Transcript: 7-29-2022 Press Conferences

GENERAL MANAGER NICK CASERIO

Opening Statement

"Good morning, welcome to Training Camp. Hopefully everyone had a good summer, was able to relax, get away, enjoy watching the Astros play baseball. A credit to them, a great organization, a great team, it's been a lot of fun to watch them. A lot of respect for what they're doing. But we're excited to be here, a good opportunity for us to continue to build on the offseason. Speaking on the offseason, 95 percent participation from the players in the offseason program and voluntary program, so it speaks to their commitment, speaks to their attitude. Then we had a number of players in the window from when we ended minicamp in the middle of June until Training Camp started that were actually in the building on their own, working and preparing. I want to say there was 35, 40 guys on a consistent basis. So, I'd say the attitude, the effort, the commitment, the work has been good. We'll see what that actually manifests itself as on the field. So a long way to go, Training Camp is a starting point and I think everybody is starting from the same sort of point. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we're all excited for the opportunity. A couple quick notes before we take some questions, speaking on a couple situations. With respect to John Metchie, I'd say that's a situation that was new. That wasn't anything that had come up during the course of the spring or anything like that. Fortunately, we're blessed to have some of the best doctors and the best hospitals in the city of Houston, so he's been under great care. Our medical staff specifically with the Texans, our trainers, our medical staff, Dr. (James) Muntz did an unbelievable job of assisting him when he was actually not in Houston, he was outside of Houston when this was discovered. We've had dialogue, we've had communication with John. He's in good spirits, he's kind of taking it one day at a time, so there's no time table. I know he put the statement out the other day before Training Camp started about his situation, but his attitude has been great. We've had some dialogue with him, some of our coaches have talked with him. So, trying to keep him engaged, trying to keep him involved, but the most important thing is his health and his well-being. This is not about football, it's just about him recovering and him being able to lead a good life and then we'll see where we end up here at some point. So that's John's situation. A quick note to Danny Amendola, just to his retirement, I'd say one of the most physically and mentally tough players that I've ever been around. One of the most clutch players, had an immense effect on our program last year even though he was only here one year. Just a lot of respect and admiration for Danny's career over the course of 13 seasons. You can't say enough good things about him, what he's done, his toughness. There's a thousand examples of that that I had the good fortunate of seeing first hand. A great career, great person, will always be a Houston Texan. The door is always open for him, and he's a Texas native. But congratulations on his retirement."

What is the status of RB Darius Anderson's legal situation?

"I would say it's an ongoing investigation. I would say there's a lot of misinformation that's been out there from the beginning, so really don't want to get in to a lot of speculation. Darius has cooperated every step of the way, so at some point there will be a resolution. So other than that, I don't really have an additional comment."

Where do things stand with Derek Stingley Jr.? How much do you anticipate him participating in Training Camp?

"We have different players in different categories, so the big thing is just making sure a player is physically able to do the things that are going to be required of his position. Derek has had a good attitude, our sports performance team has done an outstanding job getting him ready. He'll be out here at practice today. He'll be able to get involved in some things, so we'll take it one day at a time and evaluate everything on a day-to-day basis. But Derek's attitude has been good. He's gotten some really good work in here I would say over the last five to six weeks, been able to get some work done here over the last few days as well. It's just one day at a time, and certain players are in different categories. Have a group of players on PUP, have some players that are off our PUP but that we're going to manage from a load standpoint. So every player, we kind of evaluate their situation, make the best decision. But Derek, his attitude has been good, and he's been good to work with. We'll see how it goes."

How do you feel about QB Davis Mills and the work he's put in this offseason?

"I think we're going to find out about everybody here during the course of Training Camp. That's what Training Camp is for. I think the spring, you're able to evaluate some things, and Training Camp you're able to evaluate more. So it's going to be one day at a time, we just want to try to make incremental progress. Our expectations for the players is the same. It's show up, work hard, have a good attitude, be a good teammate, take coaching and improve. If you do those things, then you'll have an opportunity to become a better player. That's what our expectation is today, tomorrow and thereafter. Once we get to the season, I think real football really starts on Monday when we get to pads. So today, this is another kind of extension of an OTA practice. Tomorrow is kind of an OTA practice. Once we get to Monday, we'll be able to assess some things that are a little more applicable, that are actually going to take place on the football field."

What specifically stood out about QB Davis Mills in the offseason?

"Good attitude. He was in good shape, improved his lower body strength. Has had a good attitude and was able to work on some things mechanically. Again, it's going to be about accumulating days consecutively over the course of multiple weeks. It's not going to be about one day, one practice, about one particular play for any player. So, every player is going to have opportunities. Our job is to evaluate those opportunities and do what we think is best. I'd say the quarterback room is a good room, they've all had a good attitude, they've all worked hard. They had opportunities in the spring. Spring is kind of 7-on-7ish, today a little bit like that as well. So when you start to add elements of pads, add the elements of the running game, it just adds a little bit more diversity to the offense. I think as we go here this week, next week, into the preseason, we'll get a better understanding of where everybody is."

