HEAD COACH DAVID CULLEY
Is QB Tyrod Taylor where you want him to be as he tries to get acclimated to the new system? Also, is he doing everything he can to learn the offense?
"Yes, he is. The thing about him is he's been in all of the Zoom meetings, so it's not like he doesn't know where we're at or what we're doing at this point. Being in OTAs, he's been in all the meetings. It's just recently we just got him on the field, and you can tell by what we've seen on the field that he's been listening, he's been picking up the offense. This time of year, what we're trying to do here is with all of those guys at that position and along with these other positions, is just to learn what we're doing and how we're doing it. I feel like from what we've seen out there the last few days that he is right where we feel like he should be."
How much of an advantage is it for QB Tyrod Taylor to know both you and Passing Game Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Pep Hamilton?
"There's a comfort level there. He knows what we're all about, he knows how we go about things, he knows what we expect. That's important because he has a comfort level with us, and we have a comfort level with him and with what Tim (Kelly) has done when installing this offense with him. He's picked up stuff very well. Here's a guy that's been in the league for a long time. Basically, it's just a matter of terminology, which he's picked up well."
How can QB Tyrod Taylor help QB Davis Mills get accustomed to the NFL?
"His leadership and his experience in the league is invaluable. It's invaluable for not only just those guys at the quarterback position, but just for the guys on this football team in general. He's been there and done that and he knows what winning looks like. He knows what winning's supposed to be like. He knows the process that you have to go through and that's what he brings to not only that room but to this football team."
What did you learn about QB Tyrod Taylor during the season you spent together in Buffalo and after he was benched?
"That he's a professional through and through. He didn't like it. No one would have, but he handled it like a pro's supposed to handle it, like a guy with class would handle things. And then basically, the very next week he was back in the lineup and was able to help lead us to the playoffs because of that. That just goes to show the professionalism he has and the experience that he's been around, and it worked out for everybody involved."
What was it about the situation the team was in that made you want to bring in QB Tyrod Taylor?
"Well, we didn't have but one quarterback on the roster at that time signed, so we were going to go out and Nick (Caserio) and his staff went out, and we were going to sign some more guys to the roster that we needed to have. Tyrod was available. He had some other places to go. He chose here simply because he's familiar with Pep (Hamilton), he's familiar with me, he's familiar with what we're all about. It's fit in just perfectly or us."
How would you assess the way that the quarterbacks and receivers are gelling right now?
"It's coming around. That's why these practices have been important. You only get that by doing it. You only get the timing and whatnot with having the guys work with each other. Not only are they working it during the practice, they're working it after practice just because of getting the feel. This is all new to everybody. The offense is new, a bunch of players are new. Basically what's ended up happening right now is they're getting the extra work. They're getting the work that we need because they know that's the only way to get it and that's the only way to get the timing down. That's the only way to get where people know each other and get a good feel for each other. They've done a good job of doing that."
What are some schematic things you want to build on under Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly?
"Obviously, this was a football team last year offensively that threw the ball very well. Basically we wanted to be able to, this year, kind of balance that out a little bit. Basically, we've brought in some guys on this staff that have been a part of franchises that have had that balance. These coaches have been through everything that you could possibly go through in this league as far as what people do offensively. I think the ideals that they've brought in to help Tim and this offensive staff and getting new ideas have really gelled very well."
Can you talk about some of the things QB Tyrod Taylor has gone through in his career? Also, how did those things appeal to the team and how can those experiences help him lead the team?
"I can remember when he came out of Virginia Tech, one of the things about him at Virginia Tech was he was a flat-out leader. He played in some ball games – I think if I remember correctly, he played in the Orange Bowl I think his last year there. He's been in some very close ball games. He's been in ball games where he's had to, as the quarterback, put the team in position to win ball games. He's done those things. The thing that about him – you talk about all the crazy stuff that he's been through – is he has such great character. That's one of the things that when Nick (Caserio) started going out and bringing in free agents and with our draft, that's first and foremost what we want to build here. He's the embodiment of that. Basically, his teammates know that. His teammates know what he's been through. They know how he's come through it. To go through what he went through in Buffalo and to help lead a football team to the playoffs that hadn't been in 17 years speaks volumes about what he's all about."
