How proud are you of what Houston is doing?
“I’m so, so proud of what our Host Committee has done. It’s just spectacular. (Houston Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman) Ric Campo and thousands of volunteers have just, I think, done a monumental job of putting Houston in such a favorable light. I’m delighted.”
What does it mean to you that you helped put this city in this position?
“Well, it’s a way to have a little payback, say thank you for what the city’s done for us. We appreciate it. We know the city. We know what a great city it is. It’s an opportunity to let other people know that, too.”
Can you bring us up to date on training camp in West Virginia?
“We’re just working on it at this point. There’s nothing firmed up. One of the issues we’ve debated from our first day here is what the effect of the heat and humidity is in training camp and whether that puts our team at a disadvantage by staying here. So, we’ve had those debates on and off just about every year, so we’re looking at it again this year and giving it consideration. We want to do what’s best for the team. I know that’s what our fans want, too.”
Why that location?
“Well, it’s cooler. It’s cooler, so that’s what we would be looking for. We’re not going to go down to the beach.”
Are there any other locations under consideration?
“No, that’s the only one. We’ve looked around, and they have good facilities there, so that’s another consideration. We don’t want to go somewhere where we have inadequate facilities.”
With what transpired this league, would the league or owners be willing to help Raiders Owner Mark Davis finish the Las Vegas deal or is he kind of on his own now?
“I think we need to learn more about it. I mean, right now all we know is what’s been announced. These things are all very complicated. They involve a lot of money, a lot of people. We’ll be looking at that with Mark and helping any way we can.”
How do you feel about the quarterback position right now and what you guys will do going into this year?
“We need better performance out of that position. We thought that we had it and it didn’t quite measure up. The challenge is trying to figure out what we can do with what we’ve got. There are not many things available out there. We’ll probably be looking at a young quarterback as we go into the draft. There, again, is question as to what’s available.”
Are you confident that QB Brock Osweiler can turn things around and be the guy you thought he could be?
“I would hope so, but the challenge is up to him to meet it. He needs to step up. I would certainly think that’s what he would do.”
DE J.J. Watt told us today he’s been cleared to do all the things he needs to do and expects to be ready for OTAs. What do you think about the update on him?
“We just need to keep a short leash on him so he doesn’t go out there and start doing too much too soon. He’s such a wonderful competitor. But he’s healthy and we’re happy for him. Really looking forward to having him back. I think we’ll want him to make sure that he takes it easy at first and sort of builds up and not get too enthusiastic.”
Is there some acknowledgment from the team and DE J.J. Watt and the team that part of the reason he got hurt was because he came back too soon?
“I think he said that. He’s a competitor and he’s tough. He wants to be out there. He felt like he could go out there and do it, and he kept pushing and pushing and pushing. That’s what he wanted to do. Unfortunately it didn’t work out the way he would like it or we would like it, but that’s that competitive nature that he has. We’re proud of him. Glad he’s back.”
Do you foresee opening up the quarterback competition between QB Brock Osweiler and QB Tom Savage?
“That will be up to Coach (Bill O’Brien) as to how he approaches it. Just about every position, we look for competition. That’s what makes us better, and certainly we would like to have more competition there. Tom played well for us. The challenge there is for him to remain healthy. Sometimes you’ve seen quarterbacks the first couple years suffer injuries and then go for an extended period of time where they’re very healthy. I would hope that would be the case with Tom because he does have the ability and he’s got the right mindset. We’d love to see him perform well.”
Have you talked to Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith and Head Coach Bill O’Brien about their relationship?
“Well, we talk about that all the time. But, you know, there’s nothing wrong with people having disagreements. If everybody agreed on everything, somebody is not necessary. So, yes, those things happen. There’s things I disagree with them on, but that doesn’t mean I go in and fire everybody the next day. So, you sit down and talk about those things and try to reason them out.”
Can your share your thoughts on the promotions of Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel?