What do you feel is a reasonable expectation for wins and losses this season?

"I'm not in a prediction business or speculation business. Our job is to kind of take it one day at a time, come in with the right attitude, work hard. I can't measure progress, that's not my job. You guys can have fun with that about how many games we're going to win, what games we're going to win, who we're going to play well against, who we're not going to play well against. Our job is to come in each day, try to improve, try to have a good practice. Come in and evaluate what happened, come out the next day and make some progress. There's going to be some good days and some bad days, but can we stack more good days than bad days together in the course of Training Camp. Once the season starts, then we have one opportunities 17 weeks to go out there and actually perform at an optimal level. We're going to do the best we can with those opportunities when they present themselves. Now the focus is on camp, it's about work, it's about individual and collective improvement as a team."

How have y'all prepared for the offense without WR John Metchie III?

"You never really know what's going to happen with a player so you always have contingency plans in place. I would say generally speaking our philosophy is if there's an opportunity that presents itself and makes sense for our team on a multitude of levels then we'll consider it, and if there's not then we won't. Then we know with the group that we have, they'll get the opportunity first and if there's something externally that we can look at and evaluate, we'll consider it. But I wouldn't say there's one definitive answer. We have a lot of good players in that group that have had varying degrees of production. We're a few days into camp here, so they're going to have more opportunities as we go. Take (Danny) Amendola as an example. Amendola wasn't here all of training camp and he shows up the first week of the regular season. He goes out there, is a leading receiver and catches two touchdowns. Is there somebody else out there like that? There might be, there may not be. Our job is to evaluate the League. There's going to be X number of players that are going to be available, so our job as a personnel department is to canvas the League, understand where there may be some extra numbers, where there may be a surplus, and if there's a player that we might be able to bring in to offset something that we may or may not have then we'll consider it and look at it, but I wouldn't say there's one definitive answer or one definitive person or one definitive player that is going to make up for anything."

Are there any particular position groups that you might target?

"Not necessarily. We have 91 players on the roster including Dayo (Odeleye) who kind of counts as an extra, so we're practicing roughly with about 80 players on a day-to-day basis. If we start to lose some players, if we need to supplement our depth somewhere so you're really balancing off two things. You're really balancing off camp depth, what are your needs for camp, and then thinking ahead to what are your needs going to be in the regular season. We're going to have the opportunity to work with 70 players come the end of training camp, 53 on the roster, 16 on the practice squad and then Dayo is our international exception. However we get to that end point, I'm sure it's going to take a lot of different twists and turns so we'll take it one day at a time and evaluate as we go."

When exactly did you all find out about John Metchie III's situation?

"It was a new situation. I would say, middle to end of July. It was a little before training camp is when this all took place. That's where we're at."

What did you learn in the last year that you think might help you guys going into this training camp and the season?

"Yeah, I understand the question. Really not focused on what happened last year. The focus is on the 2022 season and the players that are here. What happened last year doesn't really have any relevance or impact on what going to happen this year. We're all starting new. It's a new year, new opportunity, a lot of new players, some new coaches. So, I think that's where the focus is right now."

What's your relationship been like with HC Lovie Smith?

"We talk every day. He's right next to me. We talk about whether it's a roster, a player, how we're structuring practice. There's a mutually understanding and respect. I respect his opinion. Hopefully, he respects my opinion on some things. Ultimately, we want to do what's best for the team and the Houston Texans. And that's what we'll try to do on a consistent basis."

From the general manager standpoint, what is your focus in training camp?

"Really the focus is on the team. The focus is on the players. Stand back there, evaluate practice and just watch the players. Not necessarily getting caught up with one player, one play. They all have talent. They all have the opportunity to make a play. It's really about consistency day-to-day and who are the players that we can actually depend on over the course of long stretches of time. I think the focus is on the product on the field. The focus is on the players. There's a million things that go on to running a football team. There's a million things that go on in training camp so, try to address the things that maybe have some relevance or important. Other than that, try to not get caught up in things that may or may not matter."

What's your best advice for rookies going into training camp?

