some of our all-time greats come here, it's big. We had a lot of our former players out here today, and it's always good to see them. Some I know well, some I don't know as well and am looking forward to those relationships growing. But practice always picks up a little bit when you've had guys that have worn the uniform watching what you're doing. Football-wise, getting better. Every practice counts. So, we're taking advantage of them. It's winding down a little bit. You know, we finish up OTA practices this week and then next week we have our three-day mini-camp and then we take a break. I'm kind of looking forward to that break just as much as the players are."
The secondary seemed to be flexing a bit today. How much have you seen that group progress as OTAs and who sticking out to you?
"They are getting better. The secondary is. You had different guys making plays. Defensively, you have to show up. It's just not about covering and tackling. It's about taking the ball away. We're able to get the ball away through there and punching the ball out quite a few times today. That's good, in my defensive coordinator role. In my head football coach's role, it's not a good thing. It's about ball protection, security, all of those things."
Any early indication about the extent of WR DaeSean Hamilton or OL Justin Britt's injuries?
"You saw was a non-contact injury and the other, when you have is 11, 22 bodies out there, sometimes you step on someone. But hopefully it's nothing serious for either one."
When you look at the composition of your team, do you feel like you're building depth at the offensive line?
" I feel like we are building depth at all positions. It's just the off-season but you want to feel good about a couple guys at each position by the rotation that we have and based on what they have done in their careers, too. What we know about them, we are feeling better about at the least two-deep throughout our football team."
What about the rookie class in general, now that you've had some OTAs, their comfort level, are they starting to settle in?
"Yeah, they are, the ones that can go right now - you're not here every practice but (Jalen) Pitre, for one, he's been outstanding. Knack for the football. Has done a lot of good things. You can say the same thing about Kenyon (Green). You saw today Christian Harris was out there with the ones a lot of the day. The young rookies are progressing the way we want them to."
As someone who has been in the game a long time as Romeo Crennel has, what are things you've learned from him from a defensive perspective?
"I feel old just from that question, you said Romeo, 50 years. I'm up there with Romeo. Well, there are some coaches that when you've been in the profession that long, I mean, some of the basic principles on how football should be played, you see it and that's who they are, fundamentals of football. I got a chance to be around Romeo quite a bit in a different role when he was more of an analyst position last year, whole wealth of knowledge and not just on football, but on how he treats people. Anybody that's played for him, they all say the same thing about him. When you're done, you want guys to feel like helped you grow as a man, that's definitely the case and of course as a football player."
What have you seen from DL Rasheem Green in his early time with you guys?
"He's a big body, long, good size, good ability. He's a tough guy. Smart guy. You know, everything that you look for without pads, we've seen him do. He'll be in the mix for us. He'll have a role for us this coming year. I feel pretty confident making that statement."
When you have a young team with a bunch of rookies and high draft picks, is it more pressure for them to step in and do more early, and how do you think they deal with that?
"I think when initially when you come in, I let the rookies know, the veterans don't want to hear about you being young and you don't know what you're doing. If we as coaches put you out on the football field, they expect you to perform. They read the papers, too. They know how you're drafted, how you're coming in, and you're going to have to prove it on the football field and that's what these young guys have done. They seem like they never leave the building and when they get their opportunities, they are stepping up and making plays. Another part of being a rookie is keeping your mouth shut. I don't want to hear about what you've done in the past. Just come in each day and work and they will start doing more. That veteran leadership will start going off on them and that's kind of what's happening right now."
How hard is it for you to separate being defensive coordinator and head coach?
"Not hard at all. The more positions, gets me involved with a lot more. As a head football coach, you can point, CEO-type, but I like to know and be in detail. I pretty much coached a position just about every year I've been a head football coach. So, I like this role and the more the better.
What do you like about WR Phillip Dorsett?
Well, his skill set, one of the fastest guys on our team. Has good movement. And you know, I talk to Phillip an awful lot about when you're from the University of Miami, and you wore number 4, I mean, I know one great player that wore it. Devin Hester wore that number. So, I'm always giving him a little bit of flak on that. But he has ability, he can catch the ball and he'll make you miss in the open field. The only thing that's stopped some of his growth in the league has been injury. But he's out there right now, if we can keep him healthy, heel help us a lot.
What are your memories of coaching against former Texans WR Andre Johnson?
"A special player. As a defensive coach, you knew that you had to know where he is and the offense was going to go through him. There's only so much you can do to help a corner out. He's a tough guy. If you YouTube him a little bit, there's one play I can think of where he tells you kind of how tough he is. But just a special guy. You get to know him even more. For me to just talk football about him. Again, when you're the greatest player in the history of a franchise, that kind of tells you everything you need to know about a player."
