2017 NFL DRAFT DAY 2 PRESS CONFERENCE
Could each of you tell us what you think about RB D’Onta Foreman and ILB Zach Cunningham and then how you think those guys fit in?
Rick Smith: “I guess I’ll start. We felt like we’ve added two good football players, first of all. It’s been a productive night. First, with Zach (Cunningham), we think he’s an athletic, rangy linebacker who has cover skills. Very productive in a big conference, of course. Good character guy, highly decorated. He’s a good football player. Then, the second pick of the evening, the young man out of Texas. Again, productive. Adds balance to the offense, is a powerful runner, good vision, good feet, good foot quickness, so we like the addition for our running game for both those guys. Both those guys are high character guys. Very impressed with our running back. We had our local pro day and he came and worked out. A lot of times some of the higher projected prospects shy away from the local workout. One of the things that was impressive about that young man was that he came and he wanted to compete and he got in the drills and he did a great job and showed us that he was ready and willing and excited to be a Houston Texan. So, we’re excited that he is.”
Bill O’Brien: “I think Rick (Smith) answered it.”
You’ve talked a number of times over your three years here about wanting to have toughness and attitude on both sides of the ball. How do you think they fit into the tone and the edge that you hope this team has?
Bill O’Brien: “Well, Zach Cunningham was a very productive tackler at Vanderbilt. I think he can really help us in a number of different ways. Starting out, I know he can help us on special teams. I think he will be a core special teams player and then I know that he can do several different things on defense. He can play in our base defense, he can play on third down. He is a versatile player, just like Rick said. He is a tough kid. Are there things that he needs to work on? Certainly. He has to get bigger and stronger and things like that. But, he is a rangy guy that is athletic and plays the game the right way. D’Onta Foreman, this guy, what stood out to me probably the most about this guy was – well, I will say this, was him showing up to the local workout. That was a big thing because he was a top-rated back and I’ve rarely seen that with local workouts that I’ve been involved with. Then, he was an inside runner. He was a very productive inside runner that broke a lot of tackles for Texas this year. He ran to the outside. He ran to the perimeter. They attacked the defense with him in different ways, but he was a productive first- and second-down, tackle-to-tackle runner and that was impressive to me.”
You are second in the league in rushes in your three years to Seattle. Why is the running game is so important to you?
Bill O’Brien: “Well, I think it’s just a matter of, No. 1, being able to control the tempo of the game, possess the football versus some of the teams we play. There are a lot of different reasons. I think all good teams, in my opinion, are measured by their ability to stop the run and also their ability to run the football. I think that’s a big part of what we do. We’ve done a great job of stopping the run on defense and we’ve done a decent job of running the football. That’s part of our philosophy. It’s not the only thing that we look at, but it’s definitely part of what we believe in.”
So far in the offseason you have mentioned a couple of times about how you would like to take some of a load off of RB Lamar Miller. Was that primarily why this was the move to make because he’s an inside runner and the type of running back that D’Onta Foreman is?
Bill O’Brien: “I don’t think it was the primary reason. When we were ready to pick, Rick (Smith) had it exactly the way it was – he was the best player on the board. He was the guy that we had ranked the highest at that point in time and Rick made the decision to go do it and I was all for it. He’s a good football player, very productive in college. But certainly there are other things that drafting him does for us and one of them is hopefully for him to come in here, work hard and do a good job of learning our system and be able to spell Lamar (Miller) at times when Lamar needs that. I don’t think it’s a case where we overuse Lamar, I just think all running backs need a little bit of rest every now and then. Hopefully, he will be able to do that.”
Do you feel fortunate to get a 2,000 yard rusher and the Doak Walker Award winner in the third round? It seems kind of like a steal.
Rick Smith: “I don’t know if I would characterize it as a steal, but I do agree with your assessment. Like Bill said, he was the highest-rated player on our board. I do a little bit of a wish list; guys that I would just would love to have on our football team, and he’s one of those guys that was starred, that was on that list because obviously you watch him here, it’s close and you see – I joked with him in Indy (Indianapolis) in our interview and I said, ‘Hey, that might have been the quietest 2,000 yards I’ve ever seen,’ and his response was, ‘Well, I did win the Doak Walker Award, so it wasn’t too quiet.’ He’s a good young man and we are excited to have him as a part of our organization.”