"Don't do anything different. It's not anything new. Football is football. But you hopefully have prepared yourself for the rigorous of what you're going to see during training camp. So, the spring is new. I would say there are varying degrees of conditioning, varying degrees of preparedness in the spring. But they've had the opportunity to acclimate themselves to our programs, some of the things that were doing. Now this is another layer in their overall development. Some players maybe move a little faster than others. I would say even the practice structure, OTA-ish the next couple of days. They have a day off on Sunday then we're going to go three straight days in pads. Then take a day off. The big thing this time of year for a younger player is being able to establish a consistent routine. What are you doing on a day-to-day basis? What time do you get in the building? What do you need to do before practice? Here's my checklist. And we have resources and people that are here that can help guide them if they don't really have an understanding. This isn't college where the GA is going to go wake them up in the dorm. Make sure he gets over, sit with them for breakfast. Go take his test and then get him on a practice field, like we don't do that. It's your responsibility. I would say Lovie's philosophy is 'you're grown ass men and we're going to treat you like men and we're going to hold you accountable'. And if you do something wrong, you're going to be held accountable. It's not about rules. It's about standards and holding a standard of performance and excellence. So, the quicker the player understands that, then it's going to be to his advantage. Some take a little bit longer than others. Overall, I think that group specifically has a good attitude, are good kids, they work hard. Then you have players like (LB Christian) Kirksey. You have players like (WR) Brandin Cooks. You have players like (RB Rex) Burkhead who have been in the league for a long time and if I'm a younger player, I'm going to not necessarily look at what they do on the field. What are some of the things they do off the field that has allowed them to have a productive career? It's really being observant and really listening and watching. If you have a question, don't be afraid to say 'Hey Brandin. When you have an off day, what are some of the things that you do that are important?'. So, it's really about education and we have people and resources that can help them if they're kind of misguided."

In consideration with COVID two years ago, how does it feel to have a 'normal season' this year?

"I think just societally, I think everybody feels that we're under more normal circumstances. I'm sure everybody was out all summer. Literally, it felt like there were people everywhere. I think everybody is just excited to get out. So, whatever the circumstances are, we operate accordingly. To be able to meet, to be able to be in a team environment on a consistent basis. COVID is here and COVID isn't going anywhere. There are going to be other things that pop up that you're going to have to deal with. But I think everybody is excited about the opportunity to be here and try to get into a more normalized routine."

What are some of the things that you learned last year that help you build towards the next season?

"Every year is different. You spend a lot of time together over the course of the spring. Last year doesn't have any relevance to this year. What we did last year at this time, may or may not have application this year. Each day we go out there one day at a time, look at what we're doing, if there is something we need to adjust or modify that we can improve or make it better, we'll consider it. It's really about going out there and stacking days on top of each other day after day."

Did something change in DB Derek's [Stingley] process in fully returning to the field?

"Derek's [Stingley] status has been what it has been from the beginning. He's out here working. He's not doing any more or less – we're not speculating on what a player can or can't do. When a player arrives, we evaluate the player, see where he is physically, and make an assessment. Derek [Stingley] has done a lot of stuff. From what he has done during the course of the spring, some of his testing, metrics and numbers are better than anybody on the team. I wouldn't say he's necessarily in a limited capacity, there's just certain things he hasn't experienced yet that he's going to have to go through. So any player, when you don't play football for the course of the year, you sort of have to reacclimate not only the body but the mind as well to some different things. It's about one day at a time, making progress that day, turning the page to the next day and stacking days on top of each other."

Is there a ramp up period for DL Jonathan Greenard?

"Different players are in different categories. Jon [Greenard] has different opportunities to grow from year two to year three. He's got a good attitude and he's headed in a good direction. His strength is good, so he's going to get a lot of work here during training camp. There's a lot of depth within that group. I'd say there's a good chance we're going to play eight or nine guys on the defensive line. What that constitution looks like and how that gets put together, we'll have a better idea here once we go."

As a talent evaluator, what's the timetable you give yourself to evaluate a young quarterback?

"There's no timetable. You can't really put – I don't want to speak for anyone else – but I've never been a person to have a timetable. Everybody goes in different cycles. It could be a few months, it could be a few weeks, it could be a full cycle of a full year. There's no timetable. You take the information and you process, you asses it and you make a good decision. We don't have all day, the clock is spinning. Within a 18-24 month period, you have some idea of where you think a player is or is not going to be. It doesn't mean it can't change. There could be something that happened earlier that slows that progress. There's no timetable, there's nothing specific. It's an accumulation of things over the course of time. I think the word you want to use more than anything is consistency. Can a player be consistent with what his job or what he's asked to do, understanding there's going to be some bumps in the road, there's going to be some ups and downs. But are you not a repeater, are you doing the same thing over and over and making the corrections? Are you improving as a player, that's the most important thing."

Is there a sense of normalcy around the team?

"My focus is on training camp and where we're at right now. How you define normalcy -- everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Again, we're excited to be here. We're excited about the opportunity we have at training camp, we're excited about the season, we have a lot of work to do and there's a lot in front of us. It's going to take a lot of work and effort by the people involved."

How comfortable are you in your second year of the role?

