HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Could you start off by talking about CB Kevin Johnson and his progress, everything he accomplished last season and what you expect of him?
“Yeah, he’s made great progress. He’s been in Houston the whole offseason. He’s worked extremely hard to get back to where he is right now. Look, just like everybody on the team, we’re only in the second day of training camp – we’ve all got a long way to go – but he’s a competitor, excellent player, young player, got a great future ahead of him. So, I have a lot of respect for Kevin.”
How have you all come through the first two workouts, health-wise?
“Decently, decently. I think we’ve had a couple minor soft tissue things, but overall I’m pretty pleased with the no major injuries, knock on wood, yet.”
How challenging is an NFL training camp for a rookie like QB Deshaun Watson?
“Yeah, I would say the first part of that question is probably better for him. I would tell you that for any rookie it’s very different. It’s a 12-hour day. We start with the quarterbacks at 7:30 and then they’re out of here at about 8:00, 8:30 at night. So it’s a 12-, 13-hour day and there’s a lot of information that’s being given to them and then they come out here in a very competitive atmosphere. He’s a very mature kid. Like I said last spring, he’s wise beyond his years for a young guy. So, I think he’s handling it well, from my perspective, to this point.”
Can you talk about these guys learning to be pros and step-by-step through offseason and now that they’re at this camp and the demands that are put on them?
“Part of being a pro is making sure that you don’t just survive training camp but that you’re able to compete every day in training camp – taking care of your body, studying, getting enough sleep, understanding that you have to be very structured and wise in using your time. That’s the big thing about being a pro. It’s a lot different than college. I love college football. College is college and pros is pros. It’s just a little bit different.”
How do you see DE Jadeveon Clowney out there?
“Clowney’s doing good. I can’t wait until we’re out of shells . We can’t block them in shells. Maybe we can have a little bit better chance of blocking him in pads.”
How is G David Quessenberry doing?
“Quess (David Quessenberry) is an unbelievable story. He’s playing well. That’s a very competitive position but when you sit back and just think about that – that he had really a bad form of cancer and was out of the game for three years and had the mental toughness and the capacity within himself to get back to where he is right now – to play pro football as an offensive lineman. I’m not sure you could find a story like that that I’ve ever heard of. So, he’s doing great.”
Given what he’s been through, is there something that has surprised you about him in the first couple of workouts and everything?
“I have to say yes. I’m surprised at his strength. I think that the true test for all linemen, not just him, is when the pads go on, but I’m really pleasantly surprised at how fast he’s been able to get his strength back.”
What do you like about your quarterback group?
“There’s a lot of things that I like about that room. They’re competitive, they’re really good guys, they’re easy to coach, they listen, they ask great questions, they root for each other. They’re competing against each other, that’s just the nature of pro football. I really look forward to going into that room every day and that’s a testament to them. Sean Ryan’s doing a great job with them. He does a great job daily of preparing them for practice, and I think that’s helping also.”
Did you get a chance to meet Jerry West this afternoon?
“I didn’t. Somebody said “The Logo” was here, and I was like ‘The Logo?,’ and Jerry West – one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and I know he’s from West Virginia. Hopefully I get a chance to meet him. I know Coach (Mike) D’Antoni was out here too, and I’ve never met him. My wife met his wife at the dentist office, so I know they met, but I haven’t met Mike yet so it’ll be good to meet those guys. They’re great guys and Mr. West is a legend, so it’s always great to meet legends.”
DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
How are you liking it here?
“I love this weather. A lot better than Houston weather. I don’t know how it’s going to be when we get back, but right now I’m enjoying this weather, it’s different. Being away from home – different. So, it’s going good right now.”
What does it mean to you see DE J.J. Watt out there with you?
“It’s great. He plays a big role for this team. He’s a great leader to our team. We need him, we need all the guys healthy, everybody that we can have. For the season long you need everybody to be healthy and ready to go. Having him back is great.”
How does he rub off on you personally?
“I think he rubs off on just about everybody. Being out there, he’s just an energy guy, he brings a lot of energy to the defense, to the team – not only with our defense but to our offense, too. Just him being out there makes the other guys work harder he’s going against. He’s a high-energy guy.”
The trash talk between the offense and the defense, how important is it?
“That’s going to happen. It’s important every day. We do it every day. I think it brings the best out of everybody, to talk trash, and it makes the time go by fast. Coming out here, working, talking trash to these guys, it’s fun.”
Earlier were you stretching or dancing?
“Doing a little bit of both. It’s like a dance-stretch little thing that I do. It’s working, I’m getting loose, coming out here – giving it all I got every day, working hard.”
Are you the best dancer out there?
“We’ve got some pretty good guys out there. I might be in the bottom five. Bottom-five on the team. I’m not a good dancer, but I do my thing every now and then. I’m a shower guy. In the shower, singing, dancing. That’s me.”
