Head Coach Bill O’Brien
ILB Brian Cushing
ILB Benardrick McKinney
DE J.J. Watt
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about that lap you all ran?
“Offensively, we didn’t have a good day today, so we have to pick it back up on Monday. Defense came out flying, so we have to pick it up offensively. We’ve had a good camp. We’ve had a good camp offensively, but today wasn’t one of our better days.”
How much of that was because of the defense?
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m not looking too deep into it. It’s the twelfth training camp practice. It happens. We’ve had our days, too, where the defense hasn’t had the best of days. It is what it is, move on to the meetings this afternoon.”
Thoughts on WR Bruce Ellington coming to the team?
“He’s played a little bit. Had some injuries, but he’s played. And when he’s played, he’s been somebody that we think can fit what we do. So, we want to get him in there and get him acclimated as soon as possible (to) see what he can do.”
Did you feel like he was already able to do that today?
“He’s been in the pros, so maybe it’s a different language but all the plays are about the same. He looked like he was kind of ready to go today.”
Was it a day off for WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“Yeah, DeAndre Hopkins? Yes. I don’t call him DeAndre, I call him Hop, so that caught me off guard. Yes, day off.”
What does ILB Brian Cushing mean to this team and how is he helping everybody out?
“He’s obviously one of the leaders of the team, like I’ve said before. He’s the man in the middle on defense, makes the calls, heart-and-soul-type guy. Tough guy. Tackler, leader in the locker room, works very hard in the weight room, good guy for young guys to look up to. He’s a good pro football player.”
Where do you think G Xavier Su’a-Filo has made the most progress?
“He’s gotten better. Over the years, he’s improved. He’s a better player. He knows that he has to come out here every day and work, and he does that. He’s able to come out here and take the coaching from Mike Devlin and I think he’s trying to improve every day.”
What will you be evaluating from your team when the New England Patriots come to town?
“Just the same things that I’m evaluating now. How do we handle the different schemes? We see a lot from our defense and then opposite, how does our defense handle the different schemes? They see a lot from us, now they’ll see kind of a different scheme relative to the Patriots. Different skillsets of players. The Patriots have some different players than we do at different positions, so the matchups on both sides of the ball will be interesting to watch. I think the special teams will be good to watch. They have a really good special teams unit. Just kind of watching everything.”
What are you most proud of in QB Tom Savage’s development from being drafted to now?
“I’m proud of Tom. He’s a resilient guy. He’s really worked hard to learn our system, he’s worked hard in the weight room, he’s had to overcome injuries. He’s had to overcome a lot, and I think he’s doing some good things out here. Today, as an offense, it wasn’t our best day, but overall he’s had a good camp and it just needs to keep going. He’s a guy that comes to work every day. He’s a fun guy to coach.”
Did you feel like he was preparing like a starter last year even when he wasn’t?
“I think you have to do that. I think if you’re not preparing to be the starter, as a backup player, then when your time’s called, when you’re name’s called, you’re not going to be ready. So, he does that. He’s been doing that since even when he was on injured reserve his first year. He’s done that and he’s prepared and been in the meetings and that’s why he’s able to come out here and really have a good grasp of our offense. So, I think he’s done that his whole career here.”
Is it hard to get done what you need to get done with so many receivers out?
“No. We have a lot of backs, we have a lot of guys with some unique skillsets, so, no, nothing’s hard about that. I mean, you want your full complement of players out there, but that’s the NFL. You have to do what you do.”
Is it good to see WR Will Fuller V back?
“Yeah. He’s in rehab and (we) expect him to be back some time this season. Good guy to have around, no doubt.”
How’s WR Braxton Miller doing?
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t.”
How has QB Deshaun Watson been able to handle the opportunities he gets?
“He’s doing a good job. He comes in every day prepared, good questions, watches the tape right after practice. Seems to get better every day, get better at something every day. Got a good attitude, a good demeanor. He’s doing a really good job.”
Is that something you and Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan can see on a daily basis from him?
“Yeah. We see it. We’re in the meetings with him. He’s probably sick of us. All of them are. We’re together from 7:30 in the morning until 8:00 at night. We see it from all those guys that are working hard to get better.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
What will you be evaluating about yourself and this defense when you practice against the New England Patriots next week?
“Just our competitive side and trying to come out and practice as hard as we possibly can and be competitive and go out there and play good ball.”
How good was it for you to get out there against the Carolina Panthers?
