HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"You probably noticed a little bit of a change appearance-wise. You know when you're a young franchise, you don't have a lot of throwback uniform jerseys, but for us to introduce this battle red helmet, I like the look of it. And of course, I know we're in Houston, but it's kind of H-Town to us a little bit, so it's good to give a little bit of different flavor to practice today. Good things continue to happen on both sides. Offensively, I like our ball security. Now defensively, that's not good enough, but offensively I really kind of love what we are doing with some of it. We continue to put different things in. Yesterday was third-and-short. Third-and-long game plan today. We'll take a day off tomorrow and then Monday, two-minute, and red zone. So, we are starting to get a lot of our situational football in. Not a whole lot of injuries, which is a good thing. Again, guys should be able to rest up tomorrow and get ready to go Monday."
We saw DB Derek Stingley Jr. for a little bit catching punts. Can you talk about that?
"Yeah, [Derek] Stingley can do a lot of things. Punt returner is one of them. Now I'm not saying that he for sure is going to for sure be our punt returner, but the more things you can do. You probably noticed Derek getting more reps today. We'll continue to bring him along at the pace that we had set up before camp started. He gets a little better each day, too."
How good is it to see OL Justin Britt back in there today?
"Same thing, Justin Britt, Jonathan [Greenard], [Kamu] Grugier-Hill, all those guys are not necessarily on a play count, but we have a plan as far as when we are going to let them rest a little bit. We are different with Justin Britt out there. It all starts with our center. He does an awful lot for our team. He's a good player, but again our offense will perform a lot better with Justin out there."
What did you think of TE Pharaoh Brown and TE Seth Green's performance today?
"Seth Green made a few plays. As a young player, coming in, you want to do something to get noticed. But [Pharaoh] Brown, the other players that we have, Anthony [Auclair] has a knee injury right now, so he'll be out a little bit. But tight ends are going to be a big part of what we do, and it was good to keep those packages going today."
Can you talk about what you see on the offensive line, especially from OL Max Scharping?
"Max [Scharping] has been around awhile, and he just started at tackle position. We feel like we have two of the best tackles in football. We just talked about Justin Britt, A.J. [Cann], we know eventually Kenyon Green will get into the mix. But you need more backups too, and Max has done that well. When we have asked him to step into the play, he's done that. So, we feel like with Charlie Heck, we have some depth at that offensive line position."
Working on third-and-long today, how did you feel about the downfield passing game and some of the things y'all were working on?
"First day to install it, but eventually, there's going to be some third-and-longs we are going to have to convert. It's about third downs, keeping the chains going, series going, and we are going to have to convert some of those. It starts with good pass protection up front first, and just giving Davis [Mills] enough time that we can find the receivers."
What have your interactions with LB Garret Wallow been like in the offseason?
"I love everything he did last year. He was a lower round draft pick that was able to play all three positions. Just, you know, normal second-year growth. We have a few players, every time we've opened up the building, they have been in it, and Garret [Wallow] is one of those players. He'll have a role for us, and we're excited about his progress. And I'm going to say the linebacker position, there's a lot of good depth there with quite a few of the guys."
QB Davis Mills seemed to make a lot of checkdown throws today. Was that due to the defensive coverage?
"Going to the other side of the ball, it's all coverage, how about that? No, but that was the case, I mean, whenever you see a -- most of our -- we don't have a whole lot of design check down but when downfield routes are covered, you want the quarterback, you don't want them to force it. You want them to take the check down, the safe throw and part that is right of Davis [Mill's] growth also. That was definitely the case, and that's good on both sides."
Do you have an update on WR Phillip Dorsett?
"[Phillip Dorsett] of course a little banged up. As a general rule, training camp, skill guys, they are going to have nicks from time to time. Nothing serious. Eventually, hopefully soon we'll get him back out there."
What have you seen from WR Brandin Cooks so far?
"We went to Brandin Cooks a lot last year, and we definitely plan on doing it a lot this year. One receiver got to get him the ball. We have a plan for what we're going to do. But that's just it. Keep him involved. One-on-one matchups, he's going to win at the majority of the time. Great leadership from one of our best players. Just good glue for the team. We need Nico [Collins] to be that complement to him, and he can. Body type, big target, catch, go up and jump. That could be a good combination, also."
What have you seen from QB Kyle Allen?
"I talk a lot about Davis Mills, rightfully so, but you just never know when it's the backup's time to step up. Kyle [Allen] has played a lot of ball. He's mobile. He's accurate and that's why we brought him here; a guy that if we have to call on him, he knows our offense and we feel like he can run it."
