Starting free safety Will Demps is growing into a comfort zone entering his second season in Houston, but it's not just because he's becoming more familiar with his teammates. Demps, who last season had 49 tackles in just eight starts after signing with the Texans in September, no longer has to wear a bulky protective brace over his right elbow.
Reconstructive surgery after the 2006 season forced him to play last year with a robotic-looking arm that at times limited his mobility. That won't be the case in 2008.
"It's a new elbow pretty much, I say, because I got it reconstructed," Demps said. "I don't have to play with that brace and it definitely feels a lot faster because you don't have to have the mechanics, the extra 10 pounds on your arm. So I'm definitely adjusting to that in camp, but it's a great adjustment (to make)."
Demps has noticed his play elevate this offseason, and the Texans' coaches are instilling a measure of trust in the seventh-year pro out of San Diego State. If linebacker DeMeco Ryans is on the sidelines during a game, Demps will wear the new defensive transmitter through which coaches can communicate plays to defenders.
In deference to Ryans and defensive end Mario Williams, Demps plans to make himself heard in a secondary whose emotional leader, cornerback Dunta Robinson, will start the season on the sidelines.
"Definitely," he said. "I'm always going to say something just to get us going. Definitely, DeMeco, Mario are the vocal leaders on the defense. But I'm not going to sit back and just see if it's going bad. I'm going to speak for myself and understand when things ain't going right.
"I've been on defenses (with the Ravens and N.Y. Giants) where we've been playing fast, getting to the ball, and I understand that we've got to have that tempo. That tempo's always got to be there… Just being that guy, the safety, that's what your job is mostly about is getting these guys going, understanding and getting guys lined up and just going and playing fast."