HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What were you looking for from QB Tom Savage when the offseason began and did you see that from him?
“Absolutely. Look, with all those guys at that position you’re looking for – especially the guys that have been here – you’re looking for good retention of the system (and) being able to go out on the field and execute it. OTAs is hard because, from a defensive standpoint, you really don’t know what you’re getting on a down-to-down basis. So, being able to read coverages, understand blitzes, be able to execute the play. And then from a rookie player, like Deshaun (Watson), you’re just looking for his ability to improve day to day. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Be able to learn from one day to the next – the playbook, but also the execution on the field getting better. So, I think all three of those guys have really improved. I’m really happy with where we are at that position. All three of those guys had good springs.”
What would you like to see Tom get better at once you get to training camp?
“He has thrown for I think 66 percent in the spring here – which I know it’s OTAs, no pads. I know relative to OTAs that’s a pretty good percentage with the team and the seven-on-sevens. He’s executed well, I think the big thing is it’s not necessarily as much getting better, it’s say now the pads are on, how do you perform in the practices, in the games, getting better every single day. That’s kind of what I look for.”
You said it’s really important for the guys to treat the next five weeks not as vacation, but getting ready for training camp. What are some things you put in place to help them succeed in that?
“That’s a good question. We’re going to meet here at 12:15 here and talk to them all about that. We have a check-out process here – give them the reporting date and all those things, but mostly talk about the next five weeks. We’ve put a lot of things in place. We train our rookies – we have a rookie development program that has a lot to do with when they’re not here with us. What are they doing? What is their plan? What is their plan relative to football? What’s their plan relative to not being around football? We have people in place here for the next five weeks – our training room, our strength staff. Our training staff and our strength staff will be here to work with these guys every single day – lifting, running, rehabbing in the training room. So, there’s a lot of things in place for these guys to be able to be here and train. A lot of guys go other places. They train with different people and they get the same type of training at other places. But it’s all about being ready to go on July 25th.”
What did you see from DE J.J. Watt in the spring?
“He’s doing great. I don’t know what else to say. He’s in great shape. You can just tell he just can’t wait to put the pads on and play. He’s a very difficult guy to go against when you’re in full pads so imagine what it’s like when you’re not in pads. To be honest with you, sometimes you have to – and our offensive line has really battled hard and I’ve really been happy with our offensive line, but sometimes you have to get J.J. out of the practice just so you can complete a pass. You know what I mean? So, I think he’s in great condition and I know he’ll be ready to go.”
Can you talk about joint practices and why it’s so important going against other teams? Going against the New England Patriots for the first time, what do you hope to get out of those practices?
“We, obviously since I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of joint practices. We get so much out of that. It breaks up the monotony of training camp. You’re able to see your own players against different schemes instead of seeing the same scheme, day in and day out. You’re able to see how other teams do things. You’re able to see how your roster compares to another team’s roster, and vice-versa. I think it’s great for our scouting staff to be able to watch another team up close like that. The competition level is great. The coaching staffs that we’ve worked with – now with Coach (Bill) Belichick coming up here in August and Coach (Sean) Payton later on – they’re great coaching staffs to work with. We practice in a very similar way. We have a similar practice format, so everything meshes pretty well, and we’re excited about doing it. ”
How do you like being more hands-on with the offense this season?
“I think over the last, going on my fourth year now, obviously we’ve tried to do things in a way that put us in a position to win. I think we’ve won more than we’ve lost, but I think one of the changes that needed to be made this year was for me to be more hands-on. That’s really what I love to do, is coach and coach the players and be around the players. I love coaching these players. I’ve had a lot of fun these last nine weeks with these guys. These guys have given us everything they’ve got for these nine weeks and we’ve been happy with where we are. I appreciate the players saying that and I’m just looking forward to training camp.”
What are your goals for the relatively young wide receiver group?
“They are relatively young and I think you’d rather have it that way than relatively old. You know what I mean? I think you want guys that are young and fresh and can run and are ready to go. So, I think that that’s exciting. I think that you’ll see a big jump from some of these guys that were rookies last year. You look at Braxton Miller and you look at Will Fuller (V) and Tyler Ervin – who has been used in a lot of different ways. These guys have made a big jump from their rookie year to their second year, even just looking at the spring. So, I’m excited about that group, the leadership that (DeAndre) Hopkins brings. We’re all excited about where that group can be. Jaelen Strong has come on strong – no pun intended – the last couple weeks. So, we’re excited about that group.”
