Did you feel extra pressure coming in as a rookie knowing that you were the Texans' first pick in the 2018 draft?
"Extra pressure? No. I was looking forward to the opportunity. Going all the way back to college, I was expecting to go first or second and ended up falling to the third, so I was coming in with the mentality already that I was coming to play. I'm sure that's what these cats are coming in to do, too. It doesn't matter what round you go in when you get here, it matters what you do when you get here. As long as the young guys come in and have the right mentality, figure out their role on the team and a way to contribute and have a positive attitude, they'll be just fine."
What advice do you have for the new rookies coming in?
"I would tell them to find somebody that they see that's doing it right. Find somebody that's been around the league, been successful, ask a ton of questions. Don't be too prideful to ask how they got there, how they've been playing for so long or anything like that. When you first get here, everything feels brand new, right? Everyone's like a lost puppy going around. As soon as you get back to realizing that football is football, that's when you're going to start being yourself again and you're going to come into your own and start making plays for us."
How do you view all the changes that have been made between the defensive scheme and personnel?
"We've had a helluva turnover this past year. There's only, I think, two or three guys left from when I first got here in 2018 on the starting 22. The turnover has been wild, but we've brought in a lot of talent. The coaching staff, I'm excited about the schemes. Coach Greg Jackson, he actually coached my brother (Eric Reid) back in San Francisco so I have a little bit of a prior relationship with him and I like him a lot. I'm just excited. It's an opportunity for us to turn the chapter and move forward."
How meaningful will it be to play next to DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. again and what are your thoughts on him?
"Lonnie is a safety. The evil twins that we're going to have going on in the backfield. It's good that I get to have a partner that I have a little bit of experience with now. We can bring that chemistry with us together. He's really grown into his own last season. Last year was his first year ever playing safety, so throughout the year you just saw him getting better. He's a physical guy. He's got the size, he's got the talent, he's got the ability. So, just that experience and going into year two now that has a year under the belt, a couple pelts on the wall, is going to be big for him and we're expecting him to come and play well."
When you reflect on last season and your career thus far, is there something specific you pinpointed that you need to work on this offseason?
"As far as specifics over the offseason, every year is figuring out something to get better. First year was just trying to absorb as much as I can, second year was just eliminating some of those rookie mistakes that just happen naturally with guys with their first time in the league. The biggest emphasis for me coming into this year has just been consistency. Consistently being there on the gap, consistently being there as far as coverage schemes, tackling – not just being a guy that does it maybe even 80% percent of the time. We're shooting for 100% of the time. Just being that anchor on the backside of the defense since I have one of the most experience on the defensive side of the ball, especially with this team. Just being that anchor on the back end – somebody that everyone can rely on that's going to encourage and lift up my teammates to be better versions of themselves too."
How do you think the change in defensive scheme will impact your job?
"Obviously there's a lot more opportunities to make plays. I feel like that's all around. The linebackers are definitely the emphasis. It's the same system that NaVorro Bowman and all these guys – the linebackers are going to make a lot of plays, but with the pressure that we're putting up front and with the linebackers creating pressure, it's going to create opportunities on the back end, too. If we can speed up the quarterback to get the ball out quickly, that's going to allow the backend DBs to be aggressive and make some plays on the ball, too. I like that the coverage is tighter than it was a year ago. Last year felt like it was almost a little too zoney, too many gaps, but the coverages this year are a lot more tight, which I'm excited about. It's the system that I'm used to."
What happened last year that went into you guys having such few takeaways, and what do you expect with Associate Head Coach / Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith here now?
"Last year just felt like, like I said, the defense, it just wasn't tight enough. Too many holes, too many pitch and catches. We tried to put some emphasis on the ball but we didn't do a good enough job last year, plain and simple. Like you said, we were one of the bottom tiers in the league. The first thing that Coach Smith came in and said, and he put up on the big presentation during an OTA meeting, was we're going to get the ball. That's been an emphasis in every meeting that they've talked about. We have target goals on how many times we even want to punch the ball. This is the first time I've seen it to where we're tracking just strips attempts, punch attempts – tracking all of that. Really trying to put an emphasis on guys to go after the ball and create turnovers because those are game-changing situations."
Where did you see DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. improve after he made the switch from corner to safety?
"I saw his confidence grow a lot. I felt like he was more comfortable in that role. He's a physical guy. Throughout the year he got more confident and his understanding of defense got better. In the safety position, you're like a captain on the backside of the defense. You're forced to make a lot of calls. Putting him in that situation to where he had to make the calls, it made him learn the defense much better. Because of that, he was able to play more quickly, he was able to play more aggressively, and I think it just helped him overall. That's why I'm excited for him going into year two because he gets to just build on all the progress that he made last year and build on that confidence and come in with wheels turning."
Can you give us your thoughts on the outcome of the Derek Chauvin case?
"I mean, yeah, I'm happy with the decision. I'm not going to get too excited because I feel like that's the way our justice system is supposed to work, you know what I mean? It would've been a travesty if it didn't end the way that it did. It would've been truly tragic if it didn't end that way but I'm not going to get overly excited about a sentence that was supposed to happen."
Have you been working out at the Texans' facility this offseason or doing stuff on your own?