The NFL has pushed teams and players to get vaccinated in the offseason. How do you think the process of educating the players on the vaccine has gone?
"It's been going well. Like you said, it's a personal choice that they've made and it's always going to be a personal choice, and we respect that personal choice. There is no mandate that you have to have it and so basically, we leave it up to them on their personal choice to be able to do it or not to do it and if they choose not to do it, so be it."
How do you feel like the defensive line is coming together?
"The experience that you just mentioned there with the guys that have come in from other places, mixed in with the guys that we have here – again, I'm going to go back to what we said we wanted to create when we first came here and with these free agents and with our draft picks, is competition. What happens is competition makes people better and good players want to be better. The quickest way and the best way to get that is with competition. We've created that here. Not only at that position, but at all positions. Because this time of year, it's not really about evaluation so much as it is about learning the system, learning about what our culture is, establishing what our culture is. You know, quite frankly, we don't have what we call starters. Everybody works with everybody here. Everybody works with every group, and that's how you create that. There's no feeling that this is his job or that's his job. The feeling is it's everybody's job. Whoever the best person is for that particular position, that's going to be their job. In the fall when we start training camp, that'll all come together."
Is there one position group that is ahead of another at this point in this offseason?
"I think they're all progressing at this time the way we want them to progress. That's why I move around. That's why I go. I also go around to learn a little bit more about – I've been on one side the whole time, now I kind of get to see exactly. Now, I know exactly why they're doing what they're doing on defense. As offensive coaches, a lot of time we always thought we had all the answers. Basically, you realize when you go to the defensive side of the ball, the answer we thought it was, was really wrong. Now that I've been on the other side over there, I get it now. I would've been a better offensive coach had I known exactly what was going on that other side right now."
It didn't look like TE Brevin Jordan was in uniform today. Does he have an injury right now?
"He's fine. Again, things happen. Things happen with guys and basically, sometimes they're here, sometimes they're not here for various reasons. Again, it is voluntary. Basically, what we do is we coach the guys that are out there. When they're not here, we just make sure that everything is all right. When it is, we just go on and coach the guys that are there."
How are Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith and Linebackers Coach Miles Smith similar and how are they different?
"First of all, the only thing that's similar about them is that they have the same last name. Lovie is Lovie and Miles is Miles. I wouldn't even know if I didn't already know the situation that they are related. They're different types of coaches. They're different people. Miles has his way of doing things. Lovie has his way and obviously, Lovie's been doing it for a long time. Miles is establishing his own way and it's not Lovie's way. It's his way. Basically, what I see out there, I just see him coaching the way that he feels like he needs to coach."
What went into the decision to sign RB Rex Burkhead and what can he add to the running back competition?
"That same competition is all over the field here. Now, what happened is Rex has been a good football player during his career. Basically, when there are good football players out there and you have a chance to be able to bring them and be a part of what you're doing and what you're trying to build, you do that. Obviously, Nick (Caserio) had some background with him. We all know what he's been in this league and we had an opportunity to get him to add to the mix and we added him to the mix. I'm happy to have him here with us and to get right in the mix of what we're doing with the competition at that position, also."
What have you seen from P Cameron Johnston since you signed him?
"He's a young punter that's been in the league a few years and that his upside is really, really good. He has a very strong leg. Frank (Ross) and Sean (Baker) studied him along with others throughout this process. When he was available and we were able to have a chance to talk to him and have a chance to add him to the mix, we feel like we've added a guy with a lot of upside that would fit right in well here. We're so happy to have him here because just like what you said, you see him out there, he can put that thing up there pretty good."
LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
Can you explain your fascination with Houston and why you chose the Texans?
"I love it out here, man. It's funny because I told my agent when I was a young player, I was like, 'if I ever get a chance to play for a Texas team, I'll take it.' I don't know. It's just the hospitality around here and just the love that I feel from the people, it's definitely very similar to back home. I'm loving it back here."
