HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What do you think of the state of your running game right now?
“I think it’s good. I think there’s always things we can improve, but we ran for 180 last game and ran it pretty good against Detroit, so I think it’s been good. But every week’s different. This is a very, very stout defense. They’ve got big guys inside, good guys on the edge and fast, athletic guys on the inside at linebacker, so it’s going to be a different challenge.”
How has QB Brock Osweiler helped you in the running game?
“Good. I mean, he’s done a good job. We make a lot of decisions at the line of scrimmage in the running game and in the passing game. He’s done a nice job of doing that in the running game.”
Could you give us an update on RB Jonathan Grimes? Is it still the illness that’s keeping him out?
“Yeah, yeah. It’s something that he’s dealing with right now, but I expect him back. But not for this game.”
People talk a lot about players making a big jump between their first and second seasons. Is ILB Benardrick McKinney a great example of that jump?
“Yeah. I mean, he made a jump toward the end, halfway through last season. I thought he was playing really well last year. He’s playing at a very high level right now. He got a game ball for the game on Sunday against Jacksonville. He’s tackling well, he has a very good understanding of our defense, communicating well with his teammates. So, yeah, he’s playing really well.”
How imperative is it for you guys to get WR DeAndre Hopkins more involved in the offense than you have?
“We’re always trying to get him involved. We don’t go into any games where we’re saying we’re not going to get this guy involved. I can guarantee you that. I think he’s a very important part of our offense. He’s made some big catches for us on third down, he’s had some big catches throughout the year. Not enough. We’ve got to continue to get him the ball – try to get him the ball – and keep working on that part of our game.”
What have you seen from G Xavier Su’a-Filo and how he’s developed since he got here?
“Yeah, he’s gotten much better. He’s one of the more improved guys on our team. Very good run blocker, comes off the ball and strikes you. Then in the passing game, he’s really worked hard on his pass protection and it’s gotten better. Sometimes he’s singled up against some really good defensive tackles and he’s held his own, and that’s not easy. That’s not easy. That’s the shortest distance to the quarterback and that’s not easy, so I think he’s really a much-improved player, and he’s healthy. I think that’s helped him and he’s doing a good job.”
Could you analyze Raiders DE Khalil Mack and how they use him and why he’s so effective?
“There’s a lot of different ways that they use him. He basically plays on the edge of the front. Very explosive, very instinctive, a guy that’s got explosion off the ball, a guy that uses his hands very well, has got very quick hands, a fast-twitch guy so he can spin move, he can up-and-under you, and then he can speed-to-power you too with those three different types of moves. So, excellent player. Maybe their sack totals aren’t way up there at No. 1 in the league but they have a ton – I think they have basically 30 quarterback pressures in the exposures that I’ve watched. They get after the quarterback so it’s a big challenge for us.”
How have you seen CB Kareem Jackson progress since coming back three weeks ago and how important is he to the defense?
“Yeah, it’s important for us to have him. He does a lot of different things for us on defense. He plays a key role for us because of his versatility. Last week, having to go back outside because A.J. (Bouye) was down, that was big. I mean, obviously with the pick-six and some of the plays he made. He’s an aggressive player, good tackler. He has to play inside, play the nickel sometimes for us. In the past, we’ve used him at safety. So, he’s one of the more versatile guys that we have, so it’s very important for him to be in there for us.”
What are your thoughts on the cardiovascular effects of Mexico City’s altitude and how it could impact the kicking game?
“Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know much about that. I really don’t. I’m not too concerned about that. We’ve getting on a plane, we fly down there Sunday. You know what I mean? Play the game Monday. I mean, so the air’s a little lighter? I got it, no problem. Maybe the ball travels a little, I don’t know. We’re just going to have to figure that out in warm-ups and go play as hard as we can play for three and a half hours, or whatever it takes to try to win the game.”
Are guys asking about the altitude?
“No. And don’t ask them. I’m kidding. No, we talked to them about logistically traveling. You know, make sure you have your passport ready, you’re going to get screened this way, customs and all that. After that, it’s about getting ready for the football game.”
Can you talk about Oakland’s running game?
“First of all, they have a very big, physical offensive line. So, they run the ball downhill with (Latavius) Murray very, very well. He’s six-foot-two, 230-pounds and if you let him get going it’s like a train going down the tracks and it’s tough to stop him. So, it’s a downhill running game and then they put (Jalen) Richard in there and (DeAndre) Washington and those guys are quick and fast, sub-type of running backs that do a lot of good things for them. Richard is a really good punt returner and kick returner, too. It’s a very difficult backfield to deal with and our guys are going to have to be up to that challenge.”