Did you like that you were able to take the top-rated guy as opposed to feeling pressure to draft for need in the second and third rounds?
Rick Smith: “We had multiple options at the pick and we had guys that were valued in that area, so it wasn’t like we were struggling to find players that we felt good about that at the spot. He happened to be the highest-rated guy on the board. It’s fortunate when you can get a guy, especially when you have him valued a little bit more than where you took him.”
Do you see ILB Zach Cunningham playing inside or outside or do you guys not know yet?
Bill O’Brien: “I think he’s versatile guy that can do both. I’m not sure where we will start him right now. We will talk about that over the next few days here – I’m saying start him in our defense – but I know one thing, he is going to start out helping us on special teams right away. Then I think wherever he plays on defense, we play so many different packages, I do think he can play outside as an outside linebacker and I think he can play some inside, too. We will see how it goes from there.”
Is the versatility the thing you really value?
Bill O’Brien: “No question. I think versatility, when you get down to the 90-man roster to 75 to 53 and then having to decide who to bring to games – we are a long way from that – but versatility is very big key for us.”
Does it help you out that RB D’Onta Foreman comes in with such little tread on his tires and does that make you feel like you can extend him out in the future?
Bill O’Brien: “I think he’s a healthy guy. I mean, when he was here, he showed up – he’s big and fast and he was in good shape. I don’t know about the tread and all those different things. I think we look at the production, we learn about the young man. Obviously he’s a great guy. But certainly one of the things that we looked at was his ability to run inside, his ability to be a first- and second-down back for us. He’s healthy.”
As far as the right tackle position, is T Derek Newton someone you expect to be back next season and is that a position you’re looking to address on Day 3 of the draft?
Rick Smith: “Without revealing any kind of strategy of what we’re looking for, I would tell you with respect to Derek’s injury, he’s rehabbing. It’s a big injury that he faced and he’s attacking it with as much vigor as you would expect that he would. We’ve got a lot of confidence that he can come back from that. That’s about what I would tell you there. Then as it relates to the offensive line group, we’ve talked about this a lot with respect to the draft, and specifically what we’re talking about tonight is the draft, and so what I would tell you about that is we’re going to take them as they come. We have not been in the position at this point up until tonight – last night and tonight – to take an offensive lineman that we felt good about at the value where we were picking. So, if there’s an opportunity to do that tomorrow night, we’ll do it. That’s the same with any position. We’ll continue to stay true to our board and hopefully continue to add good players to our team.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH ILB ZACH CUNNINGHAM
Can you describe your feeling when you got the call and were selected as the Houston Texans second-round pick?
“I was definitely excited and relieved at the same time. I was feeling nervous watching the picks go through. When I got the call I was definitely very excited.”
Did you have a lot of activity with the Texans before the draft? Did you do a visit or workout?
“No, I actually hadn’t. This is a huge surprise for me. So, I mean, right now I’m just taking it all in.”
Can you talk about that final play against Georgia when the game was on the line and you come up with a huge stop?
“That was a big play at the end of a game. It’s a play that we needed, being able to be in position to make that play. We talked about it on the sideline – that was a play that they possibly could run. So, ran out on the field, was prepared for it and I just took it from there and saw the opportunity, saw the run play fit out.”
You’ve been described as a playmaker that needs to be able to roam and have guys off him to make stuff happen. How would you describe your game and sell it to Houston Texans fans?
“That’s a lot of my gameplay style and I’m definitely a playmaker, definitely a guy who’s able to get from sideline to sideline. I have a lot of speed, quickness and agility, I’m able to cover, I’m able to fit the run. Whatever the Texans see fit for me, I’m definitely going to be an impact player on the defense.”
I’m sure you know the Houston Texans have a good defense. How excited are you to join a team that has so many star players?