How do you view the opportunity to play in Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith's defense?
"It's a great honor for me. I'm already in love with his scheme, already in love with the way he coaches and his philosophy. Me personally, I think I fit perfectly into it. He likes speed guys. I can run and play the pass and do all that kind of stuff. I'm very excited for the future."
Can you describe Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith's coaching style and how it compares to Linebackers Coach Miles Smith? Do you see some of Lovie in Miles?
"I mean, it's hard not to see Lovie in Miles. I think they're a little different. They definitely have their own coaching styles. Coach Lovie is a legend. He's been doing this a long time, so he has his own way. You can see that Miles is definitely trying to do his own style, too. It works. We have a great camaraderie in our room right now. The linebackers are real tight already and I like where we're going."
What's been your perspective of QB Tyrod Taylor since you've been in the league and what's been your impression of him since you've been together here?
"It's actually funny because I think I played him maybe a couple times, but only in preseason. Even seeing what happened to him last year was heartbreaking around the league, just the situation he was kind of in. Coming here and meeting him, I'm already kind of joking around with him and he's a great guy. Seems like a great leader and I'm excited to share a locker room with him."
How do you see the special teams units and sub packages on defense shaping up and where do you feel like you fit in with those?
"We have some killers on special teams over here, for sure. Talking about sub package, even stuff on defense, we've got guys that can run and we've got guys that are hungry and that can play the ball. I'm definitely excited for that."
After playing in New England and Miami, how much do you feel like you understand the tenor and mindset they're trying to instill here?
"I get that question a lot, is it a Patriot connection. I truthfully think God has really had his hand and his grace over my entire life. I've been fortunate to play in this league for a while now. Honestly, that's just kind of how the league works. You see familiar faces. I have guys on this team that I played in Philly (Philadelphia) with. There's all kinds of different connections – Miami. I think that's just really how the league works. I'm very happy with how things are being ran here and the way things are going. I know that last year, whatever, there was a different perception of that, but coming in this year, I think I speak for a lot of guys saying that we love the culture and we love the leadership and the way things are being ran here."
What has it been like to be part of a linebacker corps that has eight new players and how long did it take you to adjust to all your new teammates?
"It's funny because a lot of these guys – all of us, we're all kind of vets already. We've been playing around the league for a while, so we've either played against each other or know each somewhere, some form. It didn't actually take too long. First couple weeks we were already going to barbeques at people's houses or doing all that kind of stuff. The competition's been great. We've got some ballers in that room for sure. That's just how the league works, man. It's no sweat off anyone's back."
As someone who has played on a Super Bowl team, at what point in the season do you get a sense for what a team is capable of? Are you anywhere near that point now with this team?
"I think a big thing for me is just team camaraderie. In my past, the most successful teams have been – I'll go take it back even to college. The teams that win, they really mesh with each other and they have that really tight camaraderie. They're hanging out with each other outside of the building and they hold each other – I hate bringing up the past but in Philly (Philadelphia) we had a big Bible study. We just kept each other accountable on different levels. I actually see that here. We're already talking with some guys and just holding each other accountable on so many different levels. I think that's truthfully what can bring a winning culture."
How much do you think you and the other linebackers will be a factor in playing tighter coverage?
"Having tighter coverage in the pass game? I mean, I think that's pretty self-explanatory. You have faster guys, you get tighter coverage. Our d-line is great right now. We brought in a bunch of DBs that look like they can strap up. I'm excited. That's the only phrase I can say right now is that I'm excited for all of it."
How are vaccinations among players going so far and how much do you feel like that helps things in terms of the relaxed protocols once you are vaccinated?
"I think obviously they're making the rules a lot easier for people who are vaccinated – rightfully so. It's a personal choice. There's so many different opinions on it and so many people who have families, people who don't have families, people who have sick family members. That's a loaded question because I think it's a very, very personal choice. If you want it, I think they're doing a great job of making it accessible to everyone who wants it. If you don't want it, just stay with the normal rules that we've already kind of established."
QB TYROD TAYLOR
Can you update us on why you came to the Texans? Also, what is it like working with Head Coach David Culley and Passing Game Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach Pep Hamilton again?
