After the scrimmage, the team had a conversation on the field about social justice. What were some of those conversations like and what are some of the social justice goals the team has?
"Great question. We're still working through a lot of stuff. I know you respect that. As we continue to work on it, we probably don't want to air it out as we continue to work and decide, 'hey, what exactly do we want to do?' It's kind of why we hadn't put anything out just yet because we want to make sure it's direct, it's intentional and that it can actually bring about real change. So, we haven't put anything out there yet. When we met after the scrimmage, it was a raw conversation, it was passionate and it was real. Guys just wanted to make sure, like, 'hey, is there something we can do as a team? Is there a way that can we use our voice and our platform to try to create real change here in Houston? Is there a way we can lend our platform and our voices to try to help some grassroots organizations either in Houston or nationally? Is there something that's attainable? Is there a law that we can try to change that's attainable?' That's kind of where it was at and I think we got everybody on the same page and everybody's supporting one another. So, it's a great thing, especially with what's going on in this country. I think to your second question about exactly what is my goals or what are our goals as a team – it's just like trying to figure out, is there some type of legislation that we can change, a type of law? You look at the George Floyd bill that was either proposed on the state level in Texas or the George Floyd bill that was passed on the federal level in Congress by Congresswoman (Sheila) Jackson Lee. Those are some things that we can pass that can create real change because that's the type of accountability we're looking for to try to change the laws of qualified immunity."
What did you think of the NBA players sitting out playoffs game? Also, could you see the NFL players doing that?
"What they did was powerful. Before I even start, I have to give a lot of credit to the WNBA players. Those women have been doing an amazing job. They've been doing it for a long time. All the messages and all the protests that they've done, all the different t-shirts that they've done, the initiatives that they're doing, it can't go unnoticed. So, I just want to give a huge shout out to all the women in the WNBA. What the players did, the Milwaukee Bucks, sitting out or boycotting that playoff game, that was a huge statement because it's real. It's big stakes. They worked hard to get to that point and they're in the playoffs and they said, 'you know what? No. What's going on in this country is more important and we don't feel like we should be playing right now.' We'll all be fooled if you don't think the rest of the NFL players or the rest of the sports world or the rest of the people in our country weren't already thinking that. But to finally see it come into action and see players with the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA to actually take a step away from the game and say something else is more important, I applaud them. I respect it. It's definitely something that myself, our teammates, the rest of the players in the league are definitely thinking about and we've been thinking about it. But it's real now, now that we see what's been done in the NBA."
Is there a chance the team may not play against the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener?
"As of right now, we're all in a situation where we're like, 'hey, how can we use our voice and our platform to have the greatest impact?' Is that approaching the team owners, the team presidents saying, 'hey, you have great contacts when it comes to Congress and when it comes to the state legislatures and governors.' Those who have the power and ability to change these laws that need to be changed in order for us to have real change when it comes to not police reform, but trying to make sure that we don't have instances where Jacob Blake is getting shot seven times in the back and there's no type of justice for it. Where there's George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. These are the people that have the ability to affect change, so if there's a way that we can use our platform that first Thursday night game, it's going to be huge. If we can work with the Chiefs and say, 'hey, can the McNair family and the Hunt family help us try to reach those who have the power to make changes and to pass the laws?' Then maybe we do that. But to say that the players aren't thinking about, 'hey, is the best thing to do to play or not play?' Those are definitely discussions that are happening."
What have you thought about CB John Reid and S A.J. Moore Jr. in training camp so far?
"Man, first off, young John Reid, his energy, his ability to learn and execute. After, he'll come to the sideline and ask us questions. He'll get the game plan from D-Lynn (D'Anton Lynn) and he's getting thrown in all type of situations and he's just going out, playing full speed and competing every single day. I love it. As a young DB coming in and trying to learn NFL football, I see him making great progress every single day. Then we get to A.J. Moore. That is a dude where his energy, his smile every single day – that's like the heartbeat of this team. He's a guy that's making huge plays every single day. I joke with him. I say, 'man, you are jumping off the tape.' You saw it in our scrimmage. He's ending the scrimmage with an interception and he's doing that consistently every single day. The sky's the limit for that kid. I'm proud of him. I see why so many of the teammates respect him. When I first got here, I heard his name a lot, but once I saw his speed, once I saw how he practiced every single day, how he carried himself off the field – I'm like, OK, this is why.' I can honestly see him probably wearing a C on his chest this year. That's the type of guy A.J. Moore is. He's well-respected in this locker room. He's having a hell of a camp, making plays every single day. He'll make some plays for the Texans this year."
When the NBA players put out a specific plan about what they wanted to see changed, did that help your team formulate what you might want to do as well? Also, do you worry about a fatigue when it comes to people hearing about the struggles for social justice?