What did you think of Raiders QB Derek Carr during the 2014 draft process and how close was he to becoming a Texan?
“He’s having a heck of a year. He’s only thrown three interceptions, I think he’s completing almost 70 percent of his balls, doing a good job throwing the ball down the field, and he can run. So, yeah, he’s doing a lot. He’s got a good grasp of their offense. We evaluated all the quarterbacks coming out in that draft and we felt like he was definitely one of the better quarterbacks. I think when it comes to the draft, Rick (Smith) and I, we just try to make the best decision for the team, and that’s what we did. We chose who chose and we’re happy with who we chose. Derek’s having a good year.”
What does DE Jadeveon Clowney do to be disruptive? Are teams able to give him more attention with DE J.J. Watt out than they would have been able to?
“I think it’s hard to give him all that attention because you also have (Whitney) Mercilus, you have (Benardrick) McKinney. You’ve got some guys playing a high level. (D.J.) Reader played good in the game last week. Then, obviously, we add Vince (Wilfork) back into the mix this week. I think it’s hard to do that but I do see some tendency toward trying to control him with different blocking schemes. That’s why it’s going to be important for us – which says a lot about J.D. that he’s at the stage now, how far he’s come, where we’re going to have to move him around and do things with him to help free him up. That’s going to be an important part of the game plans – all of them – going forward.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
Did you coach Raiders RB Latavius Murray?
“Yeah. Long time ago.”
Did you know then that Raiders RB Latavius Murray would turn out to be as good as he is now?
“I mean, he was a good player back then in college. He’s definitely improved his game. He’s good with the ball. He protects it. He gets north and south, so I’m not surprised by the production.”
What can you do that you haven’t already tried to do to get WR DeAndre Hopkins the ball more?
“I mean there’s definitely the targets and there’s definitely some things toward the end of the game that we worked with. We’ve worked him inside. We’ve worked him outside. Left. Right. Different identities. He’s accepted really the challenge so to say from us. It’s continuing to work. Work him into normal downs, third down and obviously, you know, when we needed to have a play, he made a play there at the end.”
Three of the last four games, WR DeAndre Hopkins has averaged fewer than 10 yards a catch. How important is it over the last seven games to get the ball down the field?
“He’s a guy that really controls the perimeter of the defense from our perspective. The other guys, the tight ends have been playing good football for us too. Sometimes it’s difficult the way that the defense presents their contour or their alignment, but you know when we have the opportunities certainly he’s on the radar.”
Can you talk about how G Xavier Su’a-Filo has played and if he has played better since T Duane Brown came back?
“It helps on the edge to have, you know, a guy that basically when you’re working double teams has worked a million of them with Duane and the movement too. Individually from Xavier, each game you can see some progress. There’s some individual blocks that he’s making, back side, front side that are allowing us to run. Anytime you run the ball for some of the game that we’ve had, you know, it’s really a credit to all five of those guys up there.”
Do you guys ever have to worry about WR DeAndre Hopkins keeping his confidence up?
Can you talk about facing the Raiders defense and the challenges that they pose?
“Well, it all starts up front. I mean, it’s a big challenge inside. There’s definitely some size that we’re going to have to handle as far as the inside running game and then obviously the two players on the edge. They mix really a few players out there. There’s a lot of production on the edge with (Bruce) Irvin and (Khalil) Mack. Linebackers can run. They make the tackles when they’re there. Safeties are good hitters, so in the running game it’s a challenge and then on the perimeter, they have some size there to really combat our size. We have a challenge. Really in the running game, in the passing game and on all downs. We’re looking forward to it.”
WR DeAndre Hopkin’s production is down from years past. Is he any different this year?
“No. He comes to work every day. Really love his attitude. Love seeing him every day. He’s the kind of receiver you want. I mean not only on the field, but I’m saying in the meeting rooms.”
You joined the Texans staff in February of 2014 just ahead of the NFL Draft when the team needed a quarterback. Were you involved in the quarterback discussion and what did you think of Raiders QB Derek Carr?
“Yeah, I mean I think we’ve already discussed that, you know, a couple years ago now. Look, our team is different right now then it was back then. Certainly Derek is a good player. He’s doing a good job with that offense.”
What is it about Raiders DE Khalil Mack that makes him special?
“Well he’s explosive coming off the line of scrimmage. He does a good job of really identifying your formations and definitely in the passing situations. Coming off the line of scrimmage, he gets a good beat on the cadence. He’s able to fight double teams it seems like every play and really produce. In the passing game, he’s getting sacks but he’s also getting quarterback hits. There’s a lot of quarterback hits that show up on tape that may not necessarily be a flashy sack, but he’s definitely making an impact on the quarterback’s decision-making.”
