HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"So much has gone into getting to this spot, the draft, a new job, training camp, preseason game. For the most part, we're healthy. That's what you want. We've had a chance to see the players and see who we have, establish roles for this weekend. We've talked to the fans, excited about a full stadium here at NRG. Time for us to do our jobs now. We're playing a good opponent. The Colts have been one of the teams for a while. In an ideal world, you want to start off at home, against a division opponent."
What was it like to go to Uvalde?
"A lot of emotion. We all know what that community has gone through. We went down here to give them a hug. Football, we understand that's its not the real world, but sometimes for a certain group of people, when you have an attachment, our organization, specifically me as a head football coach, going down and getting a chance to talk to theirs. Our players talking to their players, to just get an outlet for a night. Football sometimes can bring a smile to people's faces, but we know it's a lot bigger than that. The healing process takes a while, but I know it touched us and it doesn't hurt to win a game in that fashion, the way that they did. We're excited about them coming up this week and any type of support our organization can give, we'll do."
How ready is DB Derek Stingley Jr. for his first NFL game and how do you prepare a rookie for that moment?
"We all have to have a first time, at everything. You're excited about the first time. I'm sure those are the thoughts going through Derek's (Stingley Jr.) mind. As his coach, what I've seen him do, he's smart. He knows football. He's healthy. He's ready to go. It's safe to say he's going to play this week. I'm excited about seeing him play. Again, as a rookie, you're going to continue to get better each week, but he'll be ready to go."
Going up against last year's leading rusher (Colts RB Jonathan Taylor), what is that going to tell you about your defense?
"We have to stop the run, each week, no matter who were playing. Every NFL team is going to have one of 32. That's saying an awful lot if you're the starting running back for an NFL team. For us, Jonathan Taylor is one of the best in the league, simple as that. We know the challenge that we face, but what is it going to take? Gang tackle. Need everybody at the point of attack. Discipline in your gaps, because if he breaks it, he's faster than most people too. It will be a big challenge. We're going to have big challenges each week. The challenge for us is to compete with them, because we didn't last year. They dominated us last year. We have to show up this year."
Is the way the Colts dominated you last year a motivating factor?
"Absolutely, we don't run from it at all. They dominated us at their place and at home. We do remember that, but talk can't get it done. A lot of what happened were things we did, all three phases. We feel like we corrected a lot of that. That's why we can't wait to see exactly how far we've come since that day."
You usually put things in the past. Does that still apply in this situation?
"I remember when somebody dominates. I can tell you what happened in the seventh grade, a game I lost. As coach, I can tell you a game we lost in, especially when somebody beats you like that. It's a motivating thing as much as anything, for us to see exactly where we need to go. So no, we don't run from that at all. You can't run from that past. We can do something. We can change our past. That's what we're trying to do."
Does the start of the season feel different this year as a head coach and if so, how?
"No, it is just as excited. Growing up, with Santa Claus, the excitement for Christmas was there. This does not change, no matter how many times you do it. I'm not waking up with an alarm. It's been a period of time, wide awake, ready to go. Just the blessing to be in this position, and the excitement to see our team play. You ask about Derek (Stingley Jr.) and some of our rookies, to see them for the first time, it doesn't change. A lot of excitement."
What are one or two details that you focus on the most as a head coach?
"What I would like to see from our team, one of the things that we say that are in our DNA, first off, is playing hard. The mental part, no mental mistakes, give ourselves a chance to win. The discipline of that, it starts with that. As I look at times where we haven't been successful, it's that coming into games you can't beat yourself. You beat yourself by not knowing what to do. Having regrets about how you played. Just want our team to see the best of our football team. It's as simple as that. We have a game plan. We're going to prepare them in situations right up until the last day. Then, to start a new year, you never know, we can rank teams high, rank teams low. You never know until you start playing. I cannot wait to see exactly how good this football team will be that first game because it's just about to getting to 1-0."
There's not a lot of tape on QB Matt Ryan playing for the Colts. How does that change the dynamic of coaching?
"We don't have a lot of tape of him there. He played just a little bit in the preseason, but historically, we have a whole lot of tape. Personally, after going a lot of times against him, he's a great quarterback. He's been that way. He can make all of the throws. He's smart. That's who he is. Going to the Colts, adding him, a quarterback that can make all the throws like that with the great running back causes problems. They have a good offensive line too. That's why the challenge is here for us. To meet their force, we know they're going to come in here ready to play and we'll be ready to go too."
As a defensive guy, how much does it excite you to prepare for the challenge ahead?
"Whenever you play great players, you get excited about that. We want to see how we compare against the best. Good chance to see that right away. Great thrower, great runner. We're excited about that challenge to say the least."
What are your thoughts on adding TE O.J. Howard to the roster?
"You're always trying to add good players, simple as that, and O.J. (Howard) is a good player. A lot of talent. He's excited about being here. Got a chance to see him on the practice field today. That's a spot we've talked an awful lot about, adding some depth to the tight end position. Being able to pick up a player like that late in the game like this, is pretty important."
How are the veterans you had last year helping you stop the run?
"Any of us that were here last year remember what happened and we feel like as coaches we've addressed all those issues that we had. Now it's about doing it. If a player is still here right now, we feel like they buy in to what we needed to do to catch the people that went ahead of us. I think it's as simple as that. From what I've seen in practice, saw in the preseason games, I think we have improved. I'm anxious to see it this Sunday also."
How much does your experience with QB Matt Ryan in the past help you now and have you seen changes in his game since then?
"New system and all that. I really don't know how much. It's just the respect. You play some guys and you've never seen them play. When you have a history with someone and they have a history on record of what they've done for such a long period in time, I would like to think that it helps. This is what I know about Matt Ryan, he can make all the throws, he's seen it all. We have to go in thinking that. There's a time with quarterbacks when you stop and you start, seems like the quarterbacks now when they get older, they continue to go there. We hope that's not the case with Matt Ryan, especially this week."
Is it too early to say what WR Tyler Johnson's role will be in Week 1?
"He and O.J. (Howard), we got a chance to see both of them, knew about them, and Tyler (Johnson) of course, from college when he was at Minnesota. Liked what we saw today. For us to bring a player in right now, we had to like him. He's done a lot of good things. Always trying to improve our ball club. Nick (Caserio) and the crew, all of us, will try and continue to do that. We'll see how quickly he can get up. Again, coming in, had a few days to get our system, so we'll see how quick he can get it."