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Houston Texans

Winston setting the bar high


Right tackle Eric Winston was with Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels when he learned the Texans will play Minnesota on Monday Night Football in the preseason. Winston said the game will be a great test of the Texans' progress going into next season.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): The offseason is winding down, but what did you do with your break?

Eric Winston: I had a big offseason. I did a lot of relaxing. I got married and had a nice honeymoon. I took a vacation and had some off time and spent some time with my daughter. I just did all the things I can't do during the season – go to the sports events on the weekends, basketball games and whatnot. It's been a lot of fun. I've had a blast and I'm just ready to get back into it now.

Brooke Bentley: Did you pay attention to the Texans' offseason moves?

Eric Winston: Yeah, you are always hitting on the site, hitting on some of the NFL sites to see what everyone else is doing and staying into it. It's exciting. I think we picked up some good guys and the draft is coming up, and with the way we've drafted in the previous years, I think we'll have some more contributors this year.

Brooke Bentley: How much do you follow the draft and the pre-draft talk?

Eric Winston: I think the further you move away from college, you tend to not follow it as much. I try to stay into it, especially with the first-round guys. It's a lot of fun just knowing about the NFL. When you are in it and know the other guys and the guys on the other teams and what other teams need - you hear the analysts saying, "Oh, they are going to take him," and you know there is no way they are going to take that guy. It's fun. I enjoy it. Some guys get away from it, but I like to stay into it.

Brooke Bentley: Do you ever go through mock drafts?

Eric Winston: Oh, sure. I like to see them on ESPN, see who they have us picking. It's a lot of fun. Like I said, I'm a football guy. I like staying in the game. I like being around it. With the draft and the way the season and the schedule is set up, it never really goes away.

{QUOTE}Brooke Bentley: People have started mocking drafts right after the draft.

Eric Winston: Oh, yeah. I think you can probably look up "Class of 2010 Mock Draft", and they probably have those up already. The NFL has really created a beast in a sense that there probably are high school drafts coming out now, like Class of 2013. But it's a good thing because it keeps the awareness up in the game even in the offseason, and when the season rolls around, I think the fans are that much more excited.

Brooke Bentley: Now, you are getting ready for the offseason programs that start on April 6. What do you think of the new workout program that Ray Wright has put in?

Eric Winston: Ray is definitely putting his own stamp on things. The base is basically the same, but there are a lot of different things we're doing. There's a lot more movements. The runs are going to be different. I think it's going to be more fun. I think it's going to be competitive; guys are really going to push each other and get after each other. I'm excited to get started. You can tell he definitely has spent some time thinking, "Hey, how do I want to approach this, and what is best for the guys?" You can really tell he's doing that, and it's exciting. The coaches are really there working for us and helping us get better.

Brooke Bentley: Ray also is going to offer yoga classes after workouts. How popular will those be?

Eric Winston: They will be really popular with me. That's one thing I've been doing in the offseason to stay in shape. I stayed away from the weights a little bit and gave time for my muscles to rest. I needed to really stretch out. I've been doing yoga about two-to-three times a week throughout the offseason ever since the season ended and I'm excited about that because it's something you can't always schedule to fit with the workouts. Maybe now in the afternoon, we can get those going, and I think a lot of guys would like that.

Brooke Bentley: The offensive line started all 16 games together and is returning the same group of guys. Talk about that continuity and how that will help you next season.

Eric Winston: For the offensive line, that is critical. Our whole scheme is based on making calls and knowing what the guy next to you is going to do. When you have a chance to speak without really speaking, in a sense, it just makes things move that much sooner and it's going to open that many more holes and keep Matt (Schaub) protected and let Andre (Johnson) catch more balls. And that's exciting, because I know Mike Brisiel is going to be right next to me. I know Chris (Myers) is going to be making the calls. And I know Chester (Pitts) and Duane (Brown) are going to be over there doing their thing. Any time you can keep the same guys around you and have another year and just have that much more experience in the same offense, it's going to make a big difference.

Brooke Bentley: Duane Brown should take a huge step forward between his rookie season and second year. How much better do you think his pass protection will be?

Eric Winston: I think that's when you make your big step. If you are doing things right in the offseason and you are working hard, that's when you make a big step. It was a big step for me. You are that much more confident going into OTAs, going into two-a-days, going into the preseason in how to handle yourself and how to go about everything. With that confidence, you are able to work on things. You're not so worried on winning a spot. And that might sound bad, but in a way, if you know a spot is yours, you know you can work on those little things. You are not afraid of getting beat and trying to do something that you might have not done before because you were too worried about keeping your spot.

Those are the things that allow you to go out there – if you are a true veteran or a true player – you go out there and you do those little things and once you get good at those, you can incorporate those into part of your game. That's when you really become good is when you can do two, three, four different things to a defensive end and really keep them off balance.

Brooke Bentley: You were recognized as one of the top right tackles in the league last year. What do you need to do to make it to the Pro Bowl?

Eric Winston: We probably need to go to the playoffs, to be perfectly honest with you. The offensive line is one of those positions where it's hard to keep stats on anything, and there are no official stats kept, anyway. It's a thing where if your team does good, your offensive line usually goes (to the Pro Bowl). And it should be like that. I think if we get to the playoffs and I've done a good enough job where some accolades come my way, I think that will naturally happen. But I think that's up to me. I don't think I've played good enough where (I can say), "Oh, they are shunning me," because I'm not good enough. I've got to play better. I've got to be better in the run game. I've got to be a better leader, be a better pass blocker, and I think that will naturally come.

It's just one of those things where I'm going into my fourth year, and if you can get your foot in the door and leave it open, then usually you can go a lot more times. It almost seems like going the first time is the hardest. Somehow, I have to sneak there and maybe have Coach (Gary Kubiak) play me at left tackle. If I can just get my foot in the door and play some of those big games and play well in the big games, that's a key, too. You know, it never hurts when John Madden comes out and says your name and shows everyone what kind of hole you opened up. All of those things have to fall into place during a season. You have to play well, you do your thing. And whether you do well or not, you try to help your team win, and that's what it's all about.

Brooke Bentley: The Texans' first big game is in the preseason. You play a Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings. Talk about the drama of playing Sage Rosenfels?

Eric Winston: I was out with Sage the other night when the preseason schedule had just come out. I slapped him and said, "We're going to see you at the third game." And he just started laughing. That's great; it's something that adds to the preseason. The third game is a big game. There is no doubt about it. People who follow football closely know that third game is an indicator of how your season will go and how good you'll be. I think it's going to be great for the whole team.

Minnesota has a great defensive line. Duane is going to be tested over there again with (Jared) Allen. He's going to get another shot. I think we are going to get a shot in the middle with the (Kevin and Pat) Williams guys. On my side, you have Ray Edwards, who had a great year. Their linebackers, everything about their defense is great. Adrian Peterson is going to be great for our run defense, which will have to step up and make a statement for three or four quarters or however long they are played. I think it's the perfect team to play against in the preseason because it's going to test so many facets of our game and our team's game. And we have to rise for the occasion and prepare for that, and I think that will help us prepare for Week 1 and get the start we need.

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