So this is the last day?
“Yeah, we’re going to shut it down. We’ve had a great nine weeks. These guys have worked really hard. We have the linemen in there right now lifting and conditioning, doing things in there, and then we’ll cancel tomorrow. We’ll have a meeting here and we’ll cut everybody loose here at the end of the day. But these guys have done an unbelievable job for us. We’ve had great attendance and great work ethic and it’s time to – like I always say, the keys are in the ignition, the engine’s started, it’s time to go on summer break.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
After seeing the quarterbacks go through the offseason, what do you like about QB Tom Savage?
“I like his leadership. From last year when he wasn’t playing on the field he was still showing the guys, telling us what we should do, helping us out like he was the starting quarterback. Now that he’s in that role it’s not surprise to anybody on this field that he deserves that role. He has earned it, not just from playing but from the chemistry he has built in the locker room with everybody.”
What about QB Deshaun Watson?
“He’s a rookie. He hasn’t put on any pads yet. How I define a quarterback isn’t necessarily what you guys would. What you go out there and do on that field, you got to prove it to me.”
What have you seen from QB Deshaun Watson both mentally and physically throughout the offseason program?
“He’s far from where I was as a rookie, mentally-wise. At the quarterback position – that’s probably the hardest position to learn on the football team. He has picked it up well. He’s been doing a lot of things, not just on the field but off the field as well. You’ll see him in there in his notebook. As soon as he gets in there he’s on his iPad looking at plays, trying to get better, trying to make his mistakes right. You can’t do that on the football field. You have to do that by off the field. Mentally, he has it.”
What does it mean to the veterans to see that kind of work ethic from a rookie?
“It means a lot. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Everybody sees it. Everybody sees what he’s doing outside of the football field, putting in his own time to make himself better and this team.”
What kind of feel do you have for this offense right now?
“Very good feel. Very good feel. I’ve been in this offense for going on four years now. Having Wes Welker out here that’s a recently removed wide receiver, it helps out a lot to have a guy that knows this offense better than anybody. To be here every day working with us, it makes a big difference.”
How do you approach these next few weeks heading into training camp?
“Just be ready to come out here and help this team win our ultimate goal. You can’t do that just when you’re out here with everybody. You have to do that on your own time. So, I think that’s my mission for sure.”
Have you talked to your teammates, especially the young guys, about staying on top of that and not taking a vacation?
“Of course, of course. I think we do a good job here of telling everybody the concerns and worries (of) being a rookie, being young in the NFL, having a bunch of time on your hands. We do a good job here and everybody takes care of everybody. This is a close team. If we see somebody doing the wrong thing, we’re going to let them know. I think they have good leadership like J.J. (Watt), Duane Brown to look at and what they do in the offseason.”
Are you excited about heading to West Virginia for training camp?
“Of course. I’m sure y’all are, too. I’ve never been up there but I’ve heard it’s a very nice place. Go work on my golf swing.”
Can you talk about how important it to bond with your teammates during the offseason since the on-field work is limited?
“It makes a big difference. The teams you see winning championships are teams that are close, not just on the field but off the field. You look at teams that won championships and you look at the players and you can tell they’re not just teammates, they’re friends as well. It makes a big difference.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How do you feel today as opposed to a couple weeks ago?
“I feel like we took a step forward this offseason just bonding and the chemistry that I was talking about earlier. All the guys went out there and we performed and competed. That’s all you can really ask for.”
How do you approach these next few weeks before you get to training camp?
“They say this is a little offseason break but this really isn’t a time for a break. I’m going to get some of the guys together (and) we’re going to throw and kind of just keep moving forward. We can’t plateau here. Go into training camp running.”
Can you talk about how important it is to maximize the offseason since the on-field work is limited?
“It’s super important. It’s just one of those deals. Those are the rules and we’ll find a way to get out there and throw and bond. It’s more than on the field. It’s off the field; we have to hang out, we have to be around each other. That’s a huge key this offseason.”
Do you feel like more of that is on you now that you’re going into the season as the starter?
“I think, obviously, as a quarterback you need to have receivers to throw to, so I think it’s important to link up with those guys. But we have a great group of guys, a bunch of good leaders that all want to get better, and I know it’s not going to be pulling teeth for them to get out there and work with us. They’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun offseason and I’m really excited for training camp.”
Can you talk a little bit about the weather in West Virginia and going out there for training camp?