Do they move Raiders DE Khalil Mack around?
“They move him outside. He plays on the right side. He plays on the left side. He plays inside. He’s definitely someone that we got to have on our radar every snap.”
CB A.J. BOUYE
How are you feeling?
“I feel really good, you know, felt good to get everything going. The trainers took care of everything. When it comes to being hurt, it’s more of a mental battle and that’s one thing I’m not going to let hold me back. Already had it set in my mind I was going to come practice and give it 100 percent. You’ll have some pain here and there or some discomfort, but it’s a long week until Monday, so I’m doing everything on and off the field to get back 100 percent.”
What impresses you about the Raiders offense?
“They’re good at each position. Offensive line, wide receiver, quarterback, running back, you know, they’re good all over the board. There’s no weakness in their team. Like I was saying, you just got to be on your p’s and q’s. You got to be at your best and that comes with just doing extra on the field and off the field and just in the film room and on your own so that’s one thing that, the approach that I have this week that I try to have every week is what I can do to get myself better.”
What do you expect to see in Mexico City in regards to the atmosphere?
“You try not to think about it. I like to watch soccer, so I’m wondering is it going to be like a soccer atmosphere where they have the horns playing and stuff like that. I looked at the field just to see what it’s like and everything. I’m already visualizing everything on what it’s going to be like. At the end of the day, you just got to expect the unexpected, you know, packed crowd. You don’t know what type of atmosphere you’re going to have or how loud it’s going to be so it’s exciting and you try not to think about it. At the same time, you just try to focus on the task at hand.”
When you watch Raiders QB Derek Carr on tape, what are some things that stand out to you?
“He’s a great quarterback. I remember playing him his rookie year and I already knew from his rookie year how good he was. You just see him, you know, MVP candidate and everybody has the right to say that about him because he’s just – he can run, he can throw, he makes the right reads, you know, he hasn’t thrown a lot of interceptions this year. He’s doing a good job taking care of that team and putting them in great position to win.”
What’s you mindset knowing that QB Derek Carr doesn’t make a lot of mistakes?
“Got to make him make mistakes. Just competing. Playing tight coverage in everything we do and just getting after it. That’s pretty much the main thing.”
How is your health?
“I’m good. I’m ready. I worked hard off the field. Even though I missed the game Sunday, I’m there. Already got in my mind I’m going.”
T DUANE BROWN
Do Raiders DE Khalil Mack and OLB Bruce Irvin move back and forth?
“I think they move around a little bit from what I’ve seen. Irvin plays on the left a little more but I’m preparing for both of them.”
What have you seen from G Xavier Su’a-Filo and how he has improved this year?
“I think he’s taken a big step. I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence. I think he’s a lot more physical this year. It’s been a beauty to watch and a beauty to be a part of playing next to him. Especially in the run game, he’s blowing guys off of the ball. Like I said, just playing with more confidence. It’s been great to see.”
What have you done to try to help him?
“Just communicate. I’ve played in the league a long time. I’ve seen a lot. I see the ability that he has. Just continuing to do what I can to help him with technique or things that I see out there on gameday. He does a great job of listening and getting feedback and transferring everything that he learns from the meeting rooms to things that I try to tell him and putting it out there on the game field.”
How confident are you in the running game right now?
“Extremely confident. We’ve been against some tough defenses and been able to put up some big performances in the run game. I think that’s crucial to us being successful going forward. I think that our running game is very instrumental to us being successful. We just have to keep doing it. Guys have been doing a great job up front, tight ends, receivers. Total offensive effort. Every back that we’ve had back there has been a great element for us.”
Is there a point in time or in a game where you think you turned the corner as a running team?
“I don’t know if it was a point in a game. I think we just strung along some pretty good games here over the last four weeks, five weeks or so. I think it’s just been a mentality for us, going out there and believing that we can get it done no matter what defense it is, 3-4, 4-3, believing that we’re going to go out there and be a pretty physical group. Just have to keep that going.”
The altitude in Mexico City is higher than Denver. Is there something you can do for that?
“I don’t really know how much you can do to plan for it. You know it’s there. You just have to go out there, try to get accustomed to it as much as possible and then just ignore it. I’m sure there will be some oxygen there and things like that. Other than that, you just have to go play your game.”
What do you think about playing there?
