Transcripts: Whitney Mercilus Press Conference (8-4-2020)

What did you make of the final letter sent to the players and teams last night regarding COVID-19 protocols for the 2020 season set by the NFL and the NFL Players Association?

"First of all, it's a unique time, so it's nothing that anybody could have foreseen or anything like that. Nobody has a crystal ball, so everybody's doing the best that they can in order to keep everybody safe. New protocols going in place around the league and all of that. The NFLPA and the NFL came up with an agreement in order to try to keep everybody safe. Now, for the players who are high risk, they have the option to opt-out and all that. That's very, very important because COVID is not a joke. I've actually heard experiences of people having it and having a tough time with it, and some people who have been asymptomatic. So, the effect of the disease ranges between person to person. I think it's a great job as far as what they've done in order to give players an option to opt-out and not to be selfish, whether for themselves or for their families as well."

What do you think about the safety measures for COVID-19 put in place by the Texans within the building? Also, what are your thoughts on Defensive Coordinator / Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver?

"First of all, as far as the safety that has been put in place, every day we get tested. Within 24 hours or so we'll know if somebody actually does have COVID or not. Everything has gone into place as far as sanitary conditions and stuff like that, flow of traffic throughout the stadium, hand sanitization stations, also wearing masks everywhere that we go. They've done a great job as far as implementing safety measures for the spread of COVID and keeping us in small groups. Weaver – I couldn't be more happy to have Weaver as our DC and all of that. He's done a great job. He's taken everybody's talents into account as far as putting it in place for this defense and bringing up some really cool, interesting concepts as well, some new formations and stuff like that for us to go out there and go have fun."

Can you give an example of something in your routine that you have had to change during this training camp?

"Usually I'm an early bird, so I always come in early. I get stretched out, do all of that. We're coming in different waves, broken up by different colored teams and stuff like that. It's been kind of an adjustment to be able to do that. I can't just get up and just go. Now I get up and kind of wait around and do meetings and then come in. It's been an adjustment period as far as that goes. Also, just certain select times in order to get into the training room to work on my body or get into the cold tubs and stuff like that. It's been an adjustment that way."

How do you feel about being the guinea pig of playing in the first game of the season? Also, is there any advantage to it?

"Being a guinea pig, I mean, somebody was going to do it. As far as how hard the league was pushing to start on time as well and rushing to put in these implementations into place and all that. I don't know. By the time we get to the first game, I don't know. We'll see. As we hear around the league, some people were getting COVID and being put on the COVID-IR list or whatnot. Everything is up in the air. Ain't no advantage. As soon as you get tested on Friday, you get the results back in about 24 hours or whatnot, you'll know if somebody has COVID pretty much the night before. By that time, I mean, you'll have players that are already in contact with that person who has COVID. So, like, what happens then? Like 10? The whole team? Really, I don't know as far as that goes and I don't know what the guidelines for that goes as far as will they shut down that entire team? Will they shut down the game before then or are we still going to go play? That's a good question."

Was it a tough decision to decide whether to play or to opt-out?

"That's a good question. It's tough because I like to be around family. My sister just had a baby girl, so I like to be around my niece a lot, so it's tough. I don't want to be selfish as far as that goes. Just talking to my fam about it – and I don't want to catch it myself – we all agreed upon I'm going to go in, I'm going to do what I have to do. I'll probably be keeping socially distanced away from them for quite a while, which I know a lot of guys around the league are doing, away from their wives, their kids and all that. Just to make sure not to contract it and give it to them. It's tough. It was a tough decision, so we'll see how everything goes."

How much do you enjoy mentoring the younger players?

"I love it. Going into my ninth year, I've seen a lot of football, played a lot of football. Just seeing the young guys within me just like it was my rookie year just yesterday. Coming in fresh and not knowing exactly the expectations. Now, this is a different type of expectation really with everything going on, so just trying to do the best we can as far as when we get a chance to see them on the field and just trying to guide them as best we can during this time."

What are some of the things that you did throughout the quarantine?

"Doing a little cooking channel and whatnot, doing that. That was cool. I like to cook, so I got to share my talents and all of that. Also, doing the best I can to be working out, reading also and learning some new interesting skillsets, also. Learning how to actually invest within a market, reading investment books and stuff like that. Reading up on wine books, which I'm an avid wine lover, as well too. So just really bettering myself in those different aspects and areas."

How did your offseason training routine go?

"Well, I was disappointed in the offseason a little bit because I wanted to go to Arizona, which I go there every year, out to EXOS. They had to shut down, they opened back up and then they shut down again. We were shut down here, so travelling was not even an option. I was looking for a trainer to be able to come out and train and all that, but I couldn't really fly anybody in or anything like that. Actually, by the grace of God, I actually had somebody, Billy, who used to work here who lived in my neighborhood so I started training with him at the beginning of it, three days a week and then as things got closer, four days a week. So, it was good."

What are the lessons younger pass rushers learn that allow them to have a breakout season?

"Just understanding your body, understanding your skillset, understand what moves work for you and have a number of moves. You have an initial move and then you have a counter off that initial move. Just to be able to play chess with the offensive lineman as well to change up your alignment, whether you're closer to the tackle, further from the tackle. Just those little things. Just keep it real simple. Keep it real simple for you and just go out there, and if you mess up, you mess up ,and just keep going. Just don't repeat the same mistake. That's all I teach team."

How has it been learning under Outside Linebackers Coach Chris Rumph and has it been difficult for him to not be able to watch you all on the field?

"It's a learning curve for him as well. Especially in the offseason, during OTAs he would be able to get hands on with us. understand our skillset and all that. But it's more kind of learning on the fly right now, so it's definitely challenging. But as soon as he's gotten us out there, he's watched our film and everything, so he kind of knows how we move and how we operate. He's pretty adjustable in that way."

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