You've always been all-in since you became a coach, and yesterday you spent several minutes out there with the fans taking pictures and signing autographs. You just love this, don't you?
"Absolutely. First, I mean, I love being head coach, and they are asking the head football coach for the Houston Texans to give an autograph, I can handle that. It is good though. Last year with COVID, fans were a little bit farther away, but now they are here. When people take the time to show up, we talk about our team showing up, showing out, it's about the fans, too, getting involved. Some of the stories, someone drove 12 hours yesterday to watch us practice. Coming down from Canada. The least we can do is that."
Can you talk about how great it is to have DL Jonathan Greenard back and the expectations you have for him?
"You know, eight sacks last year in limited action. Jonathan [Greenard] is a legitimate outside defensive end in the league. I'm anxious to see how far he can go. Being banged up and missing a lot of the offseason work put him behind a little bit, but you see we'll continue to give him more and more reps. He's a big part have we're going to do this year."
What have you seen out of RB Dameon what Pierce so far?
"[Dameon Pierce] is a tough guy. You see him work in special teams and a little bit of return game to him. He can run in between tackles and can make you miss a little bit in the open field. Again, we have about six running backs in the mix. I'm anxious to see – you know, you try not to get too excited. We're in underwear, we're in shorts right now. Monday should start telling us a lot more."
OL JUSTIN BRITT
What do you think of the quarterback room?
"I think our whole quarterback group has a lot of talent, Kyle [Allen] has made a lot of ball and made a name for himself in the league and you can say the same for all of them. His personality is one of my favorites, so I mean, I'm the center, I'm for all of them."
How did your offseason go and what kind of progress did you make to getting back on the field?
"Biggest thing for me is it just needed reps and whenever the thing happened in Week 3, that's just not what I could give it. Offseason has been real beneficial. Our athletic training staff, strength staff here, they gave me all the tools and they gave me the chance to come out here and be able to do this for however long I want to."
What do you think of the battle red helmet?
"I think they are pretty cool. I wish we could wear them more than once. It makes me interested in seeing if we can get a white one, too. The more the better but it's definitely a really cool change up. I wish we had at least red parts on our helmets instead of the blue because I feel like we were still wearing the blue ones but it's cool to see and different."
What do you think of QB Davis Mills from last year compared to this season?
"He's not a rookie. He's not a rookie. He's got experience under his belt, knowledge. He understands the system, him and Pep [Hamilton] get to work further together and the relationship between him and the line, what it needs to be and how we control things is very professional."
Working with OC Pep Hamilton and what his offense is like?
"I think Pep brings a lot of energy and juice to the offense. Good mixture of run and pass and aggression. Without giving anything way really, it's going to be a fun year. The playbook is exciting and it all makes sense and it's crystal clear and it gives us a chance to go out there and execute at the highest level."
Good to see you back in there because they are a different offense when you're in the game.
"Owe, wow, tell him thank you. But I mean, last year when I wasn't playing, I mean, none of us want to not play. I'm grateful to be able to be out here. I'm grateful that my body is holding up and it's being strong and I'm really appreciative of the vet day and the chance for my knee to recoup and kind of adapt back into football. I'm confident and I'm ready to go."
How important is it on third down to keep the drive going?
"That's huge. You can't score if you can't convert third down. If you do good on first and second down that makes third down manageable and the percentages starting to up. So if you're living in third and nine-plus, the chances of converting that is going to drop, you know, pretty low. So we've just got to stay on schedule, execute our assignment on first and second down, and execute on third down, and just start chipping away. If we can score on one play, it's great. If it takes 15 plays, that's great. At the end of the day, we want to score more points than the other team on the field."
What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed coming into this training camp compared to last year?
"I mean, the first thing I've noticed since yesterday is the energy. I mean we have the energy but the energy from the fans and people attending, there's a different vibe. There's a rejuvenated sense and whether that's Coach Lovie, Pep [Hamilton] on the offense, it's just a good feeling. You could feel that in the summer and spring, but you get back to camp and you really start rolling, you start to feel it and you start to gain that confidence and it makes it exciting to come to work at 4:30."
Lovie's personality –
"Lovie's name holds a lot of weight in this game. If you've played football, if you've played in the league or at least college, you know his name. And so when he speaks, we listen. And, when he leads, we follow."
What are the early differences in OC Pep's [Hamilton] offense?
"I don't know, man. That's a Lovie question. I feel like that's kind of a double-edged sword."
I hate to bring it back to your injury, but what are some of the things you're doing to try to prevent that?