"I think you're always learning, John. Anytime you go into a new situation, a new endeavor, you're not really sure what to expect. I think it's kind of taking it one day at a time. My personality is try to be fair, rational and pragmatic – not get too high, not get too low. You're going to have to deal with things, whether that's in football or whether it's in life, you never really know what's going to happen. Just trying to make sound, good decisions based on good information. I think that's the most important thing or the focus is and it has always been."

What's been the process/transition like from the spring until now?

"In that window of four to six weeks, you're kind of decompressing. What are some of things that we accomplished during the spring and what are some of things we need to get done during training camp. Honestly, I think over the summer, it's important, and I kind of do that, to take some time and take your mind away from football. Look, we all live in a world, and there is a lot of things going on in our world, that are more important than football. We had to deal with some things on a local level and national level. You have to be cognizant of what's going on in the world and not get so caught up in what's going on from a football standpoint. So it's important to get away, it's important to step away. Going back to what I said in the beginning, I think when you look at the players and the 95% participation and the number of players that were here, I think you have players with the right mindset – have the right attitude, are committed to work. Now, it's going to be about performance and production on the field."

Playing certain players in preseason games.

"Those will be discussions that will be ongoing. We have two weeks before we do anything and really that third week, we'll be getting ready to play in the game. So how are we going to deploy certain recourses and certain assets -- who's going to play, who's not going to play. Those will all be decisions we talk about collectively as a staff and it's geared toward making the right decision not only for the team but for the player as well without losing sight of, in the end, the most important thing is being ready for the opener against the Indianapolis Colts."

Does it become easier to know what you're looking for in players during training camp?

"Nothing is easy. This league is as hard as any in the [world]. It's lot of hard work and it's going to take a lot of effort and contributions from a lot of different people. So, there's no one formula – every year changes from one year to the next. Nothing is what I would say consistent. There only thing that is consistent is the inconsistency. You have to be able to adjust and adapt to your circumstances, whatever those might be. I think that's the mindset and attitude we try to have as a team, as a player and the whole organization, and we'll continue to do that."

HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH

Opening Statement

"We're excited about where we are. You know, you're kind of always anxious to get started. Since we talked last time a few things have happened in our program. I normally start off the first meeting addressing our football team. This year, we let John Metchie do it. There were a lot of questions on what's going on with his health, so I let him to talk the football team and let them know what he has in store this year and how it would affect our football team. All I can say about that is we have a family member fighting something serious and were going to be there every step of the way with him. Eventually, he will get back out there with our football team and we can't wait for that. When you start up a season like this, there is so much excitement, you just want to get started. The NFL has done a good job with this ramp-up period, the first week of the players getting used to training camp and not too hard of a tempo. We've got some work done these first few days and can't wait for tomorrow. We've asked our football team – as I've said in the offseason, show throughout the offseason – after you show up, everybody's making plays, showing out. We are going to ask our fans to do the same thing. We had some [fans] here today, and I can't wait to get everyone here tomorrow. We're going to ask our fans to show up, come to our games and a part of it too by being vocal and being loud and letting our football team know that you're behind them. You want training camp battles, legitimate competition. I feel like we have legitimate competition at quite a few positions. Everybody wants to talk about the quarterback, alright. You look at everything I've said about our quarterback position since I've moved into this role. I am excited about Davis Mills is going to do for us. He has taken that role – I'm the leader of the football team, follow me. All the things Pep Hamilton and the rest of our offensive staff would like to do, we feel like he can lead us down that path. Offense matters by scoring points. We can't win the way we want to around here until we play better defense, like some of our additions, of course our draft picks. You saw Jalen Pitre lining up early, love what he has done. Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Steven Nelson, some of the additions we have, have helped a lot along with the core we have right now. We have some players that are coming off some injures, Derek Stingley, we are not putting him through every practice but he's getting some. We'll continue to get him and more. Jonathan Greenard is coming off a major injury. Justin Britt is coming off an injury. So some of those players that we are watching their reps a little bit, but you'll see them here for the most part. So, we're excited about where we are. I'm excited about training camp. What questions do you have?

What was is like when WR John Metchie spoke to the team?

"Well you could imagine. First off, he's fighting something serious. What can you do as a teammate? What can you do? You can show support. We've tried to get the message to all the players on exactly what John [Metchie] is going through, but it was good for them to hear his voice -- talking about being here to support you and but I can't be with the team right now, eventually I'll be there. But you can imagine how it was.

What do you feel like is a realistic expectation is for wins and losses this coming season?

"I think every year you start, everyone has the same goal, win the Super Bowl. We want to play our best ball. We want to see what this roster looks like. We as coaches, have to the best job we have ever done coaching. Our talent – whatever our talent says we should be, that's where we want to be. That's just coming to work each day. It's coach talk, but just come to work every day, getting better. We're farther along. We've had a lot of our -- the things that we want to do, offense, defense, special teams installed. So I can't wait to go through training camp, start playing preseason games, get into the regular season and see where we are."