"I just thought it was the right fit for me. Like I said, familiar faces working with Coach Culley, being with Coach 'Camp' (James Campen) and as well as Pep. Just looking at the roster, of course there's talent across the board on both sides of the ball, but I've always have watched the Texans from afar. Of course, I've played against them, been on teams that have played against them the last couple of years and throughout my years in the league. Just thought it would be a good fit for me to come contribute to the team in any way."
What do you think of the opportunity you have here and the responsibility that goes with it?
"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to go out and lead. Of course, go make plays. Definitely, last year didn't go the way that I would want it to, but those are out of my control. It's an opportunity for me to be able to rebound and still play at a high level, which I know I can do. I'm excited to play with the talent that we have on the offensive side of the ball. Excited to line up and go against the defense in training camp and watch those guys fly around the ball during the season. More importantly, just excited to get out there and play. Like I said, last year was tough to process for a little bit, but it's the reality of our game. You have to take the punches and continue to keep rolling. I'm more grateful than ever and just excited for the opportunity."
When you signed with the Texans, did you think you were going to be the starting quarterback or that you were competing for the job?
"Honestly, I was not for sure about that. I just knew it was an opportunity for me to be able to showcase what I can do. Since I came into the league, I've always treated the job, and I think every quarterback should approach it this way, is just to prepare as the starter because at our position, you're one play away. You never know when that opportunity will come. Regardless of how the roster looks, you have to come in and prepare as the starter each and every day. That gives yourself the best chance to go out and be successful, but it also gives your team the best chance to be successful throughout the year."
What is unique about being the quarterback when so many players are new to the team and on one-year contracts?
"When I signed, we all came in, I want to say it was about 20 of us, we were at the hotel. Some guys I've known, some guys I've played with. I think the exciting thing about it is that guys want a fresh start. Guys want to be able to come in and compete. Guys want to be able to show what they can do, myself included. Ultimately, you want to win games. We know that of course the guys in the room that day, along with the remaining guys that are on the roster that have been here for previous years, we want to come together and do whatever it takes to help win games and have fun on the football field. I think that's the motivating factor each and every day. Of course, winning games, but knowing that guys come from different places and have an opportunity for a fresh start is exciting for us to come out and compete each and every day."
After what happened last season, do you have any extra motivation coming into this season?
"For sure. I definitely use it as a motivation. There's no bad feeling towards like whatever happened in the past. You learn from it, you move forward. I don't believe in holding on to things. I just, like I said, I'm more so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be able to lace the cleats up, put the helmet on and go out and make plays. It starts of course this time of year and then will carry on into the season. But yes, definitely more motivated than I've ever been. Like I said, just thankful for the opportunity"
How would you describe your football career? Also, what has kept you believing in yourself to become a starter again?
"To explain it, it's been a blessing. Like I said, I think that I've used everything that has happened to me throughout my college career, professional career, and I think that those experiences have prepared me for the opportunity that I have now, which allows me to go out each and every day at peace mentally, but to compete and have a smile on my face. You learn from those experiences, you move forward, you stay in a positive attitude. I think that's what's kept me with the right mindset to be able to persevere through the things that have happened to me throughout my career. It hasn't been all great, it hasn't been bad. I don't know how you would describe it. I know that when it comes to the NFL, I've been a winner in this league. Yes, I've had trials and tribulations, but it's part of the game. Like I said, I'm now just thankful for the opportunity to be able to lead the guys that we have in the locker room, to be able to work with Coach (Tim) Kelly, Coach (David) Culley and see Coach Lovie (Smith) do his thing on the defensive side as well, too."
Why did you decide not to file a grievance after the accident that happened last season? Also, was that an opportunity for you to have a larger conversation about player safety and make a point about what happened?
"Certain things I can't talk about. Let's just say that. Certain things I can't talk about. As far as the grievance, I didn't agree necessarily with the NFLPA and their – I guess, what their grievance actually stood for. That's why I didn't choose to file a grievance through the NFLPA. But yeah, certain things I just can't elaborate on. Maybe at some point I can elaborate on it."
