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Transcripts: 8-19-2021 Training Camp Press Conference 


With the starters, specifically QB Tyrod Taylor, have you thought about how much they'll play in the next preseason game?

"Here's the thing about the starters. We haven't yet really determined who's a starter for us and who's not a starter for us right now. But I do know that last week, those guys who played and didn't get played much will play a little more. How much? We're not really sure yet. We'll determine after practice today, and availability of our players to play in the game. Because there's a bunch of guys who didn't play – I think 10 to 12 guys who didn't play last week who are going to get reps this week."

Do you expect to play RB Mark Ingram?

"I think everyone who is available will play this week."

What do you want to see from QB David Mills from Game 1 to Game 2?

"Consistency. I'm telling you the consistency. And that's a good question today because yesterday in practice, man, he's having a really good day in practice yesterday. He had the one bad throw yesterday and interception during one of their periods right here. But as I've said before, he's a heck of a guy from the standpoint of understanding and brushing those things off and coming back with the next play mentality. But we've got to eliminate those kinds of things, and I expect him to be more consistent and take better care of the ball."

Do you think it's hard for rookies to have the mentality of bouncing back and focusing on the next play?

"I think it's individual difference with whoever the guy is. But what I do know is that as they get more reps, as they get more practice time, they get more playing time, those things come. They come with time."

The Texans have the oldest roster in the NFL. When you all were bringing in new players, why did you prioritize experience over younger players?

"I think more than that, I think Nick (Caserio) prioritized more of the type of individual we wanted to come in from a character standpoint. Also, the fact that this is a new situation for some of those guys. Some of those guys have played a bunch in this league. The most important thing was bringing in the right kind of people. The tough, smart kind of player, the selfless kind of player, and we brought in those kind of guys. Some of those guys just happened to be a little bit older."

Why do coaches tend to lean on players they have coached before?

"There's a comfort level in guys that have been there and done that. The experience. They've been through the wars. There's a really big comfort level there with guys that you know have been there and done that."

How did everything work in your first game as the head coach with a new staff and with Nic? What did you think went well and what needs to be worked on?

"It went well. I think there are some things that we can do better at, that we will do better this week. But, for the most part, I think logistically everything worked out good for us. The communication from upstairs to downstairs was good. I expect it to be a little bit better this week."

How concerned are you about the competitive disadvantage of players who test positive for COVID-19?

"Again, getting vaccinated is a personal decision, and we back those people who feel that way about it. If it happens, the League has protocols for that. They have rules for that. If it happens, I hope it doesn't happen, but if it does happen, the next man up has to be able to play."

As people have been added to the team, have you seen more people decide to get vaccinated?

"I know our numbers have gone up and up each week. The numbers are good. Again, I don't know exactly what those numbers are right now, but I know that it's increasing. We check it daily. Guys are still deciding between now and the season as to whether to or whether not to, but that's a personal decision and we'll back whatever decision they make."

Isn't it kind of late to be making that decision? The vaccine doesn't kick in immediately.

"It doesn't, but what does end up happening at some point during the season, once they're vaccinated and as you said, if those kind of things come up, then obviously there are different rules for guys that are vaccinated as opposed to the ones that aren't vaccinated."

How's OL Charlie Heck doing?

"I'll tell you what, Charlie is one of those guys. When I came here and this staff came here, and we went in to our OTAs and went into our offseason program, I don't know if there is a player on the team who improved as much as Charlie did from the start to this point right now. And that's not surprising because he has a great work ethic. He's going into that year now where you want to see that progress made, and we're starting to see that. And that's what happens when you do what he did to be in the position that he's in right now."

There are four preseason games, and Week 3 looks more like a regular season approach. Now that you are going into the next to last preseason game, is there more of a regular season feel for you?

"Going in to the second ball game is kind of a regular season feel. Right now, going into the second one. Being my second one, I kind of feel like I'm kind of getting into a flow with that. As next week comes along, we'll kind of see how we're going to determine that. We haven't really determined yet how we are going to approach it as far as how we play people and what we do with it. But as I said the other day, having that bye week is tremendous for us in getting prepared for our first game against Jacksonville."

Given QB Tyrod Taylor's age, how will you all utilize his mobility as a quarterback? "Yeah, he's a guy who's big, he's strong, he's smart. He's a better athlete than when you see him kind of walk out here. He kind of looks goofy, right? Especially with that bucket hat. We've got to get that off of him. He's a better athlete than you would guess by just seeing him on the hoof. He's got a strong arm. He's smart. So, it's just going to be reps and just feeling the defense and getting a feel for the speed of the game. Again, I think all rookie quarterbacks have an adjustment to make when it comes to that, but he's doing a good job preparing and putting in the work and watching the film. We're pleased with where he's at. Now he's got to take another step this week."