“Well, Romeo did a wonderful job this year. If anyone had asked us at the beginning of the year if J.J. (Watt) is not there, what kind of defense do you think you would have? I would have said I think we’re going to have a good defense, but it’s not going to be great. And, you know, we wound up with the No. 1 defense and I think it was just unbelievable with the way that they were able to develop some of the young players, especially up the middle there. We really strengthened ourselves there. We progressed during the season and stopped the opponent’s run game. Early on, we were having a little difficulty with it, but I mean that’s just good coaching. That’s what you want. This league you have to work with young players. You can’t keep a bunch of valuable veterans around because they’re too expensive. So, you have to bring these young guys along. So, that’s what they’ve done and Vrabel did with the linebackers. He’s got (Benardrick) McKinney playing at a high level. And he’s got other young guys coming along. Both of them did a great job. They deserve to be promoted and it is a promotion for both of them.”
Did you talk to Head Coach Bill O’Brien about his decision to not bring in an offensive coordinator and how comfortable are you with that decision?
“Well, you know, he’s been calling the plays. Most of the time, anyway. He passed it off for a short period of time. But, now, you know, he’ll have Romeo (Crennel) up in the booth for the games instead of being on the sideline. So, he can help him on offense as well as defense. So, he’ll have another pair of eyes up there helping him out and I think that will work well. Romeo has done it all before. He can be helpful there.”
What do you think about everybody jumping on DE Jadeveon Clowney’s bandwagon now?
“Well, we knew he was a great player and there was never any question about that. He hadn’t been healthy the first two years. He had a number of injuries. He had to learn how to be a professional in the NFL and he’s done that and he matured and he is much more comfortable with the whole process of, you know, what you have to go through physically and mentally. And, you know, he’s a great player and he’s going to be even better and he and J.J. (Watt) will complement each other and you have Whitney (Mercilus) in there and, you know, he’ playing great and (Benardrick) McKinney. You just keep trying to add them. As many as you can.”
How do you feel about Head Coach Bill O’Brien being the long-term head coach for the Houston Texans?
“Well, you know, he’s got two years left. I’m concerned about the year coming up and the first game. And, we’ll worry about the time beyond that based upon what happens at that point in time. He’s done a good job and I think he has grown in the position. I think he’ll keep getting better.”
How happy are you that former President George H.W. Bush is here to take part in the coin toss?
“I think it’s wonderful. I really think that it helped to get the president out of the hospital – to have the goal of being able to go out on the field. He loves football. He loves the Texans. And we love him and he and Barbara will be there. We’ll get the game kicked off, in-and-out stadium fashion and just delighted.”
Do you still have the goal of having WR DeAndre Hopkins sign a long-term deal with the Texans and can you also address CB A.J. Bouye?
“Yeah. Those are good young players. Those are the kind of players that we want to keep around here. So, yeah, certainly we’re going to work on that and see if we can get both of them taken care of. It’s certainly our intention.”
DE J.J. WATT
Tell us about your back rehab.
“I feel great. It’s obviously – last year was a difficult year. There’s no doubt about it. Going through everything that we went through, but the one nice thing about the situation is that I’ve had the proper amount of time to take the recovery as methodical as it needs to be taken and do things the right way with the proper patience, but also the proper aggressiveness at times. I think that this recovery process has been very strong because I’ve known the whole time that I have the proper amount of time to do it right.”
What is your schedule as far as what’s next for you?
“So, we’re now past the whole rehab process. Past the whole, you know, we’ve transitioned from like a rehab and rebuild into just being an athlete again to now back into regular training and really training as an elite athlete again and getting, taking this now to the next level. So, from this point forward my offseason is really a regular offseason now. So, it’s full training. It’s doing everything. There’s a lot of added core work to my workouts just to make sure that I really solidify my core and make sure that that’s fully locked in to protect my back again in the future, but other than that I’m fully training like I’ve regularly been training in the offseason’s. Obviously, you know, very smart way. I’ve changed my workouts. I’ve tweaked my workouts to make sure that I do everything possible to be smart about the way I do things moving forward.”
Are you the J.J. Watt we’ve seen for years at this point?
