HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
Can you tell me what makes QB Tyrod Taylor special?
"Well you know he's been around the league, he's a veteran. He's been there and he's done that. He's one of our guys right now, he's been doing a nice job, he's got a lot of experience. He's been a starter in his league, he's taken teams to playoffs in this league and right now with the competition that we are having, he's right in the mix and doing his thing."
What do you notice about QB Tyrod Taylor's leadership?
"Well, he's 11 years in this league. He's been around. He's been a starter. He's a consummate pro. I don't use that loosely. He's a consummate pro. He's the first guy in this building every morning. He's usually the last guy to leave, and that's every day. That's just who he is. You won't ever hear him a whole bunch talking about this or talking about that. He just goes about his business."
What kind of progress have you seen from DL Ross Blacklock in his second season?
"He's playing fast. He's playing fast. He's a little bit more comfortable right now than he was last year although it's a new system. He's flying around. He's flying around, and you see that. You see that."
What are some of the things you see that might be different in DL Whitney Mercilus from last season?
"This is a different system than what he's been in before. Listen, he's one of those guys that's a consummate pro. He's what I like to call, regardless of his position, he's a football player. He can play down. He can play up. Whatever we ask him to do, whether it's inside or whether it's outside, he's a good enough football player to be able to do that. We'll use him in that way. Lovie (Smith) does a great job of putting those guys in position at what they do best. He's pretty versatile with that and gives us a lots of options that way."
What can you tell us about the defensive line competition?
"Just talking about the defensive line, it's the same thing -- and I say this -- across the board with our team right now. There's a bunch of guys in there now that's competing and playing very hard. They're getting after it. I'll tell you what about that group, I always start practice down there with them because they get on that sled, and me being an offensive coach for all those years -- I mentioned this earlier. When I was in OTAs, I went down there, it was the first time being able to look and see the whole team. So, I'm down there on the defense, and Lovie (Smith) starts to drill with hitting that sled. Man, it did something to me, you know. I'm talking about it's like they were firing off, they were hitting, kind of like they were doing today when we were playing football today on our offense, and I love that. I mean, I love that right there. But that defensive line group, I'm always down there to be able to start where they are because that's where the sled is, and just to see those guys -- I mean, those guys are the heart and soul, that offensive line and defensive line, of what we're doing and where we're going to be, and those guys are fighting and crawling down there and just doing everything that you want them to do with competition."
Are you putting on pads tomorrow?
"I'm not going to put them on, but they asked me one time if I would get on that sled. I got Allen (Smith), one of our coaches, that's on the back of that sled, and when they pop it, it goes back up. Let me tell you what you will not see happen to me out there, you will not see me demonstrating anything. Been there and done that."
Are you glad to see them in pads?
"I can't wait to see them get in pads. Here's the thing. You don't find out if someone can play or not until you see them in pads. Training camp, we're still in that ramp-up period. We've got another couple of days. Tuesday we'll get into pads. When we get in pads on Tuesday, then we start to really be able to evaluate. That's what we're doing right now all across the board."
Will QB Deshaun Watson practice with pads?
"Nothing has changed from previous times."
So the team won't wear pads until Tuesday?
"Not until Tuesday."
How have you come through the first three days health-wise?
"Health-wise, it's been good. We've had some dehydration, which happens in training camp. This is Houston. If our trainers didn't give me all that Gatorade and water coming by and telling me to take it, sometimes I refuse it, and they say, no, Coach, you'd better take it, because if you don't, we'll be giving you an IV. The last thing I want is to be an IV."
Is there some hope OL Marcus Cannon and OL Lane Taylor will be ready for the start of the season?
"They're making progress at that. They're both right on schedule when the surgeries happen and whatnot, they're both right on schedule right now, and their rehab is going great. We'll just see as it goes, but we anticipate that happening."
Do you feel for QB Tyrod Taylor after what happened to him health-wise last year that cost him the starting job and being able to have another chance to come back and try to play to his potential again?
"I don't know all the details that happened with that, but I know him as a person, and I know him as a player, and right here, he's been going through adversity basically his whole career since he's been here in this league. I feel good that -- I mean, he's doing exactly what we thought he would do. That's not an issue. He's a pro, as I said before, and he's doing everything like nothing's ever happened to him."
QB Tyrod Taylor was so valuable in the run game for you in Buffalo, but he's a few years older now. Do you have to modify that a little bit or change your expectations how much he'll run?
"I don't believe so at all. I think he's still got the same quickness. He's still that guy, when he's back in the pocket, that can beat you with his feet. Maybe not like he could five or six years ago, but he can still do that. Speaking of that, when you get in third down and they know you've got to throw the ball on third and long and whatnot, having that back there, knowing that guy right there can beat you with your feet is so valuable for us."