"A little bit of both, a little bit of both. I like Coach Mike Eubanks a lot. He's really helped me with my strength. My legs are stronger than they've ever been. We did some Nordic board testing the other day and my numbers are through the roof. So as far as the weight room stuff, I really enjoy doing Mike's stuff. I've done some other training too in Arizona and California. I was working over at 'Unbreakable' with Jay Glazer in L.A. about a week ago. I started doing some UFC training, I really enjoy that a lot. It's a lot of fun. Then also with Ryan Clark and Will Sullivan, who are my two DB guys that I go to get technique stuff with. I have a guy for everything, a specific guy that I go to work on my craft and I just kind of bounce around between them through the offseason getting prepped for the year."
What are people saying to you about the Texans?
"A lot of guys are saying they don't really know what to expect. Obviously, a lot of questions about Deshaun (Watson) but that's his whole story. I don't know anything about that so I don't have any answers for it. There's just a lot of questions in the air because nobody really knows. This is the first time that we've had this many new guys. I think it's like half the roster is new guys on the team. It's a lot of questions and we're just going to have to see."
Have you talked to the team about a contract extension at all and where do you stand on that?
"No. The turnover has been so high, so many guys in and out, I'm sure the front office has their hands full. I love Houston. I made a home here. At the end of the day though, that's just going to be a decision that's going to have to come throughout the year. I'll be excited about it but that's just going to have to be a negotiation between myself, my agent and the front office. We'll see if we can come to a conclusion. But there's plenty of time for that. I'm not going to rush any decisions. The most important thing is preparing for the season and let my performance on the field speak for itself."
Have you had any conversations with the new cornerbacks, Desmond King II and Terrance Mitchell?
"I've had the opportunity to meet both of them in passing when they first came down to Houston, just to say what's up, get acquainted, trade contact information and ask them if they need anything in the city and to let me know. I'm excited about those guys. Desmond King was a former (Jim) Thorpe (Award) winner. I think he played at Iowa, right? I know all these guys are coming in with a lot of juice and energy. It will be exciting to see what they bring to the table."
I've seen conversations on Twitter about the dodgeball tournament you have going on tomorrow. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
"It's an incredible event that's being thrown over at Pitch 25 tomorrow 12-4 (p.m.). Me and Whitney (Mercilus) have been talking big trash to each other this whole time. I'm going to make him eat every word he said on Twitter. I want you guys to be there to see it. I want to invite everyone out there to come and watch, too, support us. $15 at the door or you can donate to any of the charities to come on in. We will have food, drinks, a family atmosphere. We've all drafted our own teams. I have a team, Whitney Mercilus has a team, Chester Pitts has a team and DJ Big Reece has a team. And we've all found our own rosters. I've put David Johnson and Jonathan Owens here as well as Olympic medalist Simone Biles on my team. She's my little X factor, Weapon X that's going to come in. Hopefully she's going to do cartwheels and backflips and stuff we've never seen before while she throws the ball. We're all doing it for the benefit of charity. I'm representing Kids Meals Houston, which is an organization in Houston dedicated to ending childhood hunger. I want to give a special shoutout to Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, which is my title sponsor. Big shoutout to them. I appreciate you guys for helping us create this event and get it going."
You touched on the draft a little bit. What are your memories from when you got drafted and the whole process you went through back then?
"It's wild. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I kind of halfway think I went through it twice – the first time when my brother was drafted in 2013 and we did the whole New York thing and we were in the Green Room. I remember what that was like whenever his name got called, he put the San Francisco hat on. All of us did. I remember mine, I was like OK, I did that, I'd rather do my experience at home. I had about a 100 people at the house. It's nerve-wracking. You truly have no idea who's going to call, who's going to pick you. I didn't have a clue that the Texans were going to end up drafting me. I'd never even had a conversation with the Houston Texans prior to when they called me to let me know that they were drafting me. It's really kind of like a drop in the hat where you don't know where you're going, but it's one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences of my life and I'm excited for those guys, those young prospects coming in. It'll be exciting and thrilling for you guys. Like I said earlier, it doesn't matter when you go, it doesn't matter when you go, it matters when you get there and your attitude and your work ethic and how you contribute whenever you get to put on your pads and do your thing. I was really excited about it. I'm happy to see and excited to see who we get next week."
What do you think about the NFLPA's pursuit of an all virtual offseason program?
"The virtual program, I think it's a good idea as far as guys wanting to travel less. I think it would be good to have an option. Some guys it could benefit them, especially young guys or guys who are injured if they're already in the building to just be here in person. Other guys might already have their system. If you've been in the league for eight, 10 years, you already know how to get yourself ready to play for the next season. So, I think having an option there would be great."
Have you guys appointed a new union rep to replace Brennan Scarlett?
"No, currently Brennan Scarlett is still representing us – at least he was on the text message chain that came out about a week ago."
With all the new players, how important would an offseason program be when you're installing a new system?
"Yeah, big time. We've got so many new people, front staff, a coaching staff, the players themselves, I think the d-line has like 16 guys. It would be huge to get us all in the same building at least at some point so we can talk ball in person, because I do think there is some value in doing it in person to where you can read each other's reactions, you can talk ball with each other, get to know the tendencies of your teammates, get to know your coaches' coaching style and be able to ask questions in person that you wouldn't get online. I did virtual school this past year, and I did OK, but it's not the same as when I was actually in class. I'm an in-class type of guy. I think it would be beneficial if we were able to get the guys in the building, talk a little ball, have a little chemistry."