When you entered the off-season, how important was it to get a running back like Marlon Mack in the building and what have you seen him?
"We felt like we were needed - we were trying to upgrade all the positions but running back was one that we thought there were some players out there that fit what we wanted to do. And Marlon, I'm going to say that about all our running backs, even with our rookie, we have depth at the running back position. You need that. They will all have a role. We have a fullback - odds are we'll have a fullback on our roster, so it was a commitment to the run and with a commitment to the run you need running backs and we feel like we have a few that can play."
DB STEVEN NELSON
How has your time in Houston started out?
"It's been going well. It's been going well, been here for probably about two months, maybe a little bit over that. We got great guys. Coach (Lovie Smith) did a great job getting guys in, and Nick (Caserio), the guys that want to compete and get better and kind of have like-mindedness. It's going really well right now.
WHAT do you feel like you'll bring to the table specifically?
"Like leadership, experience, just being a guy that's been there, been out there, playoff teams and just being in that atmosphere. As you know we have a lot of young talent on the team so just kind of being able to be there and lead by example as much as I can."
What are your impressions of Derek Stingley Jr.?
"Great guy. Very talented, hence why he got drafted where he got drafted. You know, I think he's going to do some great things here whenever he gets rolling."
When you were going through the off-season deciding where you want to play next, did you have any conversations with WR Brandin Cooks and what are some things he told you?
"I spoke to Brandin a couple times, just throughout my career. It's not like I spoke to him like prior but he always told me like when he came here, he liked the atmosphere and just the vibe in the atmosphere about it. So, I kind of knew that and I spoke to other guys as well."
When you come from winning teams like you have, with this team coming off a losing season the past couple years, what do you try to inject to bring a winning culture and atmosphere?
"I think I can just show like I said, my leadership and just try to show my professionalism as what that looks like, what it takes to reach that level. So whatever I can do to help, you know what I mean."
What's been your impressions of WR Nico Collins so far?
"Really good, smooth, man. Big guy, catch radius, can run. Humble. I like him a lot."
The secondary was going after the ball today. What does it say about this team, the defense, how good you guys can be going into next season?
"Hungry, man. I think we're starting to understand that takeaways, when you win that turnover battle, that's a big swing in the game. So, whenever we can take the ball away and put the ball back in the offense hands and they score, we score and that's going to lead to bigger chances to win."
Seeing younger players on the defense, LB Garret Wallow, DB Jalen Pitre working in with first-team defense, what does that say about their willingness to learn and their adaptability?
"They are a sponge right now. So, whatever they can do to come in and get extra work in, they are doing it. They are staying out there with the coaches. They are learning, watching more film so they can be accountable and when their name is called, they are able to perform."
Are you starting to feel the camaraderie amongst the defense?
"Most definitely. Each and every day is getting stronger and stronger."
DL MALIEK COLLINS
What did DL Mario Addison do to convince you to give him No. 97?
"He wanted it (worse) than me. He sent a wire. I got more sacks in 96 than 97, so I feel like it's a little bit of luck being back in my old number. Thought it'd be better for me."
What does it mean to you to re-sign here and be back for this season?
"I think we're building something special here and I wanted to be a part of that."
Was it important to you to try and stay in Texas? Why was that?
"For sure. Family. My kids are here. I mean, it's just I love the atmosphere. It's a great place for me and my family."
When you say build something special, how much is Head Coach Lovie Smith a part of that process?
"He's the key piece. He writes the script every day for how it looks and what it's supposed to look like. So I mean, he's done it before and you know, we are just going to follow him."
Without pads, what can you garner from these workouts with the offensive line?
"Everything but a bullrush. You can do pretty much everything."
Spin moves and stuff?
"Yeah, I had to pull out a couple today. They were blocking me too good."
With some of the veteran additions to the defensive line, you're no longer the oldest guy. What do you feel like that will add to have some experience like that?
"I mean, I think it adds a lot. Those two guys (DL Mario Addison and DL Jerry Hughes), they are so accomplished, and doing what they done did; the sack totals they done had in their career. I'm just striving to be -- to get those type of numbers and striving to be around for 12 and 13 years."
Q. What do you feel like defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire can impart to you guys?
"He know what it takes, every day. I mean, it's nothing like having a coach that's played before, and especially that's played your position. I mean, I think it's huge."
What does it mean to see the young guys step up in a more prominent role?
"I love it. I just try to pay attention to what we're doing up front. As long as we are doing our job up front, putting pressure on quarterbacks, getting the quarterback and trampling the run on the way to the quarterback, we just try to make their job as simple as it has to be."