“Looking forward to it. It’ll be a different atmosphere. A lot of fans. A lot of fans that aren’t used to seeing a football game, so I’m sure the excitement level will be high. Big stadium, lot of fans. We have a large fan base, I’m sure, out there and people that are traveling. Even though it’s an away game for us, I’m sure we’ll get some love out there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Normally when you go play at altitude it’s in Denver, who plays there all the time. How does it factor in that neither team is used to playing at altitude in this case?
“It’s good. We’re on an equal playing field. No one’s more used to the altitude than the other team, so we’re all going out there with the same struggle, if there will be a struggle. We’re all going out there experiencing the same thing for the first time, so I think that will be good for all of us.”
WR DeANDRE HOPKINS
Are you looking forward to the trip to Mexico or is it just another road game?
“It’s just another road game for us. It’s a business trip as usual.”
Are you excited to build on the momentum you created last week?
“We are, we are. Getting our first road win. Hopefully we can make this two. Pretty sure it’ll be 50-50 amount of fans that will be Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans, so hopefully it won’t feel like a road game.”
What do you think about the challenges that their defense presents?
“A lot of challenges. Very good defense. They wouldn’t be 7-2 if they weren’t. We know there’s some things that we need to work on as an offense, so if we come out and worry about us and focus on us, hopefully we can get the job done.”
Do you feel like you’re still building and you’re on the right path, moving in the right direction as an offense?
“Yeah, as a team we’re all building, trying to get better. Our record is 6-3. We haven’t played our best football yet. In all aspects of this team, we’re building.”
How far away are you from playing your best football?
“I couldn’t tell you how far we are from playing our best football, but we’re 6-3 so it’s going to be scary when we do.”
What are teams doing to you this year that they didn’t do last year?
“Last year, teams were, halfway through the season, they were kind of playing me how they’re playing me now – safety over the top or double team – but the first half of the season last year, I know I had to prove myself. A lot of people didn’t know who I was coming in. As a No. 1 receiver, they didn’t know what to expect out of me, but the second half of the season they were playing me how they’re playing me now.”
How important is it to start getting you the ball down the field?
“It’s not important at all to get me the ball downfield as long as my team is winning. That’s all that matters.”
When they jam you at the line of scrimmage and there’s hand-to-hand combat going on, you welcome that, right?
“Yeah, I love it. I love it because I don’t see too many corners who are as long as me when I go up against them, and I know what I’m running before they know what I run, so that helps out a lot.”
Does it disrupt your timing?
“No, it doesn’t disrupt the timing at all. You have to have a clock in the back of your head when you think the ball is going to be there. That’s something that, being around a guy like Andre Johnson, that you learn early in the league.”
So you’re one step ahead?
“You just have to know how to go out there and still be successful, even with them trying to knock the timing off. But you have to have a clock in the back of your head.”
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
What are your overall thoughts on the trip and going to another country to play a football game?
“Looking forward to it. Definitely be a different experience from the fan standpoint, things like that. I know we have a big following, you know, us and the Oakland Raiders, so that’ll be a good part of it where people from a different country get the chance to see us up close and personal. They’ve been rooting for us miles away and obviously I’m sure we’ll have fans that’ll travel down there also.”
What do you think about the altitude and does it matter?
“I don’t really think so. You go there for a vacation or anything, you don’t really hear about all those things, but obviously we’re going to play a football game and everything tends to come up about the altitude and different things. But I think overall, it really doesn’t make a big difference. In Denver it was the same thing. People talked about it, but I didn’t feel anything.”
What impresses you about Raiders QB Derek Carr?
“I’ve watched him since he first came to this league and I think he’s grown every year in this league. He’s making all the throws, spreading the ball around to different guys. Got the command of the team. He’s a team leader. Doesn’t have any turnovers, you know, very minimal turnovers. I think any time you have a quarterback doing that, he’s going to be an elite guy.”
What do you think about playing in Mexico City?
“It’ll be a great experience. Anytime you have a chance to go in an environment like that, a cultural environment, obviously football is not their biggest sport over there, but just from a fan standpoint they’re always a big supporter. It’ll be a good deal for us.”
People talked about how the game on Monday might be like a soccer game. Do you think it will have a different feel than you’re used to?
“Yeah. Yeah. I think, from what I’ve heard, a lot of the fans cheer when we’re kicking the ball off or kicking field goals or punting because, you know, soccer is their big sport over there. It’ll definitely be a different experience, but I think everyone is looking forward to it and going down there trying to come out with a win.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
It’s a lot higher than Denver’s altitude in Mexico City. Are you all ready?
“Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t matter where we play at. We just have to line up, play ball and handle the environment. It’s like any time we go on the road. The environment’s going to be different, you just have to be able to handle it and go play ball.”
How’s your Spanish?