“It’s always good. It’s always exciting just to see where the team’s at. Obviously we have some things to work on. That’s what preseason’s all about. We’ll go out there, we evaluated the game film and had our corrections and we executed upon it.”
How did you feel individually?
“Really good. I felt fast, I felt quick. But like I said, there’s always things to work on so I’ll continue to work every single day and try to perfect my game as best I possibly can.”
What impression has C Nick Martin made on you?
“He’s tough to go against. That’s a guy that I’m going against a bunch, especially as a center and middle linebacker. He’s a force. He’s a good player. He’s smart, he brings a lot to the game and I know he loves playing it as well. He’s fun to play with and definitely a good teammate.”
Do you appreciate what your defense can do up front?
“Of course. I think any linebacker that plays behind that defensive front, you appreciate it and the things they can do, the kind of attention they demand and the things that are slid to them, and like I said, just how much attention goes toward them. So, it makes your job a lot easier.”
Is it fun for you when the whole defense is clicking out there?
“Yeah, it’s fun. But that’s what you expect, and every single time we come on the field we have to put that effort out, we have to put that result out. We understand that’s kind of the bar we set. We have to match that every single day.”
What do you think of ILB Benardrick McKinney and how he has grown?
“Benardrick missed a little bit of time but he, obviously, when he comes back, doesn’t seem like he misses a step. He has matured tremendously since his first year in the league. His communication, everything. We’ve kind of worked side-by-side for two, three years now, and it’s been nice. It’s been really nice to have that kind of steady WILL linebacker next to you. Before, that was a bunch of guys coming in and out and trying to kind of get that comradery and that fluidity amongst the defense and amongst the linebackers, and now we have it. Now, obviously, with Zach (Cunningham) coming in as well, a very athletic linebacker that can move around a bunch – and he has matured a great amount, too, since camp has started, so it’s nice to see that from both guys.”
Has ILB Benardrick McKinney become more of a mentor to the young guys?
“Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of guys ask him questions now and expect a lot of things from him. That just comes with the years that you play. Now going into his third year, people kind of expect those things from him.”
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
How fun is it to be back?
“It feels great, man, just being out here to be able to practice. Not practicing was stressing me out. It didn’t feel right being in the training room. But I’m back and I’m having a good time practicing with the guys.”
Does it feel like you’re a more mature player now?
“Yeah. It’s coming easier. The game is slowing down for me. Just taking the coaching of (Mike) Vrabel and Bobby (King) doing a great job coaching me, just helping me understand the defense, helping me understand the offense so I can just fly around and just play football.”
Does it help you to play with such a veteran group around you?
“Like I said, it’s easier playing with guys like that. We’re out there having fun, talking, communicating. Me and Cush (Brian Cushing) stay on the same page. During film, we discuss the calls so we’ll know during the game (and) we can make the changes. If something comes up in the game, it’s easier to correct it because we have a bond or whatever. It’s easier playing with those guys.”
Do you feel like you’ve created your own identity as well?
“Yeah. I’m a physical player. I like to hit. I just love coming downhill, trying to make plays, trying to put the defense in a good spot on the field. I like tackling running backs so, like I said, I just have fun out there.”
What have you enjoyed about being at The Greenbrier besides the weather?
“I was just about to say the weather. Houston is really hot. I like the view, too. Sometimes I get caught daydreaming looking at the mountains or whatever. It’s a great environment, staying at a nice hotel. I can’t say too much else about it because I’m stuck on the weather part.”
Do you like where you’re at right now?
“I have a long way to go. It’s still early, preseason. There’s still a lot that I need to correct, a lot of things that I need to get better at. But I’m just taking it day by day and not trying to rush things, but just taking the coaching and just trying to get better at my craft.”
How will practicing against the New England Patriots next week help you prepare for the season?
“They’re a great offense. Tom Brady. They have some good backs, fast backs. Going to help me with covering (and) help the defense by being physical every play. Just staying together as a defense. It’s going to be a great challenge. It’s going to be great for us to practice against those guys.”
DE J.J. WATT
Can you talk to us about your brother’s (Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt) NFL debut?
