The biggest question of the Texans' offseason is what will happen with the man who is, literally and figuratively, one of their biggest players.
Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft and a two-time Pro Bowler, will become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. He is the Texans' all-time leader in sacks with 53 and an imposing physical specimen of an outside linebacker at 6-6, 285 pounds, but he spent the final 11 games of last season on injured reserve while the Texans finished second in the NFL in defense under Wade Phillips.
On Thursday, Williams discussed how he feels about his impending free agency.
"It's football and it's a business," he said. "To me, I've really been focused on getting back to my full strength and healthy, so I haven't really paid too much attention on it because it's something that just hasn't come. Coach (Gary) Kubiak, he told me from day one after the season ended, it's a process and just let it take its place and don't worry about it, so that's all I've been doing is just really focusing on getting healthy."
Williams, 27, said he is 100 percent after a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2011 season in Week 5. He has been working out daily at Reliant Stadium. He said he has not paid attention to the hoopla surrounding his situation, instead passing the time by playing Xbox at his home in West Houston ("Battlefield 3" and "Gears of War" are his favorites, in case you were wondering).
"I'm doing great," Williams said. "I had a very speedy recovery. It was unfortunate that I couldn't have been a part of the team on the field, but I'm doing great and everything's looking good right now."
But the speculation about Williams' future has been building as free agency approaches, and the questions are many.
For instance, is it Williams' first choice to be in Houston?
"Well, you know, I mean, I love it here," he said. "We've got everything we need here. The team is obviously right where it needs to be at, and we were a couple plays away from getting to the Super Bowl, I feel like. So I definitely – the pieces fit, but once again, you know, it's part of the business, so whatever happens, happens."
Would Williams consider signing with the Texans before free agency begins, or does he want to test the open market?
"It's just part of the process, like I said," he said. "It's just one of those things that I have to go through. The draft is coming up, and I think the Combine and all that stuff, so I know they've got a lot of things on their plate. So to me, I'm just waiting. It's just part of being in this position and I'm just waiting for it. I don't know what's going to happen, personally."
Is Williams intent on trying to become the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history?
"I'm not worried about that," Williams said. "Money is money at the end of the day, and it's really not that big of a deal for me. Whatever best fits for myself and the team, whichever it may be, then so be it. I'm not focused on telling my agent (Ben Dogra), 'Hey, do this or do that because I want to be the highest paid player, bla bla.' You know, I was the first pick, so I've had everything I've ever really wanted already, so my biggest thing is just being in a good position, being in a good fit, being in a good scheme or system and just being able to continue my career and progress.
"My goal isn't to go and say, 'I want to be this and that' or say, 'I want this and that.' It's just whatever's out of respect for the position and whatever you bring to the team I feel like is adequate."
Last offseason, much was made about Williams' transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Many pundits wrote him off as being too big for the position.
Williams wound up with five sacks in five games – actually, four games and less than one full quarter – before tearing his pec against the Oakland Raiders. It was a small sample size, but Williams is excited about the progress he made under Phillips.
"It was great," he said. "I crawled before I could walk in the preseason. I just took it real slow, and then whenever the live bullets started shooting, it was all in. Everything worked out. We were doing great, and I was adjusting to the position and then all of a sudden, this happened with my pec, but I feel great. 3-4, 4-3, it really doesn't matter.
"Coach Phillips is phenomenal, and just the way that he motivates us and the way that he puts us in positions to make plays, there's ample opportunity for everything."
Having been with the Texans for six seasons, Williams has developed a close relationship with the fans in Houston, and with Kubiak, who also arrived in 2006. Williams was Kubiak's first draft pick, a controversial No. 1 overall selection over Reggie Bush and Vince Young.
"Obviously, everything from the beginning was a little rough, for myself and Coach," Williams said. "We were both new here and with the draft and all the other stuff that was going on, but the city has completely turned around. I love it here. The fans here, every day – especially now – I go out, people are talking to me, wanting autographs or whatever and asking about the contract and I tell 'em I don't know anything and they think I'm lying, but I really don't know anything. But the fanbase has been phenomenal here over my six years.
"And Coach Kubiak, he's just at another level, man. I can honestly say I love him to death. He's a great guy and I wish nothing but the best for him, and I'm sure every player does as well."
Whether that sentimentality plays a role in Williams' decision-making this offseason remains to be seen. The Richlands, N.C., native said it would mean "a lot" if he were able to work things out with the Texans and continue his career in Houston, which he now considers to be his home.
In the meantime, Williams will continue to do what he has been doing. Asked if this is a nervous time or exciting time for him, he replied, laughing as he did so, "It's an Xbox time."
"That's the way I deal with it," he said. "I feel like it's a process and it's part of football and it's part of being in my position. Honestly, I come (to Reliant Stadium), train, work out and play Xbox. That's about it. I think more people know more about this than I do. I don't see the TV, I don't read the paper.
"At this point, I'm really not even worried about it. Like I said, whatever's going to happen is going to happen, so I just take it one day at a time and don't really worry about it."