“I’m definitely excited. It’s a blessing to me. This whole process has been a blessing. I’m just excited. I’m at a loss for words, really.”
How does it feel to be able to learn and be able to watch guys like OLB Whitney Mercilus as well as ILB Brian Cushing in that linebacker corps?
“That’s definitely going to be a great experience for me. I’m really anticipating being able to get in and get started there.”
Some of the analysts were saying they saw too many missed tackles. Were there some plays you wished you had back?
“There’s definitely some plays I wish I could take back. A lot of missed tackles, a lot of missed opportunities that I left on the field. But I definitely gave my all, and I think that showed up in the way I played, it showed up in how I played and what I was able to achieve.”
Do you feel more comfortable playing on the ball or off the ball?
“I’ve always played off the ball. That’s where I would say I feel more comfortable.”
It seems like a lot of people talk about you being kind of a quiet person. Is that your personality?
“Yeah, I‘d say so. I’m more of quiet, reserved person. When the time comes to it, when it calls for it, I’m definitely stepping up and [inaudible] when I need to be. I’ll be vocal and take charge of a situation.”
What do you know about the Houston Texans defense?
“Not a lot. I haven’t had a lot of conversations with them or anything like that. This pick really took me off guard.”
Which teams showed interest in you?
“I went to Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Denver, and a few other teams.”
Have you ever been to Houston?
“I’ve never been to Houston.”
Have you ever been to Texas?
“The only time I’ve been there is going through the airport.”
Can you talk to us about the moment you found out and how you’re feeling overall right now?
“The moment I found out I was in a room surrounded by all my family. I was definitely taking it all in as it came, like I said. Getting picked by the Texans definitely caught me off guard. Definitely wasn’t expecting that. I’m still kind of overwhelmed, definitely feeling excited, definitely feeling apprehensive and just ready to get to work.”
Just giving you the opportunity to address that as a criticism that you seem to like football too much? What are your thoughts on that?
“That I seem to like football too much?”
Yeah, just quiet. It seems like you are a football junkie. I’m just reading that that was apparently a criticism? Is that the first time you are hearing something like that?
“I’ve never heard that as a criticism just being a football junkie. Any team that brings you in, that’s definitely what I think a team would want – someone who loves football, someone who is going to give their all to it because it’s not going to last long.”
Do you expect to compete for the spot that was vacated by John Simon? Do you expect to line up there or inside?
“I’ve always played inside linebacker, so that’s where I see myself playing. But, like I said, we haven’t talked. Me and Texans coaches haven’t really talked a lot about where they see me playing, where they want me, where they see me fitting in with the defense.”
Talk about some of your short-term goals and expectations going forward with the Texans.
“Like I said, my expectations going forward is to come in and make an impact, come in, become a starting linebacker, an impact player that just takes a hold and doesn’t let go of it.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH RB D’ONTA FOREMAN
Can you put into words what this moment means? All of the work from youth ball, high school, college, and now to have your name called in the third round of the NFL Draft.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s something I’ve strived so hard for. My family is supporting me, everybody was behind me. For me to be a Texan means a lot. As the draft process went on, something in my heart was just telling me that I really wanted to be a Texan and I just really feel like that was going to happen. When it did, it was so real. I can’t thank the organization enough.”
Coach mentioned that you coming to the local workout meant a lot to him. Is there a specific reason you decided to come? Is it because you wanted to play here?
“That’s definitely why. My agent told me they wanted to have me for the area day. I was glad to be there. I actually had a workout the day before, but nothing was going to make me miss that. I really wanted to be there and just showcase my talent. I really wanted to be a Texan, so that’s something that I wouldn’t pass up.”
What about the Texans made you want to be here?
“I’m so close to Houston. I’m from Texas City. I’m really close to Houston and my dad has always been a Texans fan. He’s a diehard Texans fan. As the process was going on - I played for Texas City and then I went to Texas - so why not be a Texan? That was my thing, just play for the Texans from where I’m from. I really wanted to just be a Texan. I don’t know, it was just kind of something that grew on me.”