“Not good. Don’t even understand – well, I understand some words, but speaking it, can’t do it.”
What impresses you when you watch Raiders QB Derek Carr on tape?
“He’s definitely progressed in his career. It’s impressive how fast he gets the ball out. It’s a testament to his teammates and what pieces they have around him as well. The offensive line is doing pretty well for him, other guys are making plays, like Amari Cooper, so it’s just being able to handle their weapons and getting some pressure on Carr and making sure that he can’t deliver the ball on time, get him out of his rhythm, get him hopping around, things like that, and make sure we contain him, too, because he can hurt you with his feet.”
He’s only thrown three interceptions so far this year. How do you rattle him and get him to make some of those mistakes?
“Like I said, it’s pressuring him, getting in his face, getting your hands up, especially since he’s getting the ball out pretty quick with the quick release. Just making sure you knock those balls down.”
When you had a chance to go down to Mexico in the offseason what did you take away from that and what did you tell the guys who have never been there?
“It’s an awesome city. It was cool, too, because it was hot up here in Houston. So, just being able to visit a lot of the monuments and some of the historical sites, getting a chance to meet the people and just talk to them. It’s a beautiful country. Beautiful people as well.”
Raiders QB Derek Carr has said they have two No. 1s on the outside in WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree. Who do you think poses a bigger threat?
“Man, honestly, both guys can still hurt you on the outside. Those guys get paid. They’re on the other side of the ball so we have to be able to game plan them, see what they’re doing, react to it and try to limit them as much as possible.”
They haven’t given up very many sacks this season. What have you seen from how well they’ve protected?
“Like I said, their offensive line is doing a pretty great job of protecting him and allowing him to deliver the ball when he needs to. I think that’s something we have to change. We have to get some pressure in his face, get him off his mark.”
What do you remember about your trips to Mexico? How long were you there?
“Yeah, a few days. I want to say like two days. I loved it. The thing that I really remember the most about it was being able to just walk around the city near the cathedral and just walk around and everybody’s like, ‘Oh, what’s going on?’ with all these cameras and things like that. Just taking pictures as I’m walking back to the bus and as I’m doing an interview. Everybody was friendly. It was pretty cool.”
What do you think about how you were able to expand the brand down there?
“Yeah. Especially when I did the camps down there, I definitely made a few fans down there. It was very cool. They were very accepting of me. Can’t wait to go play in front of everybody this Monday.”
Were you sensitive to the elevation at all?
“I actually didn’t feel it when I was there. I wasn’t even really running when I went there, so we’ll see how it affects us come Monday. But it doesn’t matter. We’ll prepare for it, hydrate and things like that nutrition-wise. Just go out there and play ball.”
QB BROCK OSWEILER
To get where you guys want to go, is it important to get the ball to WR DeAndre Hopkins more, especially down the field?
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I mean, I think in every single game plan we try to get the ball to Hop. He’s our No. 1 wide receiver, and that’s what you do in the National Football League, you try to find ways to scheme plays to get the ball to your No. 1 wide receiver, as well as your other guys. Certainly, you know, we’ll need to get something started, but at the end of the day there’s a million different ways you can win football games in this league. I think we proved that on Sunday. We’ve proved that throughout the course of the year. I think we’ve won in a number of different ways. I’m not going to sit here and say we have to get this guy going or this guy needs more touches. As long as we’re winning football games and we’re protecting the football, I think this time of year, the most important key to winning football games is running the ball offensively, protecting the ball, and then, obviously, playing great defense and special teams.”
What are some things that stand out when you watch the Raiders defense on tape?
“Boy, there’s a lot of things that stand out on tape. Coach (Jack) Del Rio is a phenomenal football coach. Ken Norton, same thing. He really has that defense flying around right now. They’re big, physical guys. They also have fast guys, too. When you look at their defense, it’s one of the biggest interiors you’ll probably see in the National Football League this year. Then, around the perimeter, you have size, you have speed, you have athleticism. So, when you turn on the tape you see a defense that not only plays physical but they play sideline-to-sideline, they play extremely fast and they’re a very talented group.”
That being said, doesn’t that make the running game that much more important?
“I think so. A lot of things in this league stem off the run game. You need to be able to run the football so that you can stay balanced and so you can kind of keep defenses guessing what’s going to come next. You never want to become one-dimensional in this league. I think, just like any other game, the run game is just as important as the pass game. Certainly we know we have a great challenge going against the Oakland Raiders. I know they’ve proven week in and week out this season how good of a defensive unit they are. We know we have a great challenge ahead of us.”
Can you talk about G Xavier Su’a-Filo and what he’s meant, especially to the running game, since T Duane Brown has come back?