“I think it’s going to be awesome. I really do. I think it’s going to be another good bonding experience. No distractions out there. We’ll be able to go out there and compete and just hang out. Obviously the weather – the humidity I’m assuming is going to be a little lower up there, so I’m looking forward to that.”
What are some things you think you did well in the offseason program?
“Overall in the offseason we did a good job of protecting the ball here. That’s going to be a key going into the season. Just bonding with guys like Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and Will (Fuller V) and Braxton (Miller) and Jaelen (Strong) and all those guys and getting some of the routes down. We still have a lot of work to go, and they all know that. That’s why we’re going to link up this offseason and go to work.”
Did you do much bonding off the field or is it always on the field?
“We always bond. Everywhere. Over at someone’s house, obviously. Hop’s still a little upset at me right now but we’re always hanging out. We have a really good group of guys and I know we’re all really excited to get training camp going.”
DE J.J. WATT
Do you how many days there are until you can hit somebody?
“I don’t. No. I don’t like to think about it like that because then you calm down and the aggression starts to build. I’d rather just kind of let it be just keep tugging on the chain, tugging on the chain and then someday they’ll undo the chain and then it gets to be real fun.”
How was the spring for you and how do you feel right now?
“It was great. I had a really good time. We have a really good group of guys. It’s so much fun to be out here working with the guys, to hang out with your teammates, meetings, practice. We just do have a really good group. Really enjoy not only the D-line but the whole team in general. Then, for me, obviously, just enjoying playing football. Like I said earlier, this is where I belong, this is my natural habitat, this is me. Being back on the field, being able to play football and really just lock in and focus on football feels really good.”
How good can ILB Benardrick McKinney be?
“I think he’s a great player. I think he’s very underrated. I think B-Mac, he’s a guy who in our locker room we fully understand and appreciate everything that he does for our team and I think that you’re only going to see him continue to get better. He’s a very smart player but he’s also extremely physical. He’s a great player and we’re fortunate to have a guy like that.”
What makes him special?
“I think he can do so many different things. He can come downhill and really hit you in the mouth but he also is very cerebral and he can play the game with his mind. He can also go out and cover guys so he does so many different things but he does them all well and I think he’s obviously been very, very good for us.”
How important is he to this team?
“He’s great. He’s very important. You need to have a couple of guys in the middle there, obviously, that know what they’re doing. Linebacker is one of the toughest jobs on the defense because they have to get us up front all coordinated (and) they got to get the guys behind them coordinated. Just out at practice you talk to Benardrick, and I couldn’t do his job because I’m so damn tired in between plays. I can’t talk and tell everybody else what to do so I say thank you for telling us what to do, man. I play D-line. It’s like the easiest job in football. You just find ball, get ball. That’s all. He’s got a much harder job than me so I appreciate Benardrick taking that lead.”
How satisfied are you with how the back responded?
“I feel great. I’m very happy with the way it responded. Obviously with the amount of time that we took this time to make sure it responded properly, I hope it would respond the way it did but it feels great and now it’s just a matter of going out there and having fun and enjoying it. With a major injury, it’s so easy sometimes to think about it too much and to let that creep in the back of your mind but that’s what’s been nice about these practices, is being able to let that fade and fade and fade. Really just enjoying myself, having fun and like I said, playing football. It feels natural, it feels good and I feel like I’m home.”
Are you pleasantly surprised with where you are?
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that because obviously with the time we put in and all the work we’ve done to get to this point, I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily surprised. I would say I’m happy. I’m happy with where I am and I’m looking forward to working toward the season and doing whatever I can to contribute to this team and obviously this city and try to make everybody proud.”
When you hit or put on pads, are those benchmarks in your comfort level and recovery?
“Yeah, I would say that’s definitely another step in the process. I think being out here, you guys saw a couple of the practices, but these are pretty darn close to hitting. We practice pretty hard out here and we have a lot of fun, so this time was good for me. To put on a helmet, play football, take some run blocks, get after the passer a little bit. I felt really good. I’ve had a really good time out here. I can never say for sure what’s going to happen in the future, so yes, training camp is going to be another one of those times where it’s like, OK, next step.”
Do you have any message to the Texans fans who travel to support the team?