What was your dad’s response when he found out you were going to be a Texan?
“He was just smiling and saying he was so proud of me. It was pretty emotional for him, for all of us honestly – for me being drafted was a dream come true – but for me to be able to be a Texan, his favorite team, is crazy. I’m ready to get to work. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great journey.”
Ricky Williams said you were going to be special in the NFL and Houston is lucky to have you. What does it mean hearing that from someone like him?
“I love Ricky so much, man. He’s been so great to me. Great mentor, great leader to me. He’s somebody that I can call and talk to any time and he gives me great advice. For him to say those words, it’s a blessing and I thank him.”
What are some of the things you can learn from RB Lamar Miller and some of the other veterans?
“Just how to be a pro, you know. Just going in there and doing the pro things in the pro way. Get out of my college mode and just grow up, be that pro player. I’m honestly ready for it. I watch Lamar Miller in the NFL, me and my dad are Texans fans, I watch those guys and I see what he’s able to do. I just try to learn every day from him to put it with my game and be unique like that.”
When you worked out here at the local pro day, did you get a chance to meet with any of the Texans coaches? What was your impression if you did?
“I remember the running backs coach (Charles London) and also talked to Coach (Bill) O’Brien. They just had great energy. I felt so comfortable being there. Everybody – even the scouts – everybody I talked to there just had great energy and everybody was just proud that I was even there. They all knew I had worked out previous to coming to them, so everybody was excited for me to be there. I was excited to be there. Like I said, it was just great energy. I’m a big person on energy. I can tell if a place is right for me. I just knew when I first got there that was a place that I could play.”
You’ve said several times you wanted to play here in Houston. There were obviously other running backs taken ahead of you. Does that matter to you or does the fact that becoming a Texan, going to the team you wanted to all along, matter more than where you got drafted?
“Honestly at the time, I started to get a little upset about it, but honestly now that I’m a Texan, I really want to be a Texan. That overshadows everything, honestly. I’m not really worried about where those guys got taken. It’s a blessing for anybody to be drafted, so I’m proud of those guys. I’m sure their families are proud of them. None of that matters. You go out there and perform, and we will see who the best is when we get out there and we get to compete and go play.”
Can you talk about how much toughness you play with and the pride that comes with that?
“I’m a person that, I’ve been through a lot of adversity. With my family behind me, I never want to let anyone down. I go out there with a chip on my shoulder just because I’ve been doubted so much. I just want to go out there and leave my mark every time I’m on the field. I want people to understand what type of player they are playing against and I want my team to know what type of player is going to be there for them day in and day out. I work tremendously hard to be the best. I want to be the best at everything I do. I’m just ready.”
What do you think you do best at your position?
“Honestly, I feel like I can do it all. I didn’t really catch the ball much in college but I feel like that’s a strong part of my game. I don’t know. I just really feel like I can do a lot. I’m just kind of ready to get out there and see how they are going to utilize me and see what they want from me and just go from there.”
Where do you think you are in pass protection and blitz pickups?
“Honestly, I’m confident in myself. With me being in college and our system that we ran in college, it wasn’t emphasized on blitz pickups. I definitely feel like I can get better but I feel like also with repetition and me just going over it and doing it – because it’s more of a thing in the NFL to be able to pass protect and protect the quarterback. When there’s something that is harped on that much you have to go out there and be good at it. I think that’s the biggest thing I should work on, but I’m pretty confident in myself being able to go do it and perform.”
How much did Charlie Strong mean to you given that he depended on you to carry the ball so much last season?
“It means a lot to me. Coach Strong was somebody that’s a great person. He taught me a lot, just how to be accountable and responsible for the things that you do. I always was accountable for the things that I’ve done, whether it was good or any mistakes that I ever made, I was always accountable for them. I just always want to go fix them as fast as I could. I can’t thank him enough. I just talked to him. He just called me and congratulated me and said he was happy for me. I told him that I appreciate everything he’s done for me and even my brother and that I can’t thank him enough. I wish him well at his new school.”