“Yeah, ‘X’ is a tremendous football player. Love him as a teammate. He’s a great person. The thing about ‘X’ is, and you guys don’t get to see it as often as I do, but he’s the same guy every single day. He comes to work with a great attitude, he has a great spirit about him, he’s a very smart guy, he’s a tough guy. He’s battling through injuries. He never complains about it, he just straps up his chin strap and goes to work. I can’t say enough great things about Xavier. I love that he’s on our side and I love that he’s our teammate. Great football player, smart guy, tough guy, and tremendous person.”
What do you think about playing in Mexico City?
“I’m very excited. A part of me doesn’t know what to expect. I’ve never experienced anything like this. Just to have the opportunity to play on Monday Night Football in a different country is something that doesn’t come around every single day. So, I can’t wait to get down there to Mexico City. I’m sure it’ll be a tremendous experience for both football teams and it should be a lot of fun.”
Have you ever been in Mexico?
“I have been to Mexico.”
Have you been to Mexico City?
“I have not been to Mexico City.”
Knowing that soccer is king down there, do you think they’ll get into American football?
“You know, I’m not really sure what to expect. At the end of the day, the National Football League has us going down there for a reason so I’m sure the people will show up, I’m sure they’ll be loud, I’m sure it’ll be a great environment for us, especially with it being Monday Night Football. I’m very excited to get this thing underway.”
Is it a statement type of game for you guys because of the stage and playoff implications?
“Of course. I think every single week is a statement game. When you look across the National Football League, every single week is different. You see one team maybe blow out somebody one week and then the next week they get blown out, or a win and then the next week they lose. So, I think every single week you need to go out there and prove yourself, you need to play well every single week. I would say every single week is a statement week.”
Last year against the Raiders, DE Khalil Mack sacked you five times. How important is it to keep an eye on him given what he’s doing coming off the edge?
“It’s very important. You know, any time you play against a player like Khalil Mack, you need to respect what he brings to the table and you need to have answers for what he brings to the table. We’re very fortunate to have a phenomenal offensive coaching staff here, led by Coach (George) Godsey and Coach (Bill) O’Brien. I’m sure they’ll have answers for him. But without a question, we are well aware of what Khalil Mack’s capable of doing – obviously I experienced it firsthand last year – and we will have answers for him.”
What is it that Raiders DE Khalil Mack brings to the table that makes him so special?
“Well, there’s a number of things. I think the first thing when you turn on the tape with Khalil that jumps out is just his motor. He never stops. He has a very high football motor, he plays extremely hard, he’s a very physical guy but yet he has a ton of speed as well. So, he is a very gifted, special, unique football player and you need to give him the respect that he deserves.”
You played against Raiders DE Khalil Mack and played with Broncos OLB Von Miller, and Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney was rated higher than both of them when he came out for the draft. What have you seen from him since you’ve been here?
“I think Clowney’s done a phenomenal job. Going back just real quick, thinking about all the different games over the course of the year, and even in practice, some of the things you guys aren’t able to see, he amazes me every single day. Clowney is a phenomenal football player, extremely talented, and similar to what I just said about Mack – he has a very high motor, a very unique body type, he’s physical, he’s strong, he’s fast. He’s able to do a lot of things that others can’t. But at the end of the day, you need to give Clowney credit for how hard he prepares, how hard he plays on Sundays. He’s a tremendous football players and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
G XAVIER SU’A-FILO
How fluent are you in Spanish?
“I would say I pass as fluent for sure. I’m constantly trying to review words, you know, obviously I was immersed in the language there. That was part of my mission was speaking the language and learning it and interacting amongst the Hispanic community. Since I don’t have that every day, I always try to practice when I can, review when I can, call people from my mission and just stuff like that.”
Are you going to help some of your teammates communicate when you’re in Mexico City for the game?
“Without a doubt. If I’m nearby and they want to get a translation from something then sure.”
Are you excited to bring the Texans brand to Mexico or do you have a lot of fans down there?
“We’re not sure really what to expect, but we’re excited that Mexico is hosting us and they’re excited about the game. So we’re very excited to go down there and play Oakland.”
At the time of the Draft, were you at all aware of the needs of the Texans and were you aware enough to be surprised that they didn’t take a guy like Raiders QB Derek Carr instead of you?
“No, man. I don’t. I was just hoping that I was going to get picked up, like a lot of other guys, and I was grateful when I was.”
In regards to speaking Spanish, will you do anything this week with your teammates?
“I’m not sure. Whatever they have lined up for me. If there’s anyone who wants to speak Spanish or learn some phrases then I’m more than willing to teach them.”
