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Houston Texans

VanderBlog: Special Teams Salute + Training Camp Downtime 


Four practices into the 22nd Texans Training Camp and I'm so fired up I might melt.

Or is that the heat?

Anyway, the energy and positive vibes are palpable. And we've been treated to what feels like more 11 on 11 work than I've seen at camp in a long time.

I asked Safety Eric Murray about it. "You only get better at football by playing football. So, I think that's a good thing."

In addition to being a DB, Murray is a special teams standout. After getting reps in the secondary, he participates in Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross's world. "He's a very intense guy," said Murray of his coach.

I said good morning to Coach Ross before Sunday's practice and he sounded like he'd been gargling gravel. I asked Murray if Ross had lost his voice. "Every day!" he said. He's already in midseason form.

Ross not only coaches one of the top Special Teams units in the NFL, he also cuts hair. And for a cause.

I love the effect good special teams has on games, but watching them practice isn't exactly my fave. This is a good time to visit the restroom or check the phone.

Unless it's watching Ka'imi Fairbairn drilling field goals or seeing Cameron Johnston hit a few bombs. Or watching Tank Dell catch and run on a punt return….maybe it's not so bad after all.

In any case, Murray has a strong opinion on the subject: "Special teams - That's where all the real football players are at so that's why we do it."

Grayland Arnold has made some big plays in the third phase and loves to be a part of it. He told Texans Radio why - "I love to play fast with my hair on fire and have fun with my teammates"

Speaking of Texans Radio…

Editor's note: Vandermeer, must you always bring up radio make things all about you?


Anyway, speaking of radio – We had ND Kalu on the show and he talked about being the new color commentator on Texans Preseason TV broadcasts. He also talked about getting emotional when his former teammate DeMeco Ryans was hired as coach. That was on Friday's show and it's right here.

Ryans was on NFL Network Sunday for Back Together Weekend, as the network buzzes around to different training camps to get the 411 from each franchise.

It's notable that this is the first training camp since 1999 without Tom Brady. It was always a strange factoid to me that, at two decades of existence there was a still a player in the league who had been around longer than the Texans, the NFL's youngest franchise.

Saturday was a rare day off. I decided to do something productive and sit in a pool. I would have gone to the movies but that would necessitate movement. Last week I saw Mission Impossible 12, or whatever it is. It's always a thrilling amusement park ride. I would have seen Oppenheimer or Barbie but it was tougher to get into those theaters than a Drake private party.

People always ask what the players do during down time. I'm here to say there's not much of it. I see the schedule everyday and it's full of practice, meeting, eating – lather, rinse, repeat.

Murray did tell us he takes magnesium baths. I once took an Epsom salt bath but he swears this is different. Cory Littleton told me he took an IV after day three. He also downed a pepper shot or 'hot shot' as some people call it.

No, he's not saying he's drinking 1800. The shot reduces cramping because of some kind of receptor-blocking properties. Don't ask me to explain. One of the sports science guys described it to me and lost me at 'receptor.' I was absent that day in science class.

There was one year here, over a decade ago, when the team put out lots of beds in a big open area where players could nap. We had a big media session in there prior to day 1 and then co-host Patti Smith and I toyed with shooting a segment called "Texans Pillow Talk." But we thought we better leave that one alone.

J.J. Watt brought back napping in the facility as it was revealed during Hard Knocks that he had a bed tucked away in the equipment area. I have full documentation to prove this.

Here's another historical glimpse, albeit fictional, of Training Camp downtime. Johnathan Joseph was in for a surprise when he found out who his roommate would be.

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