As far as DB Derek Stingley Jr. goes and the plan to ramp him up, is that the plan and did you expect him to be available Week 1?

"Yes, I do, Week 1. Whenever a player is coming off of a major injury, there's ramp up here, that's what it's for. Ease him into it. You see him, healthy, running around doing a few plays. He's on schedule. But that's how we will treat all of our players coming off major injuries."

What do you want to see change with?

"That's pretty easy. Improvement. Everything we do, we video and we dissect it, and you just want to see improvement. That's all we ask our players to do. No one is game one ready right now. There's time, we have a little bit of time to prepare before the coach come in to NRG Stadium. That's all we look for, daily improvement. The depth chart we'll start adjusting as we see players telling us different things."

What is the role in technology for the preparation of players and how you do things?

"Each year seems like it gets better and better. When I say everything that we do, we video, we dissect, it's just that. You look at our players, you talk about modern technology, we have an instant replay board. You see us, we get a chance to watch it, so little things like that, they all help. It's a game of inches. I feel like all these things you're talking about give us an advantage. We have a sports science group. You wouldn't believe the amount of people we have analyzing everything that we do. That should lead to better play."

Anything you were looking for today?

"This is what I'm looking for: To show up, coming out -- there's offense making some good plays. I'll tell you this the Texans won today. I'm going to feel pretty good one way or the other each play. But there's a lot of things, a lot of guys have been showing up, showing out and making plays. You try not to put too much into it, though. Until we get on the pads, Monday, that's when things really start. Separation really begins then but we like where we are right now with what we've asked them to do."

Spring to now, what's the excitement about the potential?

"All our rookies, ramping up, showing how we do things but they are not game ready. The rookies are farther behind but no we are not disappointed in anyone. We feel like they are right on schedule and they have excellent coaches that are bringing them along each day. Kenyon Green is going to help us win a lot of games and going to get him into the mix as soon as we can."

How much have you enjoyed building the defense this summer, new players, what's that experience been like?

"I think all coaches would say new year, new things and getting the perfect match together, perfect combinations. Yeah, year one, you can't do everything you'd like. We are just picking out how to get to the facility a little bit year one. But we're a lot further along in what we would like to do and we've got a little time. Eventually, hopefully, we'll put that on display."

And DB Derek Stingley Jr., how are you working with that?

What's this, day four, training camp? We got plenty of time. Stingley will eventually get there. You can look at the video, see that he's an elite athlete. All the skills you're looking for in a cornerback but his intellect, his brain, love where he is.

You mentioned the fans; does it feel like the beginning or a new era?

It has to be. We talk about show up and for the fans to come in. We haven't had a good product for them to show up for. So it starts with that. But in order for us to make this turnaround, it's got -- NRG Stadium, our traveling Texans, they have to be a part of this. The way we get them excited is, again, what we are putting on the field. We have play-makers on the offensive side and we are going to do some things defensively and special teams are a big part of what we're going to do also.

There's a style of football, too, and intensity that builds where you might not have the biggest names in the world but you play football the right way and having intensity on the field and the fans can appreciate and buy into.

"I think initially, no one has a big name. Eventually come here and start making plays, eventually people will start seeing your jersey and calling your name. A part of the process is for that. The training camp, the product, those other things will come."

Looking right now, tight end formation and the development of TE Brevin Jordan and QB Davis Mills - where have you seen him improve?

"He gives us flexibility. You can line him up outside. Of course he can in-line block a little bit but it's just not that. We talked about the fullback position, being a 22 team, being a 13 team. We're going to have multiple tight ends and multiple running backs. That should cause problems. We talk about what kind of personality we want to have. That's power football, too. All these things go into what we would like to do. Makes it a lot harder for the defense. Excited to see exactly what we'll be able to do with him this year."

Bringing in the veteran pass rush, and seems like some of the interior has been streamlined. Are you looking to have a consistent two-deep pass rush throughout the season?

"We absolutely will be playing -- we will at least dress, at a minimum eight linemen. They will all play. We are going to have a starter but everybody, fresh guys, playing hard. The veteran guys on the line that you talked about, yes. Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, I know Malik Collins has played a little bit. And then this is a big year for Jonathan Greenard, eight sacks whatever year, part-time, he is healthy now. In order for us to have success, I talk about playing better defense, it starts with our defensive line."

You mentioned QB Davis Mills being a leader.

"Showing up, every time we open up the building he's been there. He leads everything. You see him first to do everything and then making plays, it's established who your leaders are on both sides of the ball. No doubt who ours is. We are going to vote for our captains Monday of the week of the first game. I'm going to vote just like everybody, for one special teams, one offense, one defensive guy. Davis Mills is getting my vote for captain."

DB STEVEN NELSON

How does it feel to be back out there?