DL ROSS BLACKLOCK
What's allowed you in your second year to move better and just kind of be more comfortable?
"I think it's just the system that I'm in now, it's more of a reactive system, more able to use my instincts. I'm loving it, man. Everybody is flying around, making plays. I just feel more comfortable in this system. I think it will be real good for me, and not only me, but for the team as well. Just for the guys we have, the players we have, just to be able to unleash those type of instincts that we have and go create havoc."
What did you learn about yourself last year at this level that can help you this year?
"I learned you got to trust the process. I know this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I know I'm very hard on myself as a player, just like everybody should be. But I'm just chasing greatness like everybody else. I just know I've got to take baby steps day-by-day and just know I'll get better as time goes and just trust the process and just believe in God. I get what I need to get out of this here."
What are some things that you think need to happen as you chase greatness?
"Man, just trust myself, trust my instincts, trust my abilities, don't second guess anything, and just be able to use my abilities to the best as I can. Just go out there and just have fun and play. Just take all the thinking out of it."
How much better can the pass rush and run defense be under Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith compared to last year?
"I think, like I stated earlier, this is a better situation for guys. We've got a lot of really good pass rushers. Guys can just go and just rush up field, use a move. It's not really like a one-system thing. Guys can get out of their comfort zone and try new stuff and new moves, as well as myself. So, I'm excited to see what everybody has for the season and get to unleash some new tricks."
To get ready for the season, I heard in the off-season you lost about ten pounds?
"Yeah, I was around 300 last year. They wanted me around 290, 295, around that area. So, I'm like 290 now and just trying to stay in there. I feel good with my weight. I feel I can move real well. Just got to keep stacking on days."
You said trust the process. What was the process you went through during the off-season, not just physically, but kind of on the mental side to make you ramp up production and get more snaps?
"Like I said, I think I put too much thinking into it last year. I was trying to perfect everything at one time knowing that I couldn't really do that. It just made it harder for myself. Like I said earlier, it's more of a marathon, not a sprint. There's some good guys on this team, good guys on D-line, like Brandon Dunn. He's helped me a lot. Last year Carlos Watkins, guys like those helped me last year, trying to keep me -- I wouldn't say calm, cool, and collected, but helped me try to reach a level for myself that I just didn't see, and they're still helping me now. I don't know all the answers still, and I'm still trying to learn them, but it's slowly getting there. It's getting there."
Is it challenging because it's new players, new defensive line coach, new everything, for you personally, is that another challenge?
"No, it's not another challenge at all. It's just a new year, new system. I believe this system is a lot better and it's way easier and way more fun to be in. So, like I said, I'm very excited for this upcoming season."
What were the challenges to drop ten pounds? What did you have to cut out of your diet to get there?
"Man, just walk outside. That's all you've got to do. But no, man, I just worked out a lot. I did a lot of trainings. I went from two-a-day trainings to training in California, just getting new scenery, and working out a lot, working on my body. Just trying to get more cut, I guess, upper body-wise. Cut a lot of stuff out of my diet. I'm restricting my diet."
"As far as I haven't eaten any candy. I used to be a real candy guy. I haven't eaten candy in months. Sugars, juices, stuff like that. I got a chef this year, so that's the first time I ever got a chef, and he's been real strict on my diet and cooks some really good food. So, I'm real strict on myself about that, but it's paid off really well."
How would you compare practices this year to last year?
"I would say these practices are much more up-tempo, very fast, very fast. As far as guys like moving around, flying around, it really wasn't like that last year. Last year it was more -- I would say it's calmer. But this year, it's like you're there doing these one-on-ones, back to team, back to individuals, like it's real high tempo. I think that's what we need since we've got a lot of guys. There's a lot of competition on this team as well. I know that Coach (David Culley) is trying to see where they want to put guys and all that, but it's pretty fun."
In your rookie year when you're trying to play all those different techniques and you've got all those responsibilities in that defense, did you catch yourself thinking in your stance, like in a way that you didn't before, where you started thinking about what might go wrong?
"Yeah, like last year, I think like you said, it was a lot of positions, just unfortunate situations. Some guys got hurt and I had to step in and play. There was a lot of thinking that I had to do. Sometimes I would overthink -- not overthink, but I would be in one position and think about another and I would just overthink my thought process as I'm in my stance. Now it's just go out and play, just get off the ball. I probably have one of the best get-offs on the D-line, and I know that a lot of guys trust my get-off, and we can make a lot of plays together. I've just got to trust my instincts, like I stated earlier, and just go out and have fun and just play. It's football at the end of the day, so just got to go out and do what I've been doing since I was young."
DL WHITNEY MERCILUS
What's it feel like being a crusty old veteran out here?
"Man, you know, aches, pains, all that. I'm feeling what the guys told me in 2012."