Do you have any individual goals, anything after the benchmarks you set last year?
"For sure. We're going to get to the quarterback a whole lot more. I mean, that's really the goal. Get to the quarterback, more TFLs, more explosive plays, take the ball away more. We are going to improve overall as a whole defense but individually we've all got to raise our standards, too."
After four wins last year, what's the mentality? Is it a hungry mentality? How would you characterize the team?
"For sure, everybody out here grinding. Everybody here, I mean, we just out here having fun and working together. I mean, we understand that we were a four-win team last year and we are doing our best to improve that."
Do you always write "have fun" on your shoes?
"Have fun, be decisive. These are old cleats."
What are your impressions of LB Christian Harris?
"I'm paying attention to the front but I have seen flashes."
RB MARLON MACK
How has the start to your time in Houston gone?
"Definitely loving it, new coach, teammates, it's definitely a great feeling, refreshed. Feel like I'm back in college again, learning new guys again, getting close with guys. It's a great feeling."
Were the last few seasons tough, going from a thousand-yard rusher to adjusting to a reserve role in Indianapolis?
"It wasn't tough. Just a cycle in the NFL, I'd say. You learn how to take your ups and downs and be grateful for what you got, and always go a 110 percent and that's what I did. Learning from being a starter and being a bench guy and you have to adapt and learn and keep going because that's what it is."
What can you bring to the table?
"As a back, big plays, touchdowns and go out there and do what I do and hopefully help this team get a W, the most important thing."
The Texans' struggles in the running game over the last couple years, do you take it as a challenge to come here and improve it?
"As a team, I think we all do, especially every running back, everybody want to go out there and help the team with the rushing game. That's one thing as a running back you want to do, put that on your shoulders and go out and do that."
Can you talk about the energy that Dameon Pierce brings?
"You know young guys, man. Young guy, bring that college energy, fresh, don't know what to expect. But he's a young guy, he's learning, energetic, happy. Smile on the face every day, and that's one thing you need in your room and you're always going to enjoy."
What went into the decision for you to come to Houston?
"Decision-wise, getting a chance to play, knowing they are a great team, just put in the work and go win. I want to get out there on that field and help this team and I think I can do that."
What did they tell you about your role?
"Just go out there and do what you do. Training camp, go out there, everybody get a fresh chance, get a chance out there to go to work."
Is it a competition now?
"Most definitely. I don't think nothing is guaranteed for anybody. Just got to go in there, work and improve."
Seeing this organization from the other sideline the last few years, what's your impression of Lovie Smith and the offense?
"Big plays, man. We going to go out there and do what we do. The offense is getting going, especially through the OTAs, you've definitely been seeing just chances, going out there, ripping it out there. Let guys make plays and do what we do. We are play-makers."
Do you feel like you're all the way back now?
"Most definitely. I felt like that last year, just didn't get a chance for me. Just got to go out there and do the work. Haven't done it yet. That's what I've got to go do."
What was it like watching Colts RB Jonathan Taylor have that kind of season last year?
"It was amazing. Got to be grateful and enjoy, legendary season, especially his second year. Great teammate, great room, great room to be a part of, especially with my running back coach there. It was just great to see. Always motivated. That's one thing about this game, you've just got to learn how to motivate yourself and watch the other guy DOS it and that help you out."
What is your impression of QB Davis Mills?
"Great professional, great guy. Quick. He's learning fast. Go get it, got to be there, got to be on your game with him and go out there and help each other."
Do you see any similarities between him and another former Stanford quarterback you played with, Andrew Luck?
"I mean, it's kind of different. He's still a younger guy. I saw Andrew later on in his career, so I definitely can't really tell because Andrew was later on, but he definitely got that smartness to him. Quarterback, you got to be on your game, got to be on your point with everything."
I know it's only been a couple weeks but what's your impression about the offensive line and the way they are able to create gaps?
"It's a good impression. Definitely OTA camp, you can't really judge OTAs, no pads, but there's definitely big holes there and definitely a chance to hit it and get it. That's what's impressive about these guys, communicate well and that's a major key in the pass game, communicate and that's what we do."
With the running backs in the running back room now, can you break them down and give your impressions of how it is?
"Break the running backs down in the room? Rex (Burkhead) is the OG, man. Got to do it - I think about that room, though, I think everybody can do it all. Pass game, run game, we just kind of different size-wise. So, everything look the same. I think we all got speed. Some guys just got a little more power than others. But I think we kind of - because everybody can run routes here. I think that's what I can see out of all us. Kind of shifty. We know how to hit it and get it would I say."
Any similarities between this offense and Frank Reich's offense?
"I wouldn't say similar. I don't see none, I don't think."