“I mean, it’s unbelievable. It’s so much fun to watch him play. I came out of meetings, didn’t get to watch the first series – which (I) obviously missed just about everything. But I came out of my meeting and I actually had a text on my phone and the first text that I saw, it was the most crazy thing in the world. I read the text and it said, “I see your little bro out there balling. I hope all is well.’ And I looked and I was like, that was from Kendrick Lamar. I was like, wait a second, what did my little brother do? So I go on Google, I check it out and it said two sacks in four plays. So, I texted him so he could see after the game what Kendrick said and I just thought that was like the craziest thing in the world, to see one of the best rappers in the world – possibly the best rapper in the world – text me about my little brother. But it was just so cool. It was such an awesome moment to see him go out there and do what he does. I mean, he’s a great football player. I’m very excited to watch him play. He’s worked so hard, he’s overcome a lot in his career and, I mean, two sacks in four plays made me question myself because I played four plays the other day. A little disappointed.”
How proud were you?
“I was very proud. It’s a lot of fun. I get to have two brothers in the NFL and I get to watch both of them play. It’s really a dream. It’s literally a dream to have all three of us playing in the NFL. I’m so fortunate to see them succeed at such a high level. It’s awesome.”
Every time Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt does something, are you going to be mentioned, too?
“It’s cool and I see both sides of it. He’s (T.J. Watt) been dealing with it obviously forever. Both my brothers, whenever they do something, they always seem to be attached to being J.J.’s little brother. But after the other night, maybe I’m T.J.’s big brother. I don’t know. But I think they’ve finally come to terms with it. If we weren’t so close, if we weren’t so tight, it would be a problem, but we love each other so much and we appreciate and respect each other so much that I think it doesn’t really bother him. He’s going to make a name for his own and someday they’re going to drop the ‘J.J.’s little brother’ tag, but for now, you guys can feel free to keep reminding him about it.”
Considering who it was from and not knowing what your brother had done, is that one of the craziest texts you’ve gotten?
“It was definitely wild. To walk out of the team meeting and read that and then register who it was from and see what had happened, yeah, it was a pretty wild thing to see.”
How proud are your parents and what is it like for them?
“It’s awesome. It’s really cool for them. They were at the game last night. They’re going to go out to (Los Angeles) to see my other brother (Los Angeles Chargers FB Derek Watt) and then they’ll obviously be in Houston throughout the year. It’s wild. It’s wild. I’m so fortunate that they made us work so hard and they taught us how to do things the right way and how to chase your dreams. I think that’s such an important thing in parenting is for parents to teach kids that they can accomplish their dreams if they’re willing to go out there and work toward them. So, I’m very thankful. Also very thankful that my dad is tall, because that helps with it. It’s such a cool thing. I’m very fortunate and it was a lot of fun to watch.”
Do you think the magnet on your mom’s fridge is ever going to be bigger for you now?
“I don’t know. Last night when I did start watching the game, I really didn’t know how to feel because the Steelers are an AFC team. I want my brother to do well but then I’m like, wait a second here, I don’t like how this all works out. So, I literally didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tweet like congratulations on a great first game, but at the same time, I’m like, well, no. You’re on another team. Screw you. I don’t want you to do good. It’s such a weird conundrum to be in, but it’s an awesome problem to have – to have all three brothers in the AFC all competing for the title and somebody will have bragging rights at the end of the year. Hopefully it will be me.”
On Christmas Day?
“I mean, yeah. That’s a long way away and we’re very much looking forward to that, obviously, but there’s a long ways to go to get there. For now, he holds the bragging rights after one preseason game. But I’m very quick to remind him that it was a preseason game.”
Can you talk about being able to face the New England Patriots for a couple days?
“It will be a very good couple of days for our team to get some great work in. It’s obviously a very good team, an extremely successful franchise, an extremely successful coach, extremely successful quarterback, so it’s a really good chance for us to get some great work in and we’re looking forward to it. It’s always great to practice against somebody that you know can help make you better, and we’re looking forward to that practice.”
How do you feel being back out here with the guys practicing again?
“It feels awesome. It feels awesome just to be a football player again. Just to not have to worry about any other stuff, to go out there to play, to let it loose, to have fun. I really enjoy it. I love it. I love this game, I love my teammates, I love Houston, I love everybody. I love being able to represent our team, represent our city and be out here with the guys and be able to put on a show.”
Was a day like today good to be out there because of what the defense was doing?
“Today was a great day. Today was a lot of fun. Those are the types of practices that you love. When you strap on the pads and you go out there and you just let it fly. You go team period after team period after team period, you let it fly. Defense flying around having fun, everybody making plays from all different places. It’s a blast.”
What was it like to see the offense have to run a lap because of you guys?
“No comment. But that was a long lap. That was a nice, long lap and they came back tired after. They can run as many laps as they want.”