"Felt good. Felt like we had good energy and everybody was ready to be back. It was good. Glad to have everybody back."

HC Lovie Smith was talking about DB Derek Stingley Jr. and what it was like to get him out there. What impressions did you get from him?

"Man, it is great. Like you saw, like we all saw, he wasn't as healthy as we wanted him to be in OTA's but he's been adding on. Got an interception yesterday. Great stuff."

What is it like talking to WR John Metchie III?

"It was nice, man. Just him assuring us that he's going to be all right and that we are all going to be in this together and we are playing for him like he's praying for us to have a good season. We're with him all the way."

What was it like when you heard the news initially?

"It was sad because you never expect a guy like that, a young guy, healthy guy. But you never question what God has planned. But I just know he's going to be all right."

You kind of look right now at DB Derek Stingley Jr. and DB Jalen Pitre coming to camp so quickly. Does that give you confidence in the secondary?

"Absolutely."

How do you see your world evolving as a guy that can teach these guys and mentor them?

"Yes, definitely. Like I said before, like just me having that experience, being able to kind of coach these guys as much as I can outside of what they are getting from our coaches. Just give them different insight, you know what I mean."

Can you talk about goals and expectations for the defense throughout the season?

"We want to turn the ball over. Defensively, we want to turn the ball over. Can't speak for offense. But I know defense, we want to turn the ball over as much as possible. Creating force fumbles, picking the ball off. Whatever we can do to give the ball back to our offense."

Just looking at what HC Lovie Smith said about what QB Davis Mills has done, what have you seen from him?

"His poise, man. The way he carries himself throughout the day, throughout the locker room, on the field, you know. Just kind of has that charisma about himself that he's going to go a long way with this team."

When was the play that you mentioned DB Derek Stingley Jr. got the interception?

"It was earlier in practice I believe, he got an interception. I can't remember the play, but I know he got an interception."

During this off season, HC Lovie Smith feels like you're well ahead of where you were last year. How would you quantify that?

"I wasn't here last year but I was here for OTA's and I feel like the first day, everybody is hitting the pavement and running. There wasn't a lot of, I guess, corrections. Guys are hitting their strides early."

How would you describe Lovie's coaching style and demands he puts on you and specifically the expectations on the defense?

"I love it. It's real tough and demanding. He expects the best out of his players, as he should. We as players, we have to own it and step up to it for us to collectively play well."

Was there a cross over at Oregon State with you and WR Brandin Cooks?

"I was there with him."

What areas have you seen from him improve since college?

"Brandon's always been good. Like I've seen him for years and years. It's funny because like even in college, he kind of carried himself like as a professional already. He just has more experience as he grows. He's always going to have that veteran savviness to tweak his game a little bit."

No secret it's been hot. How are you dealing with that out at practice?

"You say hot? I'm from Georgia, man, so I'm good. It's perfect for me."

It's only been a couple of weeks but since OTA's, have you noticed anything different especially on the defensive side of the ball?

"Yeah, attention to detail. That's the biggest thing. Energy is always there. Guys just working for one goal and that's to win a championship, and it starts right here."

Let's talk about DB Derek Stingley Jr. and have you flipped sides over your career.

"If you do your research on me, I played everywhere. I played inside, outside. I played best receivers, always. As far as me, I got it. It's limitless for me. But Stingley, his potential is through the roof. Just got to do the research a little bit."

You guys in the secondary, do you have a bet on who will get a touchdown this year?

"We ain't got that far but we always just want to come out here and compete. We always want to do better than we did the day before. That's always just the goal. Get a couple turnovers this day, next day we want to double that. That's how we steadily increase."

WR BRANDIN COOKS

How did you take the news to John Metchie III's diagnosis?

"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with Metch (WR John Metchie III). It's wonderful to see. He sent us a video. The first time you met him, his spirit is just so amazing. His positivity going through all this, I'm like, man, a lot of respect to you in that he's just built different. No doubt in our mind he's going to get through this, and we'll be with him every step of the way and just a lot of love for him. Just can't wait for him to be able to recover."

What was it like when he spoke to the team?

"It was one of those things that you are expecting like someone to be down but like I said in the video, he's just smiling."

He sent a video?

"In a video. Yeah."

From a football perspective, other things are more important. When you hear something serious like that about someone you know and care about, how did it hit you guys?

"It hit different. I remember when I found out myself, I'm like 'wow'. I was with him not too long ago, and you just never know. Life is one thing. Obviously the most important thing is that he get his health back and no matter how long it takes, we going to be with him."

What are your expectations for this year and do you believe that y'all can improve a lot this season?

"No doubt. The biggest expectation is just a team that sticks together and come to work every day and doing the little things right. As far as the wins and losses, we just going to show up and we let that take care of itself. We're not going to make any predictions from that standpoint, but just a team that sticks together."