Now that you've gotten an up-close look at LT Laremy Tunsil, what is it about him that makes him so good?

"Physically, he's a guy that's been gifted. He's a guy now that at this point in his career has started to develop the physical tools that he has. He's one of the guys that across the League that people have a lot of respect for. I'm' glad he's here. Unfortunately, he's going through the COVID thing right now, but we're looking forward to having him back with us."


Vernon, you've been on this team for a few years. How much different does it feel this year with the roster composition with so many guys on one-year deals and stuff like that?

"It's like going to a new school. Bunch of new players, got to learn everybody's name. But it's fun out here. A bunch of guys who have been here, done that before. We're keeping it rolling. We're all just trying to come together and get ready for the first game."

How do you learn people's names?

"By calling them. By calling them like on the practice field. Like, hey, I'm going to get you. I've got to know his name. What's his name? And that's how you learn it?

Vernon, kind of what you said, so much turnover, but with the right guys in the locker room and it's a good feel. Do you come together well?

"I think so. They've definitely brought in guys who have done this at a high level before, guys that stayed out of trouble. Good guys to have in the locker room. I definitely feel that. I definitely see that. Like I said, it will all come together when the season starts, and we'll see how that goes."

Do you feel like with DB Bradley (Roby) suspended for the first game, that you can step in and do that?

"I'm ready for anything. I've been a starter the whole time I've been in the league, so I'm ready for whatever comes my way."

After two years here, how do you feel you've grown since you came to the Texans?

"It's the mental aspect. Learning how to play football, learn the position, learning how to play corner. It's more than going out and covering people. Understand what's about to come. Understand who you're covering. That's where I've grown the most."

The new coaching staff, what kind of influence did they have on kind of the culture, and also what you guys do on the field?

"You know, they're understanding. They came in and didn't try to make it a dictatorship. They're new, and a lot of times it does go that way, but they let us do our thing, they let us be pros. They let us have fun, hang out. We appreciate that as a team. You know, like I said, all this is just getting forward to September 12th."

What have you noticed that Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith likes to see from his corners, how they play?

"He likes physical corners, rewound guys, and turnovers. That's all he wants is a turnover."

He talked about the energy on the sideline and things like that the other day. How do you all approach that this year? Is it different?

"It's easy. We're all pros. We've all been here before. We know what turnovers do for our game. We know what it can do for the team. We've got to show that energy when one of us gets one."

Does he give you a hard time about saying turnovers versus take-aways, like he does for us?

"Not so much. I didn't realize he did it with you all. As long as, we get the ball with Lovie (Smith), we're good."

How much pride do you take in starting 16 games last year?

"It is what it is. That's last year, though. Can't really count too much on it. We'll see how this year goes. Hopefully we can win more games this year, and that's what we'll talk about."

Speaking of Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith, how much do you think you'll benefit playing in his system?

"I think I benefit a lot. It's a lot of zone, a lot of eyes on the quarterback type stuff, breaking and reacting kind of stuff, and that's kind of what I do. We'll see. It's too soon to tell right now, but when the season gets going, we'll figure it out."

Who are some of the cool new kids in the school?

"Let's see, DB T.T. (Thomas) Tavierre that's my boy. I'm going to say all the DBs. All the new DBs, they're the coolest on the team right now."

Do you think because of all the new faces, it makes preseason for this team maybe more important than for others?

"I don't think it's more important for any other team. It's preseason is just as important for every team as it is for us. We've got new guys. Every other team has new guys. We might not have those staple guys that some teams have, but we know who they are. Like I said, it's preseason. We're all just trying to get better. We're all just trying to work and get ready for that first game."

Kind of along those lines, is it building habits? When you're talking about turnovers and you produce turnovers in the preseason no matter who's out there, so does building happen in the preseason? Does that happen?

"Of course. You are what you repeatedly do. If you can get them in practice and get them in practice every preseason game, it's going to transport over to the game."

What do guys like DB Justin Reid and DB Lonnie Johnson Jr say about the safety in this defense? Seems like they are playing more freely.

"They've got a lot of free range. They've got a lot of free range. Coach trusts them to make plays on the ball. To be a safety of the defense, make plays on the ball. That's what they do. They're long guys. They can run. They can get to the football. That's what we're counting on."


How does it feel to have an offseason this year?

"It feels great. As a rookie, you know I didn't really get that off season so this year I really wanted to take full advantage of this one. So, I really was here every day, living in the weight room, meeting everybody and learning the new offense. So that was big for me."

What have you noticed that's different about you from this year to last year?

"I think a big thing is confidence. I was able to get in at the end of the year in some of the games and I definitely had my struggles but I kind of proved to myself that I can play in this league and I carried that on going into the offseason."