How would you describe this offense and what will it look like?
"This offense allows for sure the quarterback, myself, to get the ball out of hands fast. We're the general. We run the show. Everything runs through us, but more importantly, we have playmakers at the receiver position, tight end position and as well at the running back position. It's my job to get the ball to those guys. I think we have a lot of great concepts that allow those guys to play free and to get open and to get the ball. The more efficiently we do that, the better off we are on offense and as far as putting up points."
What have you thought so far about WR Nico Collins and TE Brevin Jordan?
"When we drafted those guys, I had a chance to look at basically their scout tape and was very impressed. Couldn't wait to see Nico and Brevin in person. They've impressed me the way they're picking up the system. The way they're going out and making plays has definitely impressed me and I'm looking forward to working with those guys throughout the season and getting those guys plenty of balls to catch for sure."
Where do you feel like you have grown as a playmaker and what do you think are some of your strengths?
"Of course, being able to extend plays is definitely something that is a strength of mine. But I think just over the years I've learned just more patience in the pocket. Getting the ball out of my hands. Understanding the game as a whole from the quarterback position – protections, being able to protect yourself. Just using the offense to benefit yourself and the passing game. I think that's something that I've learned. I'm as healthy as I've ever been and excited to see what I can do in this offense. Looking forward to playing alongside a lot of the great talent that we have on the field."
Do you ever compare notes with Eagles QB Joe Flacco after following a similar career path since entering the league with the Ravens together?
"Me and Joe talk. It's never really been about to compare the things that we've endured, I guess. Of course, that was the first quarterback that I met in this league and I learned a lot from him throughout my early years, so when we talk, it's more so just catching up. I will have to reach out to him. I know he's in Philly now with my old coordinator from the last two years. I'll pick his brain in this time that we have off. But yeah, I guess that conversation should happen at some point and it will naturally, but the last couple times that I've seen Flacco it's just been about catching up and just seeing how he's been and how's the family doing."
How have you approached the pressure of following up the great season that QB Deshaun Watson put together last season?
"As far as the pressure thing, the pressure question, I don't think anyone will put more pressure on myself than me. I have high expectations for myself. I hold myself to a certain standard, so coming out each and every day and performing at a high level is where the standard is. Of course, yes, Deshaun played at a very high level and has played at a very high level throughout his career. I've been a fan of his and I know him personally, but the opportunity to be able to start here is something that I look forward to. Looking forward, like I said, just to going out and competing with the guys that we have in our locker room, the great talent. Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Jordan Akins, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram (II) – all guys that I've admired from afar. Being able to be in a locker room with those guys and to go to battle with those guys on Sundays is something that I'm looking forward to."
What are your impressions of QB Davis Mills?
"He's been doing a good job. Of course, all three quarterbacks, myself, Jeff Driskel and Davis, we're all learning the system for the first time. I think each and every day, guys are doing a good job of just keeping the communication open and pushing each other on the field."
What did you learn at your stops in Los Angeles and Cleveland about going about your business as a starter but also trying to be a resource to a younger quarterback?
"Of course, just be yourself. Go in each and every day to lead in your own way. I don't hide any information. If there's something that I can share with the younger guy, younger quarterback, younger whatever position it is, then I share it. I've been big on focusing on myself. You can't necessarily worry about – when I say focus on myself, you can't worry about outside factors. You have to, each and every day, bring your A game and your best self to the building and go out there and lead by example, and everything else will fall in line how it's supposed to."
At 31 years old and 10 years in the league, what does it mean to you to have this opportunity at this stage in your career?
"It means everything to me. That's why I'm excited the way that I am. They say the average NFL career is three years. If you probably go back and look at my draft card, no one probably would've predicted I would be one of the four quarterbacks that were drafted that year that are still in this league. Like I said, I'm excited about the opportunity. I know what I can do. I know what I've done in this league and I know the players respect it and know what I can do, but each and every day it's my job and it's my duty to be able to show them and to show the coaches and when we get a chance to start playing against other teams, to show them as well."