What were your goals this offseason?
“I really tried to stay healthy. I had little banged-up injuries last year. Just really get healthy and work on my hands a lot better than I did this past season. Just coming out healthier than I did. Really, just come back a lot healthier than I did the year before. I think I did that and I’m feeling better this year.”
What did you do?
“I just had a lot of stuff going on during that season last year. It was a great season for me but I was a little banged up. Coming into the season a little banged up, but I just pushed through and made it through that last season. This season, I’m not coming in banged up this year. I just came in healthy and it has kind of helped.”
Just by resting?
“Resting, going to see people, just taking care of my body.”
What have you noticed with Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel leadership out there?
“We’re trying to do that again. I think Vrab’s (Mike Vrabel) been a leader since he got here – not just as defensive coordinator, as linebacker coach – he’s always been that guy that brings a lot of energy to the team. Just having him as defensive coordinator, he’s going to push everybody. He’s a high-energy guy and we need that every day because some days you come out here and don’t want to do anything but you got a guy like that who’s always up here, you’re going to bring yourself up there with him, just being around him. So, he’s never going to let you play down here. Every day he’s like ‘You got to bring it,’ and I’m just like, ‘Oh, one of them days.’ I love it. I like him being our defensive coordinator.”
How special is it to be on the field with DE J.J. Watt?
“Yeah, it’s great. Like I said, with him out there it’s always going to be good, not just me but for everybody around him, for the defense as a whole. He’s a great player. He’s going to be noticed. Other teams are going to have to game plan for him, and us knowing that will help us a lot. So, we got a lot of good guys across the front and with him out there it just makes it a lot easier for everybody to make a lot of plays.”
You talked about the fact that you guys haven’t played much together.
“No, we haven’t since we’ve been here. Either I’m injured, he’s healthy, or he’s injured and I’m healthy, or we both not on at the same time. But, hopefully we can get that done this year. Come out here and give the people what they want, come out and play hard and we make a lot of plays up front. That’s how it goes. We come in here to work every day to get to that goal, so just trying to do that.”
CB KEVIN JOHNSON
Where are you physically and how does it feel to be out with your teammates?
“I’m feeling good, man. I’m just really happy to be back playing football. It’s been a while. It’s been a long process but I’m feeling great and I’m excited to get back and just getting better every day, getting my swagger back and getting my groove back. All that stuff. ”
It seemed like you and WR DeAndre Hopkins went back and forth a couple times.
“Oh, yeah. For sure. We’re going to compete every practice. Going against a player like that, it’s just making me better. Just really competing with everybody, just trying to get the best out of them. I’m going to give them my best.”
How hard was it to have to watch from the sideline for so long?
“It was tough. I’ve been playing this game my whole life. Sitting out a year was just kind of like different for me. It was weird not playing football and just seeing everybody doing so well. It just made me hungry to come back and be the best player I can be.”
Is that the most serious injury you’ve ever had?
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
Your dad is here, right?
Not too far of a trip for him?
“No, not too far. I think it’s like four-and-a-half hours.”
That has to be huge for you.
“For sure. My dad came down for the first two practices so it’s good to have that support, too.”
What are your expectations for yourself?
“I’m going to come in, do my job and be the best player I can be and help this team win.”
Did you feel some rust that you need to knock off?
“For sure. I mean, my last time playing was October 15 or something like that, so I’m just getting back out there and feeling the game, letting the game come to me. But it was all natural. I felt good out there.”
A lot of players say they come back mentally stronger after missing a lot of time. Do you sense that?
“Yeah, for sure. I did a lot of watching, just kind of recognizing things a little bit faster or looking for certain cues and things like that. Really paying close attention to detail and just working on my craft.”
How much does it change things with DE J.J. Watt out there?
“Just having that energy out there, having that – he’s the best player in the NFL, so having that energy, having that player out there that you know can change the game, it just makes you play at a high level.”
Why is it important that you don’t give an inch to WR DeAndre Hopkins when you go back and forth in practice?
“Because if you don’t have any confidence at cornerback you’re not going to be good at cornerback. Me and Hop are very good friends. We’re just trying to compete and get better. I’m trying to be a great corner, he’s trying to be a great receiver, so we’re going to come out here and we’re going to compete every day.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What do you think of OLB Brennan Scarlett and the progress he has made? What else does he need to do?
“Just keep excelling. He’s been doing great as far as making plays out there. I know you guys saw him in the preseason last year making plays on the quarterback, making plays in the backfield and everything. So, I would say just being more of a student of the game, just understanding what he can do, watch his matchups and things like that, understanding his ability against versus his opponents and stuff like that. Man, really impressed with him as well.”
Do you take on that leadership role with some of the younger linebackers on the team?