“I think at this point of the offseason it’s very premature to say something like that. I think that I feel very good about where we are in the process right now and I feel very good knowing that I have many months ahead until next season to be able to continue to grow and build. But, with where we are right now, I feel very, very good.”
Is patience the biggest thing you learned about yourself throughout this process?
“Yeah. You know, going through last year was a very – you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about what you need to do. So, you know, three surgeries and by the third one I finally kind of realized like OK, do what you need to do to make sure that you’re getting back 100% healthy. Don’t try to impress anyone even if it’s yourself. Don’t try and impress yourself how fast you can get back. Don’t try and impress yourself with how much weight you can lift so early. Just do everything the right way. Do everything that they say and I have to say that it’s paid off big time and I have good people around me who make sure that I do things the right way now and tell me, you know, don’t push here or you can push here. I think we have really good people around who have allowed me to be aggressive when it calls for being aggressive and I think the ay that my body feels right now, I can definitely tell that we did it the right way.”
Do you think in the past you did work too hard or try to hard when it came to injury?
“I think there’s an element of being very prideful and wanting to get back as quickly as I possibly could and wanting to, you know, do things that had never been done before, you know, rehab quicker than anybody’s rehab. Come back stronger than ever. There’s definitely an element of pride there where you have to take some time and realize like OK this is a serious thing. You need to do it the right way and you need to be smart about it. You can work hard, but you need to work smart and that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned and that’s probably the biggest thing that I’m doing now is I’m working very hard, but I’m also working very smart.”
Can you put into words how hard it was for you this past year?
“I mean I wish I could sit here and say, you know, I was positive the whole time and I had this great mentality, you know, every single day I woke up and was like it’s going to be OK. But, there were some very rough days. I mean there’s a lot of days you go through. You go through three major surgeries in one year, you’re going to have some very down days. And, there were. There were some days where it’s just very, very tough, but that’s what you learn a lot about yourself. That’s when you learn what’s important to you - who’s important to you. You learn, really, what you want to do – what is important to you. I think over the last five years, you know, it’s been such a crazy ride. I’ve had so much fun and gotten to do so many things. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything. You know, fame is cool. You get to do all these different things, but at the end of the day what’s really important. What makes you happy and for me competing. Being around my teammates. Playing the game of football. Training. Just, it’s so cliché, but just being able to be like a kid out there. Just being able to go on that field and play a kid’s game on the biggest stages is a blast for me and so I think that’s probably one of the biggest thing I learned about myself is I’m going to do a lot of fun stuff. I’m still going to have commercials and things like that and have a blast with it, but I’m going to get back to really just doing what makes me happy.”
Was getting back on the sidelines a turning point for you?
“It was great once I was finally cleared to be back on the sidelines because there’s no energy like that energy and to see the guys flying around, to see them playing the way that they did was a blast. And, at the same time, it also gives you that itch to be like I want to be part of this. I want to get back out there. Once I was able to come back here and to be around the guys again, it really gives you a whole new level of energy. But, I think that time that I spent away was really important as well because it gives you a whole brand new perspective on everything.”
How do you overcome the fears of thinking that you might not get to where you want to be again?
“I definitely don’t have those fears and I think that definitely took a long time to get over. I can’t necessarily say that about all of the three surgeries that I had, but I feel very, very confident now with where we’re going and how everything is going now. So, it’s been a long road and it’s been a long time and there’s still a long road ahead, but I feel great and yeah, it’s going to be fun.”
How does it feel having the Super Bowl in your home city and do you wish you could have been in it?
“Yeah. There’s no question. I mean it’s obviously great for the city of Houston. It’s great for everything from our economy to our people to being able to show off all the phenomenal things that we have here in Houston from, I mean, the food to the people, the culture, the medical district. Everything that we have here. It’s such a great city. But, at the same time, it’s also very, you know, frustrating to see the faces of two other teams on the side of your own stadium. So, it’s definitely a point of motivation. It’s definitely something that you want to make sure that you do whatever you possibly can to be in this game next year. I mean that’s the goal for every team in the league. You know, there’s 32 teams in the league. Only two get to play in this game and we want to be one of those teams.”