"Wear a knee brace. I'm going to stay away from people. But I mean, some of it's inevitable and you've just got to go out there and play carefree and you can't really worry about that. I'm doing little things like I do -- I show up really early in the morning so I have time to warm up the knees, get loose, stretch and make sure everything's working properly. Then just staying on top of the strength and conditioning. I mean, it's a grind. It's a battle. We are going to be going still February hopefully, so it's just staying on top of that and building a routine and really buying into it."
Six running backs in the mix, what do you think about some of the guys?
"I think that room is led by a really good running back, Rex Burkhead. He might be one of the most consistent running backs that I've been around as far as how they show up and how they come to work. He's a great role model for them. The room as a whole -- they are explosive, they are smart, they are talented. Just like everyone, they are here for a reason. I'm biased towards the quarterback, running backs, I feel like are kind of like our little brothers, we just want them to get into the open space and score. So, whoever is back there, we are going to do our best to do that for them."
Optimism on the run game this year –
"I come from a background where running the ball was kind of like the backbone of the offense. I understand what it takes and it's confidence within the head coach and the OC, but we have to make them confident. We have to make them work when they call it. We have to make the holes and we don't have to press and do anything. We just have to do our job because they are teaching us really well and we are getting the opportunity to come out here and practice it and fix our corrections each day."
What are the ways HC Lovie Smith has displayed his message to the team?
"He says every day, show up, show out. We're here for a reason, and Monday will be fun when we get pads on and it gets to be more like football. But, I mean, everyone here is just excited to compete, excited to be here, and this has been, even though it's really hot down here, it's been a really fun camp so far."
LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
"It was a good off-season. I got to fix a couple of things. Nothing crazy but being able to put in a little extra work and get a little -- go to certain places, get some expertise on some stuff, and I'm feeling great. Feeling better than last year."
What was your approach coming into your second year in Houston?
"I think just fine tuning everything, right. Everything that we did well last year, trying to do excellent this year and everything we did poorly last year, just try to work on simple things like that."
The linebackers they have accumulated since you've been here, how do you think that will manifest itself for you guys?
"I think it just makes everyone better, right. That's just part of Lovie Smith's scheme, right. He wants athletic linebackers. Just in his defense overall, if you look at all the positions, we don't have any like slow guys, bigger guys. It's all speed and athleticism. So that's just kind of the motto of our defense."
What are some of the things you try to teach rookies as they enter their first professional season?
"I think it's just how to be a pro, a little bit. Seeing things -- it's a little different when you come from college. You're not taught specific reads. Just things -- how we do things here, how you fit runs a little different. How you match different pass concepts and just stuff like that."
Can you describe Lovie Smith as a head coach?
"It's funny because last year he was obviously our defensive coordinator, so we spent all our time with him. The offense wasn't with him, so they didn't really know him too much. So, for us, it's like normal, right. It's just the same 'ole Lovie [Smith]. But him as a head coach, it's actually really impressive to me. Because I knew how he was and I've heard stories that he's an amazing coach, but to see it and be living it now, he's on top of everything. The way he holds himself is amazing. We're just very excited, and I'm just extremely happy to have him as a head coach."
What is same 'ole Lovie Smith?
"Just happy going. He's always cracking jokes. But you know, at the end of the day, he has a high expectation, and he truthfully I think brings the best out of everyone. He pushes everyone in the right ways and just brings greatness out of everyone."
What's your takeaway from watching Manchester City play at NRG Stadium?
"That was awesome. I definitely want to go to Europe a little bit and check out some of those Premier League games because the atmosphere was cool. But what I took out from that was like we need to pack this stadium backup because the atmosphere in that stadium, if we can get H-Town going again, it's going to be rocking."
What are your thoughts on the new red helmets?
"I love the red helmets. I think it's pretty sweet. Especially with the red jersey, it's going to look smooth. You guys like them? I would go all red, all red."
Is there a competition between the linebacker groups?
"Yeah, within the defense we've got to board. Every time you make a play, your name goes up with some points or whatever it is. It's just the expectations we hold every day. Leaderboards and all that kind of stuff. It's just holding everyone accountable."
Going back to the off-season, how has it been to see the growth of LB Garret Wallow?
"[Garrett Wallow] is different because he's so mentally ahead of a lot of people. As a rookie, I wasn't aware of where he was at. His ability to play all three positions, understand the scheme a little bit, it's impressive. You know, he works every day and he works hard, so I'm excited for him."
How would you describe LB Garret Wallow?
"He's one of a kind. You know what I'm starting to figure out though is the people from Louisiana are a little one of a kind, also. All my friends from Louisiana are like my favorite people because they are hilarious. He's got so many jokes and just talking about his family and stuff, it's always entertaining. It's funny."