PRESIDENT JAMEY ROOTES
Can you explain why it’s a big deal for the team to go play in Mexico City?
“It’s a big deal because it’s the first time that Monday Night Football has ever been played outside of the United States. A great opportunity for us because of the dynamics of Houston. We have 700,000 Houstonians that were born in Mexico and 1.4 million that are of Mexican descent. You look across our region, what a great chance for us to engage with those fans and bring them closer to the Houston Texans. But beyond the game itself and the fan building component locally and the fan building component in Mexico, this game is a great platform for our city. One of our top trading partners is Mexico. So the opportunity to bring them closer, to have closer alignment then we’ve ever had before through this game is a great opportunity for us because we’ll be having a trade mission that we’re doing with the Greater Houston Partnership, the mayor of Houston, our convention of visitor’s bureau because it’s a great tourism opportunity for the city of Houston and our Super Bowl Host Committee. We’ve got a one million person street party, Super Bowl Live, that will be happening around the Super Bowl at Discovery Green over a 10 day period. We want to welcome all of Mexico to come and be part of it. The game is great. To be part of something as the first, the opportunity for us to build fans in Mexico and more importantly, really here in this region, but to do something great for our city. That’s really special.”
What’s the backstory on how this game developed and came together?
“There’s an ongoing dialogue related to it. We expressed our interest early on to be involved in a game in Mexico. Lots of things have to come together for that to be a reality. I actually engaged in a trade mission last Fall with the city of Houston and – shouldn’t have been amazed – but was absolutely amazed at the passion for the National Football League and for the Houston Texans that existed in the fans and the leadership of Mexico City. In fact, the mayor of Mexico City was adamant that a game needed to come back to Mexico City. He even sang a few bars of the Houston Oilers fight song. I assured him we have a team song too and sent it to him and continued that dialogue with the league. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself.”
How intricate and difficult is it to move a team and game to play in Mexico City?
“Anytime you have sufficient lead time, you can figure those things out. But yeah, it has involved, both from a football perspective and an organizational perspective, multiple trips down to make sure that we’re aware of our surroundings, the logistics, make some choices and selections of the things we’ll need to engage in to accommodate our staff and our team. It has been a priority. It has been an initiative for that. But when you have time to prepare for it – I mean, we’ve got an amazing staff here. They do great things. And given the lead time, I have no doubt we’ll be able to make it a big success for us and for our community.”
What sort of feedback have you received regarding the amount of Texans fans in Mexico?
“Well, in this building there’s a lot of excitement for it. For the game itself, certainly the opportunity to play the Oakland Raiders, a big test and big challenge for our football team but a great chance for our organization to take a step forward. Our fans, we have four or five thousand that have bought directly from us that will be going down. We’ve been providing them information as we go along to make sure that the experience they have is exceptional. There’s probably a multiplier on that so there’s going to be a big contingent of Houston Texans fans. We have a reputation already in our short 15 years of being a traveling team. As we go, you saw last week in Jacksonville, when our traveling Texans get engaged, they show up in full force. They are wearing their battle red. So if you’re going to Mexico City, wear your battle red and be loud and proud for your Houston Texans.”
How important are these types of games to help build the Texans brand when you’re still the NFL youngest franchise and competing in-state with the Cowboys?
“Everybody starts at different times. You have advantages and disadvantages. We like the way that our organization is put together and what we stand for. I think the response that we’ve gotten locally since the very beginning – we’ve sold out every game we’ve ever played, we’ve got a wait list that’s at 30,000 and grows every day, we’ve got very loyal supporters from a sponsor perspective, our local community has just really bought in. I think people get what we’re about and they like it. The more that the external community, whether that’s across our region with our massive radio and television network – now we have a radio network that’s in Mexico. We have this game on Monday Night Football in Mexico City. I just think it’s a matter of exposure. The more people learn about what this organization is made of, the more they gravitate towards us. It’s just going to be a matter of time. We’ll continue to build on this fan base and, as we see locally, that will be replicated regionally, nationally and eventually internationally.”
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN’S CONFERENCE CALL WITH OAKLAND MEDIA (Transcribed by Raiders PR)
Q: What has impressed you about the Raiders’ 7-2 start?