What did you think about DE Jadeveon Clowney’s development this season?
“I thought he played very well. Obviously having a Pro Bowl season, it’s great to see. I think he did a great job this season. The guy went out there. He’s extremely disruptive in the run-game. It’s really fun to watch what he is able to do out there. So, I think he really stepped it up.”
How do you feel about Mike Vrabel being named the defensive coordinator?
“I think he’s very, very qualified for the job. I mean he’s extremely smart. He’s one of the smartest football minds I’ve been around. He’s an extremely hard worker. Obviously, had a lot of success both as a player and as a coach. So, really excited to get out there and work with him, but also very excited that we still get to have Romeo Crennel with us. I mean, as a player, you couldn’t ask for really a better situation. Romeo Crennel is one of the best guys I’ve ever been around. I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Romeo Crennel, Wade Phillips. Two of the nicest guys and best coaches that you could ever have. So, really fortunate to be able to still have him around and to have a guy like Mike Vrabel be your defensive coordinator. So, we’re in a really good spot.”
When you see what the defense was able to accomplish without you this season does it make you excited about what more you can bring?
“Yeah. It’s really exciting. I mean the guys did an incredible job. I mean, they go out there and played really well and like we were talking about before, when you’re on the sidelines and a certain situation comes up – let’s say it’s third down and you need a sack, like there’s a situation where I’m like OK, this is where it’s my job to make a play and I think that’s what I really look forward to is those moments again where we need a play, we need something, we need a spark, we need that energy, we need that juice. That’s what I live for.”
Can you envision how good this defense could be with you?
“That’s to be seen. We’re really excited about it. Obviously, we have a lot of great pieces in place. We have a phenomenal defensive staff. We have phenomenal guys on the team, so it’s all about just going out there and doing what we’re able to do. I think a lot of it comes down to belief and I think we see what we’re capable of doing and then it comes down to believing that you can take another step and another step and I think we have that level of belief now and I think it’s only going to grow.”
What were some of the things that you realized you took for granted?
“I mean you take everything from the locker room banter with the guys to coming out of the tunnel and the fans to, I mean, a kid asking for your autograph. Everything. You take the workouts, you take the fact that you get to wake up and play football for a living. It’s my job. It’s every single thing about this game is so fun and so special. When it’s all taken away from you. When the thing that you love is taken away from you and the game that you’re so passionate about and you put so much work towards. When that’s taken away from you, that’s when you truly realize how much it means to you and how special it is. I think that’s – it’s really been exciting to me because it’s almost like there’s a brand new fire. There’s a brand new passion. There’s a brand new excitement level that I haven’t had in a long time, which is weird because I’ve had a fire and excitement for a long time, so to have a new one and a re-energized one is really cool and every single day I wake up with this just excitement to get to work that day because I know that every step, every building block that I put on top of another one I’m building that building on a strong foundation now that we’ve built. So, it’s a great place to be.”
Did you anticipate coming back with more energy?
“Well, throughout my whole career I’ve always had the fire. I’ve been fortunate to have some great years here. So, for me to – during this last you know, whatever, four or five months – for me to realize that there was, not that it went out, but there was new fire to be had or I could regain something. Just to know that there’s new levels to reach that I haven’t even reached yet is exciting and I think that’s one of the biggest things for me is knowing that. It’s not like I’m just out here trying to come back and be a football player again. I’m still trying to continue to capitalize on what I was before and be even better than I was before. So, it’s always about being the best version of you that you can be and if I’m not trying to be the best player ever than I’m doing everyone a disservice. If I’m not going out here and I’m trying to be the best football player ever then it’s a disservice to myself, my fans, my teammates. So, that’s what I’m doing every single day. Trying to create the best athlete possible.”
Will you be ready for OTAs?
“I don’t see any reason why not. Yeah, I believe – I’m fully cleared for football activities and everything. I’m sure I’ll be on some sort of a limited basis out there just to be smart.”