How different is it to have a preseason this year? Even after just one game.

"It's huge. It's live reps going against a different team and that's how you get better is getting experience and getting those live reps."

What do you think you've gotten best at?

"Strength is a big thing, you know confidence is big, knowing your job inside and out, trusting your technique, that huge for an O-lineman."

How much do you weigh now?


Is that down from where you were when you reported?

"No, I've been in that 308-310 range, but it is a lot better weight."

What kind of advice have you gotten from your dad as far as making the leap from first year to second year?

"My dad has been a great resource for me. One thing he always says is its camp and it's getting better every single day, finding something to work on and just improving on that every day."

How much better do you think the offensive line is right now and how could do you think you could be when the season starts?

"This O-line can be great. I mean it just feels like we are getting better every day and it takes time on the O-line to build that chemistry and I think we are able to do that right now and we are slowly getting better throughout camp."

How much of who you are is because of your father and where he's been and what he's done?

"Football has always been apart of my life. What's special to me is that my dad has always been my dad first. He wasn't really that kind of coaching figure. I mean obviously as I got older, he was a resource for me but he was always a dad first."

In short yardage situations, what has been the biggest thing to work on and improving that over the course of the preseason?

"Oh short yardage? We've been talking about a plus 2 mentality and that's really just the mentality in the O-line, when we get those 1-yard, 2-yard gains its about getting behind the ball carrier and pushing them that extra 2 yards."

What's it been like playing for Offensive Line coach James Campen?

"He's been an awesome coach for us so far. You know he's played in this league, he understands it, he's great at kind of picking out individual things for each player and working on that each day. So, it's been awesome to have him."

They have been asking about your preseason as an individual but how is it for you as an offensive line to get those plays together and have those on tape?

"It's huge, I mean that's everything really. I guess going back to building that chemistry, it's about bumping off games, kind of knowing and getting a feel for where your mans going to be, where those aiming points are and you can only really get that in games."

That was Head Coach David Culley's first game experience as an NFL head coach. How did that go behind the scenes? Like working with him on the sidelines, how did that go?

"It went well. You're right, it's David's first time as a head coach, but he's been on the sideline quite a few times. I know I've been on the sideline a lot, and David's been on the sidelines more than I have. When you're prepared, you have an idea of how it's going to go, and again, he had us all prepared for every situation. That will be the case each week."


Can you talk about your experience playing for Head Coach David Culley?

"When he asked me to come over here, I was just excited to come here and join him."

In the special teams area, do you feel like you guys are doing something good together?

"Definitely. We've got a lot of veterans who know how to play special teams. We all came from great special teams teams, so we're just out here working."

Is there a backstory to your tattoos?"Most of them -- I mean, everyone has a different story, you know what I'm saying? If you want a specific one, I can tell you a specific story about each one. There's a bunch. I've got a bunch."

What's the one that's most near and dear to you?

"It's just my prayer right here. It tells me to keep peace, you know what I'm saying? Growing up I just had a lot of stuff on my mind. People deal with a lot of mental stuff, but I always say this prayer before I come out here. It helps me just relax and stay grounded."

Chris, is that The Punisher?

"Yeah. Yes, it is."

From the comic books?

"Yeah. I like him. This is one I got because I liked it. I was young."

What was your relationship with Coach Culley like before you got here? And what made you think you'd be a good fit here?

"He always preached about putting the team first. That's something he's told us in the receiving room at Baltimore. It was just about us coming in here and helping the team get better. So I knew if I travelled with him and came over here that he was still going to have that same mindset and that was still going to be his main motto coming here, so I was just excited to join him in that process."

From what you've seen here, is that exactly how it's played out?

"Definitely. We've got team, team, team written everywhere on the wall. We've got the gear. I mean, everybody is buying into the thought process of that, so I just think we're meshing well here."

Does the offense remind you of anything from the Raiders?

"A little bit, but I think in itself this is its own offense. It's new for me to learn it, but I feel like I'm fitting in well. We've got a bunch of good guys who are just getting all the pieces together now, and I think we're doing pretty good."

Having been with David Culley in Baltimore, what did you notice from him as a first time head coach in his first game time situation?

"That's one thing about Coach Culley, you can always hear him. No matter where he at on the field, you hear him screaming, giving coaching pointers always. So I already knew, when he was out there, he was going to bring that same energy, and that's what he did during the game.

After the game was over, I congratulated him because he's doing his thing."

As a player, how was he involved in the middle of the game?

"Like I said, you're on the field and you can hear him. There's no denying his voice. He's got a specific voice. You can hear him giving you little coaching pointers, telling you little details that will help the team win.

At the end of the day, he tells us we can lose the game ourselves. He's giving us the points to help us not lose, to help us just win."

What's he like in that post-game locker room after that first win?