Coach O’Brien: “Well, where do you want me to start? You know what I mean? They’re playing very well in all three phases. I’ll start on special teams, obviously they’re specialists are excellent players. [Sebastian] Janikowski and [Marquette] King, Jon Condo was at Maryland when I was coaching there. I mean, that’s how long he’s been doing it for this league, in this league long snapping. Got good returners, [Jalen] Richard’s done a nice job of returning. They’re fast and athletic on special teams. Defensively, they’re big inside. They’ve got [Khalil] Mack and [Bruce] Irvin, excellent pass rushers, fast athletic linebackers, physical strong secondary and offensively, Derek Carr is playing at a high level. You got Amari Cooper, [Michael] Crabtree, those guys are playing at a high level. And [Latavius] Murray, Murray’s a 230-pound back that’s running the ball downhill. So, they’re playing at a high level, it’s a big challenge for us. We think we’re playing pretty well, so hopefully it’ll be a good game.”
Q: How impressive has the Raiders’ offensive line played?
Coach O’Brien: “Yeah, very impressive. I know, obviously, we have a lot of respect for [Raiders Head Coach] Jack [Del Rio] and the way he coaches and then offensively with [Raiders offensive coordinator] Bill Musgrave and [Raiders offensive line coach] Mike Tice. Those guys are doing a good job. They’re very difficult to deal with, lot of different personnel groups, but when it comes to bread and butter, it looks like it’s 320 pounds across the board basically, and big, physical guys that can move. It’s going to be a big challenge to stand up to that offensive line.”
Q: What have you seen from Khalil Mack in the last few games with his increase in sacks?
Coach O’Brien: “I mean, I would say that guy has been playing pretty well all year. I mean, I’ve watched all the games – he looks pretty effective to me. Look, it’s not always the sack stats that you look at, it’s how much they’re affecting the quarterback. I think, recently, they’ve had probably close to 30 quarterback pressures. Forget about the sacks, when you’re pressuring the quarterback like that, it’s kind of like us, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of pressuring the quarterback and it affects the quarterback. So, that’s what Khalil does and the same thing with Irvin. Irvin’s a good player too. I think that they’re a big challenge. They’re fast, they’re athletic, they’re tough, they play the run well. Obviously, one of the better teams we’ve played this year.”
Q: Are you able to treat this game like any other road game with it actually being closer than flying to Oakland?
Coach O’Brien: “That’s right. Yeah, I would say that’s right. I think the biggest difference is, obviously, it’s international. So, we have to have our passports ready and things like that. But, I would say overall, it’s a very normal trip for us and I know it’s a great opportunity for our organization, for Oakland and the NFL to play in Mexico City. But, at the same time, I think it’s more about obviously, the game for us and making sure that we have a good week of preparation and are ready to go on Monday Night.”
Q: Do you have to do anything special to prepare for the altitude?
Coach O’Brien: “We’re talking to our players about a few things, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think we’re not there long enough for it to have a huge effect, so I think we’re just, like I said, looking forward to getting there and playing the game and were trying to do some things as it relates to where we’re playing. But overall, just getting ready for the Raiders.”
P SHANE LECHLER’S CONFERENCE CALL WITH OAKLAND MEDIA (Transcribed by Raiders PR)
Q: Do you still get excited to play against your old team?
Lechler: “Yeah, I have a lot of respect for those guys and really good friendships still on that team. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done it. I’ve played in Oakland. I’ve played the Raiders here in Houston. Now, it’s funny, but it’ll be the third different city to play this game in. I’m looking forward to it. They’re playing really good right now, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Q: Was there anything different with the altitude from when you played with the Raiders in Mexico City in 2001?
Lechler: “That was 17 years ago, man. I was trying to make the team at the time. I really don’t remember too much about it. You know, there’s some strange things that I remember, that [Rich] Gannon refused to play in that game. I don’t really remember kicking that much in the stadium. I know I was trying to make the team, competing against Leo [Araguz] at the time. That’s really about all that I remember.”
Q: Do you remember anything about the environment or what the game was like? Any memories?
Lechler: “No. Like you said, it was an exhibition game against the Cowboys. It was a big deal. A couple of nights before the game we went to dinner with them. You know it was my first year in the league, so I don’t really recall a whole lot about it. To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember a lot about it.”
Q: What differences can you feel when you punt at higher altitudes?
Lechler: “In Denver, I can see anywhere from six to seven yards difference in ball carry, just over my past experience there. I know the altitude here in Mexico City is going to be little higher, but you still have to hit a good ball. It’s not like every single time it’s going to be a huge difference. You still have to hit a solid ball and just go in there and not over kick.”
Q: What do you think about how Marquette King has done over the past few years?
Lechler: “Yeah, he’s doing a good job. I have a lot of respect for Marquette. He’s handling it really well. He’s doing a good job. He’s been steady for them.”
Q: Have you seen any of his post-punt dances?
Lechler: “Unfortunately, I have.”