“No doubt. I was there at one point, deer in the headlights pretty much, didn’t know what to do, just trying to make my way. Of course, going into year six, being more of a seasoned vet, seeing a lot of experience out there pretty much, now I can actually draw (off it), put my knowledge to use and give guys a little tip here and there.”
What do think you can do with you, a healthy DE J.J. Watt and DE Jadeveon Clowney on the field together?
“I think it’s awesome, of course. We got a lot of guys out there that are very versatile. We can give a whole lot of different matchups, load one side or have guys dropping, rushing, things like that. I think it’s going to be special but we’ve got to be able to do it again this year.”
What’s impressed you the most about QB Deshaun Watson?
“His ability. You’ve seen it out there on the field. Him being able to run, make some of the throws out there. It’s impressive, his arm. Also, his composure as well is very impressive for just a rookie.”
In year six, do you have goals that you set for yourself in camp?
“Of course, of course. Every year. Get better individually, make more plays on the quarterback, make more plays on the ball, things like that, and just be more of a student of the game as well.”
How does the grind of camp prepare you for the season? It was described as being a callus all over your body. Is that an accurate description?
“Yeah, I would think so. Honestly, we call this (the) dog days of camp, especially when the pads come on. Mentally you’re tired, fatigued, all that. It molds you to be more mentally tough and physically ready for the grueling season as well.”
Is it relieving to have training camp in the cooler temperatures of West Virginia?
“Oh, no question. This is lovely. What do you mean? Man, I don’t even know what (temperature) it is. It feels like 60 (degrees) out here compared to Houston. So, instead of being in survival mode, we get a chance to get come out here and just get better and focus on our job and get better at each thing that we do right now.”
I’m not sure if you already answered this, but what do you think of OLB Brennan Scarlett and his chances to stick in as a starter?
“You missed out. I can answer it for you if you want to. I got you. Brennan Scarlett, he’s awesome, honestly, as far as being a young player in the league. Pretty much for him to progress, just being more of a student of the game, improving his technique, run (defense) and playing the pass as well. So, he’s got a lot of room to grow. He’s still young and still has a lot of years to thrive for sure.”
G DAVID QUESSENBERRY
Where are you football-wise?
“First off, I’m fully cleared, I’m going. I’m full-go and it feels amazing. It feels like – it’s hard to describe. When I was going through all my stuff, you kind of visualize it and then you get back here and you’re going through the reps and you’re with your teammates and you’re sore and sweaty. It’s even better than I had imagined it. There’s some rust, there’s some rust. There’s some things that are coming back but I feel good. I feel really good. I feel like my technique is improving every day and it’s motivating, for sure.”
What’s it going to be like when you get to put the pads on tomorrow?
“Before these practices, I’ve been feeling those butterflies that I’ve missed by not practicing. I’m looking forward to getting those butterflies before practice again. I can’t wait for that.”
How did you jump back into this? What have you been doing to work on your technique?
“Going through it (cancer), I always worked on my technique. If I wasn’t working on it physically, it was mentally. I was around the guys, I was around the game, I was studying it and I learned a lot about the game because you take a step back and it’s a different type of learning when you know you’re not going out there to run the plays. You’re more like studying the plays and the angles. I really learned a lot about the position and I love everything about the position and coming back this spring, I’ve really tried to get my technique dialed in and I feel good coming out here.”
Is there anything that’s surprised you so far?
“Just being at The Greenbrier, how nice this place is. I could never have imagined. It’s been awesome so far and that’s probably been the biggest surprise, being out here.”
Is there anything surprising you physically on the field?
“Physically on the field? No, it’s football. It’s the same game that I played my whole life. I’ve had some time off but when I get back out there I just feel like I’m back at home.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said he’s impressed with how fast you were able to regain your strength on the field. What did you do to get yourself back into football shape?
“I was on my intensive chemo and maintenance chemo for a long time and once I got off all that, I just felt my body just getting stronger by the day and it was really exciting just to feel that. Every week it was a PR (personal-record) in the weight room since I’ve been diagnosed. It just came back so fast and I feel healthy and I feel strong and it’s exciting.”
Were you surprised with how fast your strength came back?
“I was surprised, yeah, because you don’t really know how it’s going to react. Once I got off all that chemotherapy and came back, it came back quick. I feel really good.”
How do you feel about your teammates calling you an inspiration and looking and the thing’s you’ve done for motivation?
“Yeah, that’s crazy to hear my teammates say that but it’s cool. It’s kind of past the point where it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it’s so amazing.’ It’s just little things like, ‘It’s good to see you, No. 77.’ Just little things like that really mean a lot to me.”
Have you had any reflective moments out there?
“Yeah, kind of every day is like that. You kind of wake up and you’re like, ‘Here we are, we’re in training camp and we’re playing.’ This is what you always want.”