How much time were you able to spend with QB Davis Mills and how have you seen him grow?

"It's been awesome. We had the guys, including Davis out in Oregon just a week before camp and it was great to see. He came out, to be able to lead, to be able to be organized the way that he was and when we get out here, he's a lot more vocal in the meeting rooms than he was the rookie year and that's what you want to see from your quarterback. It's your team and we love to see that demand he's taken."

When you got traded here there was a lot of talk about your health. Has there been a change or has it just been media talking?

"I mean, you go through some things but it's one of those things just my whole life just being able to prove people wrong. I'm blessed and fortunate with a wonderful team around me to help overcome some of those things. It's been awesome to be far removed from those things for a couple years now."

What have you seen from some of the younger players so far?

"The biggest thing I see is just guys making plays and taking advantage of their opportunity. You know, it's a complex offense but we've got a bunch of guys that are smart, and the young guys are picking it up quickly and going out there and making plays."

Going into year two and the consistency with WR Davion Davis and TE Brevin Jordan, what have you noticed from them and their development as a route runner?

"Brev was one of those guys out there this off season. Just the growth that you see him take from a route running standpoint and just understanding an offense has been great to see."

With a full year of QB Davis Mills under your belt, does that impact the team moving forward?

"No doubt. I mean, any time you can spend more time with someone, the better things are going to get."

Are there things that you see in QB Davis Mills that are improving that he was just learning last season?

"You have to have Pep about that one. I'm just looking for the ball in the air."

You built chemistry with QB Davis Mills last year but the other wide receivers, specifically WR Chris Moore. Where do you see the strength in his game?

"You talk about guys, once again, just coming out and making plays from the get-go. I got a lot of love for C. Moore and Conley. They do a lot of things that you don't see and to be able to see them actually make plays with the ball in their hand, it is great to see."

What's been your early impression of DB Derek Stingley Jr.?

"The dude, he's got that demeanor. He reminds me of a guy that I played with, not going to say any names, but that guy was special. Quiet guy, come out here and he's just about his business."

Since you got here, the team's been somewhat in transition. Still pretty early on. But is the locker room and everything feel different than in previous years?

"No doubt, it feels like we just up to something, you know what I mean. A lot of respect, Coach Lovie just doing his thing and just the buy-in we have, it's great to see. Any time you have that, you've got a chance. We're seeing that from spring until now."

Lovie said that if he's going to vote QB Davis Mills as the top man?

"Absolutely like I said earlier, it's the quarterbacks team. That's what you want to see, to be able to take that command and those demands and be able to take it in the room with him."

The speculation in the off-season that you'd be a prime candidate like WR Julio Jones to leave. Is there a connection with this organization that made you want to come back and be a part?

"I believe in everything Nick Caserio is doing. I have some history with him and I believe in everything that he's doing. You know, I want to be a part of that, and Coach Lovie. So, no doubt."

What's it been like working with OC Pep Hamilton in the off-season?

"You know, it's been great. Got a lot of respect for Pep. Pep's seen a lot of ball, played with a lot of great players. To be able to feed off him and learn from him and the offenses he's been in before was helpful for me and to be able to have that feedback for one another has been great."

How much different is the offense this year?

"Y'all going to have to find out on Sundays."

LB CHRISTIAN KIRKSEY

Was it good to hear from John [Metchie] during the first team meeting?

"It was good to hear, talked to them team, see that he's in good hands. He's doing well. He's fighting and we're fighting for him and he's still pushing for us and that's our teammate. It felt good just to see him with smiles and confident and uplifted. You know, we are going to be here every step of the way with him."

What was it like for you when you heard the news about WR John Metchie III?

"Obviously it was emotional. Whenever you hear a brother have to go through that, you never want to see somebody have to go through it. I have some people that I knew, that was close to me, that dealt with some of the same things. Maybe not exactly, but something similar so I can understand what he's going through and just prayers out to him. We are going to crowd around him and put our arms around him, this whole organization. We are going to do whatever we need to do to help him and we are going to be right there by his side."

Was it a video that they showed yesterday?

"It was a video. I believe it was either yesterday or the day before."

So, he taped something?

"Taped something and showed us, which was good. You never know how somebody will feel if they are sitting right in front of everybody, because at the end of the day it's real personal. But I thought it was good that they could record him and have that one-on-one with us and just letting us know that he's doing fine. He's fighting as if he was fighting on this field. So, that's our teammate and like I said, we are going to be right there with him."

We think of players being superhuman, but you're still regular people. What does it do for vulnerability when something like this happens?

"We're regular people up to regular things. We have battles just like everyone. You know, this is our job. I always say, you know, we got the best jobs because this is what I love to do. But at the end of the day, it's a job you have to do just like everybody else, and you know, we go through the same thing. We go through life and things happen. We're not superhuman. We have feelings. We have a heart. It just goes to show you that, you know, you're Superman on the football field but you're Clark Kent when you have to go and face real battles. It's eye-opening for everybody."