"He was excited, but he was telling us like it's just the preseason game. They keep score so it counts as a win, but at the end of the day, we've just got to move on to the next thing and get ready for the next game."

What is the hardest thing to learn about the new offense?

"Just always coming into a new offense is learning all the different nuances and stuff that comes with it. I feel like I'm picking it up pretty well, so it hasn't been too difficult, but I'm working the books and studying."

Chris, you've played a lot on special teams and as a receiver. What do you hope you bring to this team?

"I'm just a fast dude who's going to go out there and work. It doesn't matter what they ask me. They ask me to run a clear out route, I'm going to run at full speed. If they ask me to block for a run play, I'm going to give it all I got.

I'm a blue-collar guy when it comes out here. I'm just working."

Is that the mentality you bring to every rep?

"Yeah, I give it all I got on every single play. That's all you can do, come out here and give it your best and help this team win. That's all you can do at the end of the day."

Taking it on the field in a preseason game, do you value those reps? How valuable are those reps?

"I value every second I'm on the field. We only get to play this game for so long. Every time I step on the field, I soak it in. I remember early in my career I didn't get to take it all in as much.

Now that I'm getting older and understanding how much this means and how special this is, I'm really soaking it in and enjoying every second."

How would you evaluate the wide receiver room as a group?

"We got nothing but dogs in there. We've got a bunch of great players. Everybody is pushing each other. We've got a little competitive sheet, so we're always staying on top of each other. We've got a lot of older players who are teaching each other, and we've got young dude, Nico (Collins), who's a beast. I like him a lot. So we'll see."

What's on the competitive sheet?

"We've got everything from drops, catches, explosive plays, big plays, everything on there. It comes out to a percentage. I'm a guy, when I see it, I always want to be at the top, but I'm still working to get at the top."

Who's at the top?

"I'm not sure right now. We've got to see after this practice, you know what I'm saying? It's either between Brandin Cooks or Chris Conley right now."

The defensive players have somewhat of a renewed focus on forcing turnovers and getting take-aways. We've seen that in practice. What have those internal battles been like?

"It's great. Every time you catch the ball and turn up field to get them runs, you feel about 20 people punching your arms, your hands. My arms are bruised up from being punched at.

So they're going to bring that to the game, and it definitely helps you as an offensive player secure the ball, and when we go to play other teams who have that same emphasis that we're going to secure the ball and not turn it over."


What is it like playing for Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith when you get a chance to get on the field?

"Coach Lovie, he's very detailed. He coaches everybody up, (he'll) call everybody out. The small things that you could just tell, just from his college background, you could tell he's bringing it to the league."

What happens when you start the season with the defensive line making plays like last week? It looks like the more you can build, then everybody wants to make a play.

"It's a great energy to have around, and everyone feeds off each other. If somebody's down, you try to pick them up. When it's time to make plays, you want everybody to make plays also."

Head Coach David Culley told us this morning that everybody who is available is going to play Saturday, so more defensive players involved and more of that. It's kind of the first time for us to see that team action. What do you think we'll see out of the group as a whole?

"I mean, just instead of playing great football, I feel like we played good enough last week, got to play better, and I feel like that's the goal. Just playing better football and going out there and winning."

Is there anything that you all didn't do that you want to do better?

"I mean, I feel like there's always room for improvement, from running game to passing game to turnovers. I feel like we can all get better at every aspect."

The battle of the offensive line, where have you seen them grow, if at all, since the beginning? It looked like in the beginning you all were giving them a lot of work. What do you think has been the progress with them?

"Once you just keep playing football and getting the dust off, getting the chemistry down pat, you start seeing those guys communicating well, starting to understand the defense and starting to pick up on things that we do."

Studying your time in Denver, where do you feel like you're at as a player right now?

"This staff is more -- like I told Coach Lovie, he's more on the detail. Those small things that I used to get away with, Lovie, he's on me so precisely. I love that, because I feel like that's what turns somebody from good to great. And me just taking in that coaching, staying with Coach King and working on the smaller things that I can do to become a better player and help make the team and help this team win, I'm all in on it."

How would you describe the mentality of the defensive linemen around you?

"I mean, some dogs, you know? I definitely see a few guys that I'd definitely love to go to war with."

What are small things, just technique or is it picking up on tendencies of the offensive linemen? What would you say are some of key small things that you're taking on?

"Technique. Technique-wise and just letting it go. Sort of taking the handcuffs off me and just letting me do certain actions. It's a little different when you're in an attack style defense (instead of) these last two years playing a read defense."

Have you been around a coach that's more passionate and talks more about turnovers than Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith?

"No. Lovie, he's bringing like a different approach that I haven't seen in a long time. Hey, he's letting the talent flourish, and that's the type of coach I want."

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