"Man, hey, you're going to feel everything. All your years, all the reps and everything. Feels good. I get to impart a lot of knowledge on the young guys. Just like you all, I've seen a lot of things in this organization -- ups, downs, hills, valleys. I just try to keep those guys as focused as possible on what they need to do, how to be a better version of themselves as individuals and just as a team.
When you were in the off-season, you said you felt rejuvenated training in Arizona. How do you feel now in camp, and do you feel sort of like Arizona helped you bounce back from last year?
"Yeah, facts, definitely. Got back to my routine. I was in Arizona for about six months, trained, about 110, 115-degree heat, but it's nothing like Houston, especially on the first day when I came back. I do feel better. I feel stronger. I feel leaner, faster in every kind of possible way. My mind and my spirit are all in one, intact. I'm ready to go"
What do you think about the pass rush with the four-man front, and how much do you weigh now? "I weigh about 265. With the pass rush with the four down, it's nice because now it's like, all right, everybody doesn't really have to think, especially with the outside linebacker. Especially for the ends, whether we've got to drop or anything like that, it's just see ball, go get ball, hit, react off the tackles, react off the tight ends and all that, and go make a play."
What's the biggest adjustment for you playing with your hand in the dirt? I know you probably haven't done that in a decade or so. What's the biggest adjustment for you?
"Just putting my hand in the dirt honestly. I can't see nothing. When I was standing up, I could see everything, the formations, understand what's coming my way. I see the down and distance. I understand what situation we're in, things like that. Now with my hand in the dirt, I'm kind of limited, so I'm depending on what the tackle is giving me, whether it's the screen, a pass, a run, zone, things like that. My keys are different honestly. So, I've got to get my presnap reads down, put my hand in the dirt, and just rely on instincts. That's it."
Does that make the game more fun?
"Oh yeah for sure, definitely. Don't think, just go. You mess up, just mess up big honestly. If you're going 100 miles per hour, you're good."
When you're on the other side of the ball, just as a teammate, what do you see from QB Tyrod Taylor as a leader? How do you compartmentalize QB Deshaun Watson is still on the team, but he's requested a trade and Tyrod is the starter?
"I knew Tyrod (Taylor) a couple of years ago. Really good guy, cool, calm, collected. He is a great, great leader, especially what I've heard across the league and all that. Couldn't be a better guy just to take on that role right now, especially with everything going on. With Deshaun (Watson), that's my guy. Love him to death. Hate what's happened to him. Just bring it for him every day honestly. Man, everything will sort itself out. God got it. I know that for a fact. He's my guy at the end of the day."
What did the Arizona trip do for you? Did you get away from that? Is that as well as a physical thing, is that a bit of a mental thing for you getting back to basics?
"Definitely. It allows me to get away. Really just focus on my mind and just on me. Get my body right, my soul, and my spirit, everything, because you need to be able to do that. Especially with the season we had last year, you've got to be able to decompress, recenter, refocus, get yourself back right so you can come back stronger. It didn't happen last year. Of course, the entire country was shut off, so I couldn't really get to training. When I did find a trainer, it was kind of sporadic here and there. What I had is a consistent regime, especially this year since February and whatnot, it's allowed me to be a whole lot better and be my best self."
What do you expect from DL Ross Blacklock and DL Charles Omenihu?
"I expect a lot honestly. They've got the speed, the quickness, the explosiveness, and the length too. They tie all those things together and be able to work cohesively -- and not just them, but everybody on the line. If we can all work together, it will be a pretty special group."
Since you've been here, you've seen everything now. How do you feel about where the team's at? So much change, all of it's pretty much out of your control. What's it like being the veteran on this team knowing everything that this organization's gone through in the last 18 months or so?
Good question. Just seeing all the changes and experiencing the different changes, there's different expectations. As long as all those expectations are outlined and responsibilities, you just control those, and you control what you can do out here. Everything else, as much as I -- you know, it's above my pay grade essentially. They control what they want to control as far as the corporate side and everything, but we control what we control because we've got to win games. That's what these fans are expecting. That's what you guys are expecting us to do. If not, I mean, you all are tearing us apart, let's be real. So honestly at the end of the day, we are going to control what we can. We just need to check everything at the door, come in, work, just lean on each other and trust each other."
QB TYROD TAYLOR
What's it like for you now heading into camp with this team as the guy? How comfortable do you feel with everyone around you, and as QB Deshaun Watson has been on the field?
"I feel comfortable being on the field. It's been a good three days. We've done a lot of good things on offense and continue to keep correcting and building as training camp continues to keep progressing. I know guys are eager to get out and get full speed 11-on-11 reps, and we've been able to compete at a high level the last three days. So just taking it one day at a time, focusing on getting better, and I think we're making good strides in that area."
What do you think about having QB Deshaun Watson out here?