To be a linebacker for HC Lovie Smith, what's it like?

"It's just good. You're way more comfortable when you're being able to be comfortable, know the scheme, know what to do. It's not fresh and it's not new to you, your confident level goes up. You know exactly where to be on the field. You know exactly how to play a certain situation and how to play the scheme that he wants us to play. I think that we are going to go up from this. Everybody that came back and the younger guys that's here, it's easier for us to teach them the scheme because we know it. We're comfortable and we know it like the back of our hand now. It's good to see and come back to."

Last year, you were trying to learn everybody's names. How much more familiar are you all and how do you see that work out both on the field and off the field?

"Well, when you have your previous teammates coming back, you could skip a step in the process. You can skip the step of getting to know somebody. Now you know their background. You know how they live. You know how they play, so you're already familiar with them and comfortable. Now you can go strictly to football. That's something that will speed the process up and let us play better on the field.

Like for example, Kamu (LB Grugier-Hill). I know exactly how Kamu plays and Kamu knows how I play. It's a feel thing. I know he's going to be where he's supposed to be, and he knows I'm going to be where I'm supposed to be. Just build that team chemistry and you play better and you play faster."

What about LB Garrett Wallow?

"That's my guy. I call him Gary just for fun. It's an inside joke. He's a high motor and he's smart. He can play any of the three linebacker positions and he just have the high motor where he's going to go make a play and he can do it all day. So, you could see the leap from year one to year two in his confidence level. Also, you could see what he's been doing in the weight room and on the field and how his body has been transitioning. He's put in a lot of work in the off season, so I am excited to see him this year."

What are some of the intangibles in the system that the defense is working on?

"For us, it's everybody doing their job and doing it to the best of their ability. Last year we had some flashes of us being good defense and then we had flashes of us being undisciplined. Now in Lovie's defense, everybody has to be accountable. Everybody has to be in their gap and everybody has to do their certain assignment. That's how his defense works. If one person blows an assignment, the whole system falls apart. Guys have to hold each other accountable and know 'I have to do this not only for myself, but to make the whole defense work'. We're excited and I think we'll do good this year."

With LB Christian Harris, how have you seen him transition to the NFL level?

"I think he probably is the fastest linebacker in the room. This kid can fly. He's smart. He's bright. He's super athletic. When we in the weight room, I think that he's like in every competition, whether it's the vertical, speed, verse. He's at least Top-5. This kid is super talented, young, fresh and he's ready to learn. When you have a guy of that caliber, he's going to go a long way. He's going to have a great career in the league."

When the young players are able to pick it up as quickly as possible, how much confidence does that give for your defense and secondary?

"Those two guys play like they have been in the league for a while. You don't see them slacking. You don't see them trying to play catch-up. Like you said, they are going in with the ones. They are fitting right in. They are playing fast and they are playing physical and that's what you ask from a safety and from a corner. I'm excited to work with them. I'm excited to hopefully teach them all I know in the game and just be on the field together, make a play. That's something that in the draft, they felt like we needed on defense and they filled those spots and they are moving. They are doing their job."

Have you seen QB Davis Mills take steps as a leader in the locker room?

"Absolutely. I saw it last year. Towards the end of the season, you could see him walking with a different swag and getting more and more confident. I thought that he is a super composed guy. Through the highs, through the lows, he is super composed. That's hard to find in a young guy, but Davis has already had that instilled in him. Just translating and coming to year two, I'm just excited to see him take off. The sky is the limit for him."

Do you pride yourself on film study?

"Absolutely, and I say that because when I was a rookie, I had some great mentors to help evolve my game, teach me how to be a pro. That's what the league is about, to give the rookies exactly what you were given when you were in their shoes. It's our job as veterans to be the light and to be the leader for our rookies. Like I said, they are going to be on the field with us, so we have to make sure they know just as well as us because we all know once you're on the field, nobody is going to take it easy because you're a rookie. You're all out there playing the same offense. We know that we've got to be prepared together. I'm going to give them all the jewels that I can and see if I can be a light for them."

Has Lovie Smith's personality opened up more as a head coach?

"Lovie's been the same guy since I met him. He's always had a great personality. He's strict when he's strict. He's fun when he's fun, and when it's time to go to work, it's time to go to work. Very clean cut and that's how it's supposed to be."

Are there experiences that you can remember in this off-season that show how he'll be able to set the tone?

"He showed a video of a game last season and it just set the tone for the whole off-season, for the whole training camp, for the whole season. He let us know he's serious and it's time and this is for real. We going to go as far as we want to go."

What game is that?

"I ain't going to say the game. It just reminded us that we got to go to work."

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