Did the doctors tell you anything about this injury effecting the length of your career?
“To be perfectly honest with you – I can’t say for certain, you never know, anything can happen – but from my mentality and my mindset, it probably elongated it because when you have to take a year off, obviously it’s a full year of hits off your body and everything, but it’s also a mental year off where the grind, the day-to-day. Like I said when I said it makes it special again, you also start to feel like a rookie all over again. I was away from the game. Now I get to re-introduce myself to the guys, get to re-introduce myself to the game, and you feel like you have a brand new, rejuvenated energy. It’s exciting for me, whereas earlier there would be people talking retirement and things like that. For me, I feel like I’m just getting started and it’s really exciting.”
Any thoughts on NT Vince Wilfork possibly retiring?
“He’s had a phenomenal career. I think he won two Super Bowls. I mean, that’s the ultimate goal there. The guys had a great career. If he does decide to retire, he has most definitely earned a happy retirement.”
How much has being able to sit back and watch helped you mentally?
“I think it’s been great to watch and you get to see the entire scope of things from a different level. Not even just the plays, but you get to see the way a team works, the way people interact. So as a leader, it really gave me a brand new set of eyes and I could see the team from a whole different perspective since I wasn’t immersed in it. You could step back and really realize what was happening. I think this year off is really going to make me a better leader and help me help other guys in the future.”
What is your message to Texans fans about your recovery?
“I want them to know it’s going really well and next year is going to be a lot of fun.”
Was there any regret with the way you handled coming back early in the season?
“There’s always going to be times where you’re like, ‘I wish I could be out there.’ But I think when I look at the full, general scope of things, the way that everything played out and having from when I had the surgery in September until next season, beginning next September. Having that full time period to rebuild my body exactly how it needs to be and not feeling pressed to do it at any certain speed. I think that is definitely the best thing I could have done for my body and in the long run will be the best thing I could have done for the team.”
Do you think you didn’t get enough time for that after the surgery in the offseason?
“Like I spoke about before, I think we did things the right way. I think that we did them within the scope of what was allowed but my pride did it very aggressively and obviously it didn’t go too well. This one has gone very well. I’m very, very excited. It’s a really exciting time. There’s a whole new energy. Every single day I wake up just excited to work, excited about the future, excited about what comes ahead. I mean, our fans are incredible. Our fans are so, so great. Just being around the city of Houston and being around our fans, being able to see people from kids to adults to grandparents, I couldn’t be more thankful to play for a city like Houston. I couldn’t be more thankful to play for these great people. It gives me motivation. Like we talked about on the down days, the days that are tough in the last year, the fans have helped get me through that. The people out there who are rooting for you, who wear your jersey, who want to see you succeed – those people really help make the tough days easier. Now when I’m in my training, if I’m having a rough set or I’m having a rough day or I’m having a rough session, just think about your teammates, think about your fans, think about all the people out there who want to see you succeed and I think that really helps me through everything.”
Can you take us through your training schedule and what you are doing?
“Yeah, you should come do it with me one day. But right now, it’s really long. Basically, I’m back into regular training but I’ve added a ton of core into what we’ve already added for core. So basically my workouts right now are running about anywhere between four and five hours long. So I wake up at 6 a.m., eat breakfast, go to the stadium, and it’s a full workout from a long warmup to a very, very long core session in there. Then it’s the weight room training for a huge chunk of time. I take a 10 minute break to refuel and then I go out to the field for probably an hour and a half, so it’s about a five hour block there, then I go home, I refuel, I take a nap for an hour which is probably the best part of the day to be honest and then the rest of my day is business stuff or family and friends.”
What will it mean when you finally get to hit somebody?
“I can’t wait. It’s like having an insatiable appetite that hasn’t been fed in a very, very long time. You have this hunger, you have this desire. It’s all pent up and at some point – I don’t know who it’s going to be – but at some point somebody is going to feel it and that’s going to be fun. That’s going to be very fun.”