"All right, I'll go with the first one because let's give myself a chance to actually breathe with that second one for a quick second. It's definitely great to see the plan that they have in place. I think the Ravens released a statement too saying some of the things that they want to focus on. Any time you can be intentional and you can be very specific about what your plans are, anybody who is opposed or might not truly understand why you are fighting for social justice, why you're saying black lives matter, why you're taking a knee, why you're taking a stance against racism and inequalities – it takes away their power. It takes away their argument against you because you're like 'no, this is what I'm trying to change and this is why.' To see the NBA and their plan of action, it definitely gives us a chance to say, 'OK. Hey, yes they stepped away from a playoff game, which was huge.' It spoke volumes. We have time. We have the luxury of a little bit of time, a couple of weeks. Even though we might be thinking those same things, do we play? Do we not play? Because these things matter to us as well. Do we also have time to put some other things in place where hey, we can probably fight for those same things, too. If we get that, if we see the McNair family or the Hunt family before this Thursday night game work with us to try to get some things changed when it comes to legislation, because that's where real change happens, then maybe it's, 'hey, we don't have to take that same route of leaving and not playing in the game, not playing a playoff game, not playing that first Thursday night game.' Maybe it's like, we took the same plan that y'all had and we're just going to use that – instead of trying to create our own thing – use that and build on it and try to get real change here. I think definitely it's great to see what others are doing. You don't have to try to recreate something. You can just build off of it and take that same blueprint, and I think that's something we're looking at. Now to that second part about people getting tired of hearing the struggles we go through as African Americans, people of color, it's been over 400 years of what's been done in this country. Yes, has there been progress? Absolutely. But are where we want to be or where we need to be? No. The more we continue to speak out, the more we continue to try to hold people accountable, the more we continue to say, 'hey, no, this is wrong and this is what needs to be changed.' If there are people that are fighting against us for that, then they're showing their true colors. I would pray for endurance for anybody. I needed it myself. Going back to 2016, when I chose to take a knee, yes, I got tired. I got tired a little bit of man, I'm fighting, but it's something – are we really getting change? Am I really making a difference? Am I putting me and myself, my family in jeopardy? My daughter's future in jeopardy? My son's future in jeopardy? My wife's future in jeopardy as I continue to take a knee and are we really making progress? I look at Kenny (Stills), Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick, so many others that did the same thing. I pray for endurance for everyone that, hey, yes, it's tough. You're putting yourself out there. You're not going to see change overnight, but you're fighting the good fight, keep going and if you get tired, hopefully there's a next group or somebody else that can keep it going and maybe they give you a little energy boost to keep going as well."
You are the 2020 Ira D. Hall Award winner, given to you by Stanford University for your social justice efforts. Being with the Houston Texans and a proud Houstonian, can yourself see using your platform to join with players from the Rockets and the Astros to push this initiative forward?
"Oh, absolutely, and I think that would be powerful. The more we come together, the more we be specific about exactly what we're trying to fight for and like you said, we use our star power to come together to try to get change here in Houston, Texas and then go federally. That's how you make real change because – unfortunately, what we've seen is the more star power or celebrities lend their voices, lend their platforms to these issues, the more things kind of get done faster. It kind of accelerates the process and I think we're starting to understand that and everybody's starting to understand that. I definitely see that's probably going to be what happens this year. It's probably going to be what happens, like I said, with those George Floyd legislation bills that are being proposed. I think you're going to see us probably come together to fight specifically for those things and that might be just that little bit of push, that little bit of edge that our congress representatives need to get these things passed."
What do you think about the special teams unit now and what do you think you all should be able to accomplish in regular season?
"Man, I am going to remember the coaching points Bill O'Brien gave me of like no one should be making predictions and all that type of stuff. But I'll say this, this is by far the most talented special teams unit I've ever been a part of. I've been a part of some units that have done great things in the NFL, been number one in a couple units, but not as great in some other ones. When I look at this unit I just think about the guys I'm going to be lining up next to and what they've already accomplished, and most of them are super young. I'm thinking about Keion Crossen. I'm thinking about A.J. Moore (Jr.), a Dylan Cole, Buddy Howell. I'm thinking about what Bryan Anger, what our kicker (Ka'imi Fairbairn) has done. Jon Weeks is 11 years in. I'm looking at P.K. (Peter Kalambayi), (Brennan) Scarlett. It's just guys across the board who have made plays day in and day out, have been a part of a great special teams unit that was last year, and you start bringing in new pieces like myself and you add in T.A. (Tyrell Adams). I don't want to make predictions like Bill O'Brien said, but I definitely have high expectations for this unit. I want us to perform at a very high level and I know we've got a lot of guys that take pride in trying to be the best. Not just going out there playing at a high level, but trying to be the best. The best in our division. The best in the league. The best unit every single time we take the field against any other team. The best unit for that night. So, I mean, that's the expectation. That's who we are, and I love it. I'm finally at a point again in my career where I feel like I have to go earn my stripes again and go prove myself because these dudes perform at such a high level. We were ranked super high last year and I'm stepping into that, instead of going to a special teams unit where I got to try to build that culture, bring that winning mentality to a special teams unit. It's like OK I'm stepping into something that's already number one across the board. It's fun. We're all like competing against each other. It's like a sibling rivalry. We're all trying to make the tackle. We all try to make the play. It's a great feeling being on the special team unit."