What's the most Louisiana thing?
"They just love crawfish there, I guess, right. You know what's funny is I never had crawfish before. I still haven't. So, I'm waiting on [Garret Wallow] to make me some. We're working on that."
What about LB Garret Wallow as a player? What do you see?
"[Garret Wallow] is just smart. He picks up on things easily. For as young as he is, he's a pro. He comes in every day and works hard."
With what the team did in the NFL Draft and some of the free agency acquisitions, does it feel like this defense got better?
"Oh yeah, I think so. For sure. It's tough to say certain things because you're going to obviously evolve going into your second year and to say some of the guys last year wouldn't have a better shot, you know, evolving with us is hard to say. But the talent we picked up this year and just the vibe of the whole defense is pretty impressive."
What's the early presence of the rookies in the huddle in terms of how they are learning and if they are vocal?
"Yeah, both of them are doing very well I think with just understanding the defense, understanding the standard that we are trying to hold. I mean, they are impressive, also. They are making calls and doing everything that they need to do as rookies. As early as it is, it's good to see."
How does it feel coming back to play with the same team for a second year?
"Yeah, I think my confidence is skyrocketing right now because like I said, just evolving in the second-year system. I already understanding what the expectations are, and I understand the scheme, and I understand what Coach Lovie [Smith] wants. Just fine tuning all that and being able to play faster."
DB JONATHAN OWENS
What's the difference with him now being head coach?
"We met with him a lot more since we're a defense. It's the same vibe for us, I guess you would say. He demands a lot of respect just with his presence. The whole entire team respects the man, so you really want to play hard for him and do the job well."
How does your second year with this defense feel? Does it feel a lot more familiar to you?
"Yes, because you're more comfortable. You know the hurt plays on the defense, so you can relay that message to the younger guys. You know formations. You know what people are going to give you in certain formations. It's a lot more familiarity with the defense. It just gives you more confidence because you've done it before."
How does HC Lovie Smith feel about his second year with the defense?
"Guys are a lot more confident, playing faster. You know the defense so much better. It's more of a review instead of learning it the first time. Guys just play faster and that's the biggest thing, confidence."
How do you recognize confidence?
"Play speed. You learn a little quicker. You can see the play faster. You understand formations and what certain teams are going to give you with the formations and what the hurt plays on the defense are."
Where do you feel like you've made strides as a player specifically?
"Just being confident, man, doing my job well. Understanding the defense and executing the game plan when given my opportunities. I'm just looking to keep build every day and get better."
Are you fired up to get out in pads?
"Absolutely. Real football starts so we can see where we are physicality-wise. You can play a little more aggressive on pass plays and in the run game. We can do a little more plays, so it will be pretty fun."
Does anything jump out already about DB Jalen Pitre and his talent in the backfield?
"He's talking, telling us what type of plays might come. He's a really smart guy. He's a great safety to be out there with. He's definitely coming along quicker and developing, and we are all take to go him just to make sure we are all on the same page."
What are the main corrections for the defense this year?
"Just seeing the big plays that we gave up and knowing who techniques to play better to stop those plays."
What are the goals like as far as for the team and you personally?
"As a team, be better than we were last year. The big goal is World Championship, but want to keep building on from last year and be better than where we were last year."
Can you speak on your own personal growth and where do you feel like you improved?
"Getting out there and actually getting game time on defense. I think it had been five years since I got to play serious defensive time and just being out there and getting comfortable again and slow your mind down and play football free. That was my goal and I'm just looking to keep building."
Does it feel like the defense has improved since the spring?
"We are running the same defense, so we demand the same type of execution in the spring. We're carrying on and building on from that."
What are some main things you've noticed about this team?
"Excitement. Guys love being out here. They love playing for Lovie, man. That's one thing. Guys are ready to get out there, man."
What do you think of the new Battle Red helmets?
"Love them. Great change up."
When did you first see the new helmets?
"I think same time you all saw them, social media. Social media, man. We were excited."
How does it feel to see your teammates around you growing and learning?
"It feels good. To me, I feel like if they know the play is there and presents itself, that I'm going to be there and make that play for them. We have that mutual confidence in each other. That's really how a defense works. You have to trust your brother to make that play. It's just overall trust. It feels good when your teammates trust you and they expect to you make that play."
When you are reading QB Davis Mills, what's the difference from this year to last?
"He's very good with his eyes. He's very good with his eyes. That's the biggest thing I've learned. He looks more comfortable back there and he's reading the defense better and he can manipulate you and making plays. We're excited."