"He's part of the team. When we come out here, we're all focused on working and getting better at every aspect, and that's different for every person, but my focus has been leading the group, executing when the opportunity is presented, and just focusing on being better each day."
Is it a challenge for you personally in moving to a new team and trying to get acclimated to all your new players?
"I would say that's probably it, just new players, new faces, understanding personalities, understanding how to talk and deal with certain people. Certain people respond to different motivation or conversation. And just learning the guys.
Of course in the spring, having limited time around one another, you don't get a feel for everyone, but as camp progresses, as things get back to normal with the vaccinated, unvaccinated, guys being around each other in the locker room, being more of a normal locker room, you get a chance to learn one another, and that's what the time has been other than being on the field and competing."
Given what you've been through in your career, what does it mean to have this opportunity at this stage of your life?
"It's a wonderful opportunity. Every time I get a chance to lace up my cleats and play the game that I started playing when I was 5 years old is a blessing. I don't take any day for granted. I'm excited to be able to go out and lead the group, to be able to go out and continue to make plays. Like I said, it's a joyful feeling to be able to go out on the field and compete. That's what I look forward to each day."
Which of your years in the NFL have prepped you for what you're doing now?
"I always say each year is a learning opportunity. Whether it's good or bad, you're able to in the off-season, you're able to reflect on the year previous and the years prior and working on how can you become a better player? How can you become a better student of the game? How can you be better overall? And reflect on all those things. I think the ten years prior in professional football has definitely prepared me for the moment I have here, the opportunity I have here, but also the years of playing football as a youth. As a kid, high school, college, you go through so many things. You don't lose memory of them. You just allow them to better yourself moving forward."
Even though he's not a full participant, has QB Deshaun Watson been any sort of resource for you as far as understanding the offense?
"Absolutely. Me and Deshaun (Watson) are friends. We've known each other for a number of years now. We've had conversations on the field, off the field, about football, about life. Everything has been a positive conversation, and it will continue to be that way."
Has it been a distraction at all having him around here?
"No, ma'am, it hasn't."
You talked a minute ago about every off-season you reflect on the previous year. Was this last off-season one of your more painful reflections considering it might be a missed opportunity?
"It could be. I believe everything happens for a reason whether you understand it or not. You have to find the positive of everything. I'm completely healthy now. I'm not lingering, anything. I feel great to be in year 11 and be running around fresh as if I was in year 1, it's a blessing itself. Like I said, it wasn't a hard thing to reflect on. Maybe it wasn't what I liked to see happen last year, but you move forward, and you learn, and I definitely learned from it."
What do you think of WR Anthony Miller and WR Nico Collins?
"They're doing a great job. Anthony has been playing primary to slot receiver for us, and he's made a ton of plays. Nico, I'm sure you see as practice goes on, his size, he's able to go up and get those passes, those second level passes. He's competing. I know a lot is thrown at him, first training camp in the NFL. He's not shying away from the competition. He's stepping up each day and having fun on the feel."
Has your mindset changed at all from when you signed here through OTAs and now going out in to training camp?
"No, it hasn't. My mindset has been the same since I was drafted back in 2011 in Baltimore, to walk in here every day with your best attitude, compete, prepare like a starter, and go out there and make plays."
Head Coach David Culley said you could still run like you could back in Buffalo?
"Yeah, I can."
Do you feel good hearing that from your coach?
"Absolutely. I feel faster."
Does it feel like your team? Is that something you can consider?
"I definitely feel that guys look for me for leadership, and obviously that comes with the quarterback position, and I welcome that role. It also comes with experience in the NFL. Guys naturally gravitate to older guys and want to learn and pick their brains, and that's what we need. It's not just me on this field. Of course, I'm a natural leader, but we also have other natural leaders on the field as well, and veterans who have been other places and guys who have been here that have a ton of knowledge of the game. It's up to the young guys to ask those questions, but it's also the responsibility of the older guys and the veterans to share that knowledge because it all brings us up. Ultimately, we want to be a better team. The more information, the more we can share with those guys, the better we are as a team."
How do you feel about your mastery of this offense three days into camp?
"I feel good. I think those spring sessions we had, whether full speed or not, it was very educational for myself but also for the group who was able to catch a lot of young guys up to speed. As far as the scheme and the playbook, it's been very few mental errors out here on the field. Somethings can be corrected, and they've been corrected the first two days, and we'll watch the film from today and continue moving forward."
As part of the conversation about wide receivers and running backs, can you talk about your offensive line?
"They're doing a great job. Those guys are competing every day. I know they can't wait to get the pads on. The one-on-ones, I've heard, I didn't get a chance to watch them. I did watch some of the pass rushers yesterday when we were finishing up one of the periods. They look great. The camaraderie in the group is amazing. All those guys come out with the right mindset each day. They want to compete. They want to dominate practice. That's the attitude we need going into the season."