“We appreciate them. It’s so much fun. Our fans are great. Whether it’s home or away, we have awesome fans. I appreciate them. Talked about it so many times but since I got here in 2011, the way that everything started out with me here obviously to where we are today, it’s night and day and I’m so thankful that I came to a great – I mean Texas is a football state. People down here love football so whether they travel to see us, whether they come to our home stadium, whether they watch it on TV, we’re just so thankful to have such great fans and it makes it so easy to work and it makes it so easy to come out here and put in that time and put in that effort and when you’re out like I was, it’s so easy to rehab and come back and want to be in front of those fans again. I can’t thank everybody enough and we look forward to seeing them on the road.”
Will you train back in Wisconsin with some of this time off?
“I’ll be back in Wisconsin for at least part of this time, yeah. My brothers and I will all be back there in Wisconsin for part of it, training with my trainer back there and then I’ll come back down here probably a couple weeks before we leave for The Greenbrier and get back down here to train. It’s coming quick. I’m very excited. I think it’s something like 40 days until we go to training camp. I just can’t wait. It’s a great time and when you’ve been in the situation I’ve been in, all you want to do is put on pads and get out there and play football. I can’t wait to get out there with my teammates, I can’t wait to hit people and I can’t wait to show our fans what we’re working on.”
Have you noticed QB Deshaun Watson’s work ethic from your vantage point?
“I’m sure those guys can obviously speak to it a lot better than I can. I mean, I’m out doing whatever I can with the defense but I can say that about this whole team. Obviously they speak very highly of him and I believe that because (that’s) what I’ve seen out of everybody. Our rookie class has been great. Our vets have come back and been great. Everybody’s in good shape, everybody’s putting out every day on the practice field knowing your job, knowing what to do and then going out there and playing fast and having fun. I think that’s a testament to this team and the culture we’re trying to build. As long as we keep building that culture, as long as we keep bringing in guys that understand what our culture’s about, we’re going to continue to grow. By no means are we where we want to be but we’re going to continue to work toward that every day.”
You’ve mentioned football is your natural habitat. Do you feel like training camp will allow you to get out of your cage?
“Yeah. I think I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I do, and yeah, when you step across the white lines it’s a completely different experience. Off the field it’s almost like you’re a different person and then once you step on the field, whether you want to or not, you turn into a different animal, because you have to. It’s a very violent game. It’s a very tough game. You have to be in a different mindset to play it. You have to be in a different state of mind. So, you train for that. That’s what you train for your whole life. That’s what I’ve been doing since fifth grade. I’ve been playing tackle football since fifth grade, so to be able to go out there on that field and do the things that I need to be able to do, you have to click into a different mindset. So, yeah, off the field you’re one person and when you step on the field you have to turn into a whole other beast. I think that’s why it’s so addicting. That’s why guys who walk away from the game have such a hard time transitioning back into a life where they don’t get to transition into that beast because somewhere inside of them there’s that monster. Somewhere inside of them there’s that animal that wants to go out there and tackle people, that wants to go out there and make plays. I do want that to end yet. That’s why I’m so excited. I just can’t wait to get back out there on the field. We had Marcus Luttrell come in and speak to us. I think he was an incredible speaker and obviously a true, true hero. For him to be able to take his experiences and kind of put it in terms that obviously us as football players can understand and talk about, it was really cool to be able to hear that story and have that type of relationship, and there’s some similarities there. Obviously in the business that they’re in, you have to be able to turn into an entirely different animal and then be able to come back. It’s really special but yeah, this is my natural habitat. I just like to go hunt. I don’t want to say too much. I’m excited.”
Have you talked to T Duane Brown this offseason?
“I saw him at my softball game. Yeah, I talked to him leading up to the softball game, saw him a little bit after that but no, I think business is business. Especially in the locker room, everybody understands business is business so they’ll handle that I’m sure.”
What has your brother (Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt) said about life in the NFL so far?
“He’s excited, man. It’s so cool. He’s enjoying it. Obviously he’s got a first-class football city up there with the Steelers and their history and their tradition. He’s got a guy like James Harrison to learn from. It’s really exciting and for all three of us now to be able to go back to Wisconsin and we’ve all done our OTAs with our teams and be able to talk about some of our experiences and train together and work together, it’s really special. It’s really cool. I think it’s awesome. We’ll go back to our hometown and we’ll have dinner with our high school football coach and we’ll have dinner with our trainer and all these people that have watched us grow up since we were little, little kids and now they get to see us on the biggest stage. I think it’s really special and it’s his turn to buy dinner, so I can’t wait for him to buy them all. That’s probably the best part of it all to be honest with you.”