There are reports around the NFL that some players want to protest by walking out of games. Is that a possibility for your game against the Chiefs and how would you feel about that?
"We've had some good discussions. I would say anything's possible. I think that, just speaking for the Houston Texans, I'm really proud of these guys that are on our team. We have a lot of really good veteran guys that are really passionate about football, really passionate about what's going on in the world. The thing that really strikes me – as a coach, you're always in a rush, right? You want to make sure everything is going well. You're thinking about the next day, the next play, the next three plays from now. But these players, they're not in a rush – our players. Our players are really thoughtful. They want to think about things. They don't want to rush to make any decisions on anything. It's just been really enlightening for me. Today in the squad meeting, we had a good squad meeting. We'll see how it goes. I wouldn't be able to make any predictions. I just know our team is going to practice today and our team, we feel good about where we're at after the scrimmage and we're just going to keep plugging away."
In light of being 12 days out, where do you feel about where you guys are now and what do you feel the best about the team?
"Look, I like this team. I really enjoy coaching this team. I think we have guys that really pay attention. They care about the team. They ask good questions. They practice hard. They do what we ask them to do from top to bottom. You've got player one to player 80. I really couldn't say to you, 'oh, we've got five guys who aren't doing what they're supposed to do.' I really couldn't. I think every guy on this team is really trying to do what we're asking them to do. They show up on time. Like I said, they pay attention. They try to fix the details of the play. If they make a mistake, they try to get better and that's all I can go by right now. We've got a very tough opener. We've got a very tough opening schedule but that's the National Football League. We're working hard and we're trying to get better every day and I really believe that we're getting better every day."
When you think about the roster, how much is the contingency plan in terms of everything with this year is it helpful with the extra spots you'll have? Do you feel like there might be less interest in adding players from outside their team due to lack of familiarity from no preseason games?
"Interesting question. I think that's something we talk about every night, Jack (Easterby) and I, Matt Bazirgan. Basically, when you guys are out at practice, I would say for all intents and purposes this is our team, right? You've got 80 guys. You're going to have 53 plus 16, so you're talking maybe 10 spots there but you know, again, there's different avenues because the roster flexibility that's in place this year. Like I said, I like the guys that are on our team. I think from top to bottom these guys have really poured everything they've had into a weird year. Think about it. They come in every morning, they get tested for the coronavirus, then they go to lift, then they go to meetings and then walkthroughs, then they practice, then they go home and we Zoom meet. I mean, we actually Zoom meet. Think about that for a second. This is a different year, right, and just really for me, there's definitely an attachment to a lot of these guys because I believe that they've done everything that I've asked them to do and so I think when you're out there at practice , I know you are every day, you're looking at our team. Now, how we use guys and do different things, that will be game plan wise. But of course we could always do – obviously we've done some things over the last couple years. Brought some guys in, moved some guys out, but I think you're looking at the majority of the players on our practice field, that's our team."
Do you have any update on FB Cullen Gillaspia and WR Keke Coutee?
"I think Cullen's doing a lot better. He ran on the field and reached some pretty good speeds, but I wouldn't say he'd be out there today. Keke I think is going to try to do some stuff today."
As you enter the final phase before roster cut downs, what group do you think you have the most still to learn or figure out during the last week of practice?
"I think you're always learning. I don't think there's one position group that you're looking at and you're saying I've got to learn more about. I think because we watch so much film and we study it together as a staff, we have a pretty good feel of the depth in each position. I do think every day you're learning something because somebody – like the other night, anybody that was at that scrimmage that knows anything about football saw A.J. Moore (Jr.). A.J. Moore did a lot of good things in that scrimmage, right? Jacob Martin. Now it's more about how you use guys. How would you deploy these guys from week to week because of their unique skill sets. Lonnie Johnson (Jr.), the receivers. I think that's more about what we're looking at. I think we have a good feel for each position."
How is the schedule going to change this week, if at all?
"We're going to do it basically like last week I would say. I would say it's very similar with the exception of the scrimmage up a day relative to last week. We'll have another scrimmage similar to the way we did the scrimmage the other night, but it'll be on Wednesday. I believe we've got to get the roster down on Thursday, but it'll be basically like last week."
Do you and your staff go through the exercise of saying 'this would be our 53-man roster' at various times throughout camp or is that not something that comes into focus until it gets closer to the time you have to make those decisions?
"It definitely comes into focus sooner than this week. We talk about it. It doesn't come into focus after the first day. It's got to play out a little bit, but I would say last week we started talking about, relative to myself, Jack (Easterby), Matt (Bazirgan) and the coordinators, just 'hey, this is how we see it right now.' Then you go out and the next day somebody has a good day at a certain position and you're like, 'oh, you know, you could do this.' Some of the questions that you ask yourself, does this guy have practice squad eligibility? Where is this guy contractually? There's a lot that goes into those decisions. You're not trying to necessarily pick an all-star 53. You're trying to pick the best 53. What is the best 53. Obviously, it changes throughout the year based on injuries or roster moves that you may decide to make. But we have that – that's probably the last thing we do every night before we leave, is we go through each guy on the roster and how does that guy fit relative to 53, gameday roster and then practice squad. We kind of look at it that way every night."
It looked like WR DeAndre Carter got a lot of touches in the scrimmage. Can you talk about what he's shown you in training camp?
"DeAndre is a very solid player. He just works. He's very consistent. He just does a lot of things pretty well. He can obviously return kicks. He's very smart. He's just a very solid guy, and so quarterbacks have confidence in him. They know that he's going to be where he's supposed to be. They know that he's going to know his assignment. Just a really consistent guy. He's had a good camp, and he's out there every day. I think that's the deal. This league is so much about health and some of that is not being lucky. Some guys just avoid it and take care of their bodies, and other guys take care of their bodies but just can't avoid it. I think because DeAndre is out there every single day, he just gets better and better. That's why you see him."
Do you have to alter the way you would normally construct the 53-man roster due to players potentially contracting COVID-19?
"You definitely think about that. Yeah, no doubt about it. At certain positions, you're going to think about, 'well, wait a second now. If god forbid something happened where three or four guys contracted the virus, do you have the right depth there? Do you have the right guys in the right spot? Do you have the right guys on the 53? The right guys on the practice squad? The right guys on the gameday roster? That's definitely part of the conversation. But it's hard because there's a lot of unknowns. We've actually created a really good bubble here, like a lot of teams have. We have a really good bubble. Knock on wood, we've had no positives. Geoff Kaplan and his crew, and Roland Ramirez and Dr. (James) Muntz, they've done an unbelievable job of educating these guys. Give the guys credit, our staff and players. But when the regular season starts, I think that's a different conversation. So, you have to make sure that you have your bases covered as best you can."
How much harder is it to evaluate players this year compared to previous years when the team had preseason games and joint practices?
"It's definitely challenging. I think every team is going through that, though, so it's not like you're the only team. I think that's a big deal. The NFL is a very – it's a competitively balanced league. So, I think everybody is going through that. A lot of guys – it's funny, like, I'll give you an example. The TCU kid that we brought in, Cordel Iwuagwu, when he was in t-shirts and shorts, it didn't look very good. But then we put the pads on and he started practicing, it kind of looked pretty good relative to where he is. Some of these guys, like when the pads go on, or in the past in preseason games, maybe they didn't look great in practice, but all of a sudden in a game they had a knack for making plays. They showed up in the game. Well, you don't have that this year, so you've got to go off of practice. We're trying to do that. We're putting guys in position. We're trying to have high tempo practices where we can really evaluate and that's what we're doing. I think that's the way we're approaching it."