Head Coach Bill O’Brien
QB Tom Savage
DE J.J. Watt
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
How was practice?
“It was good. We got a lot of good work done today. Ran a bunch of plays, lot of different situations. I just really believe in the joint practices, especially this time of year when you’re developing your team and you’re working on fundamentals. It’s really a good thing.”
How good is it to receive praise from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick?
“Bill’s (Belichick) been a great friend of mine, a mentor. I owe a lot to Bill. He’s a great football coach and they have an excellent football team, so I appreciate those words. But I think the big thing today was just the work that we got. I thought we really worked well together with them. Our practices are similar, our tempos are similar, so we really got a lot out of it.”
How much of what New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has done has rubbed off on you and influenced what you do?
“Certainly. When you work for the best, you definitely learn some things. I learned a lot while I was working there. In the end, you have to go out and be yourself and hire your own staff and try to field the best, competitive team you can, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
What do you like most about what you saw from your team today?
“I thought they competed. It’s a long practice, we were out there, a lot of plays. I thought our team looked to be in pretty decent condition, which I was happy to see. I just thought it was a good, competitive day.”
What does it mean to practice against Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“Tom (Brady) and the receivers and Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and the backs, offensive line – it’s good. It’s (a) really good opportunity for us to go up against a great offense and I’m sure it’s a great opportunity for them to go up against a good defense. On our side of the ball, I thought, offensively, we did some decent things against a good defense. It’s good to go against a very well-coached defense like that for us. Special teams, we had some good drills, lot of competition. I thought the guys really practiced like pros on both sides and it was a good day.”
What did you think about QB Deshaun Watson today?
“I mean, I have to go watch the tape. Look, he’s trying to come out and get better every day. He’s the same guy every day, very positive. If he makes a mistake, he learns from it. Tries not to make the same mistake twice, but as far as today, I’ll go watch the tape and see how everybody played.”
What do you think about the influence that QB Tom Savage has on QB Deshaun Watson?
“I think there’s no doubt that Tom (Savage) has brought out the best in Deshaun (Watson), and I think it’s the same with Deshaun bringing out the best in Tom. I think it’s a good room. They’re good people, they’re very competitive guys, but they root for each other. They really do. Tom has really helped Deshaun with learning this offense how he learned it when he was a rookie. And Brandon Weeden’s a really good veteran player in there that adds a good voice in there, too, from a lot of experience. It’s a really good quarterback room.”
Do you think QB Deshaun Watson is the best rookie quarterback you’ve coached, and if so, why?
“Look, I’ve coached some rookie quarterbacks. Brian Hoyer in New England was a really good rookie quarterback as far as learning and being able to function on the practice field right away, and that’s Deshaun. He’s learned well, he’s studied hard, he’s done a good job of being able to come out on the practice field with all the things our defense does and be able to function on a day-to-day basis from OTAs all the way to where we are now. I think that’s pretty impressive. Yes, he’s definitely one of the best rookie quarterbacks I’ve coached.”
What have been your thoughts on being in West Virginia?
“I think it’s been good. I think it’s’ really been a chance for us to focus on football. We’re able to get the guys here at 7:30 a.m., have them here until 8:00 p.m. at night. Football, treatment, weightlifting, film, practice, all the things that go into fielding a good football team. I think it’s been great. The big deal for us is when we get back to Houston, is to get these guys back acclimated to the heat in Houston. That’s going to be something that we do a good job of. We practice there for a couple days after we play New England then we go to New Orleans, have a couple days of practice against them. We have to think that through, which we have, but here’s (The Greenbrier) been very good for us.”
As a head coach, when do you know when your rookie quarterback is ready to play?
“That’s a good question. I think, over time, it develops. You see it in practice. There’s certain things that you think about that maybe somebody who doesn’t coach wouldn’t see it, but as a coach, you’ve been through it, you’ve experienced, hey, this is something maybe this guy’s not ready at or, yes, he is ready. He just redirected a protection or checked a run or got us out of a bad play, put us into a better play. And then he did it in a game, and he was able to function in a game. Then it’s his demeanor, it’s his poise under pressure, his ability to come out here and go against a new defense. How did he handle that? It’s all of those things. I think, for us, I think we have a really good situation here. We have Tom (Savage). He’s had a good camp. He’s thrown the ball well, he’s done some good things. I think we concentrated mostly on the running game today, but we’ll come out and probably throw it a little bit more tomorrow. But Deshaun’s (Watson) had a good camp, too, so it’s been very productive for both guys.”
Can you feel some of those little things you described about QB Deshaun Watson yet?
“At times. There’s times when he’s been able to do that. That’s what I mean by, for a rookie, I think he’s ahead of where some rookies I’ve been around have been. I’ve seen him be able to do that. I think he needs to do it more consistently, but he works very hard to get it right. If he doesn’t get it right away on the field, he goes into the meeting room and tries to fix it. Again, a lot of these questions are about Deshaun (Watson), which I understand. He was a great college player and he’s a rookie here, but Tom (Savage) does the same thing. And I think Deshaun learns a lot from how Tom prepares and how Tom learns and how he watches tape and comes out to practice ready to go and things like that. I think it’s been very productive for both guys.”
Can you talk about what you’ve seen from rookie WR Riley McCarron so far?
“The Iowa Flash, Riley McCarron. He’s a good kid. He works hard. He’s a spitting image of (Wes) Welker, wearing No. 83. He’s done a good job. He’s a smart kid, he’s tough, he’s played through injury already – had a bad thumb for a while and played through it. I like a lot of what he does. He just needs to keep getting better.”
I guess it wouldn’t surprise you that rookie WR Riley McCarron never mentioned his thumb injury.
“No, he wouldn’t mention it. He’ll probably be mad at me for mentioning it.”
Do you think your quarterbacks can learn anything from watching Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“I’m sure they do. I mean, you have a guy like that who comes in for a couple days, certainly you’d watch him and see what he does and how he prepares. He’s been doing it for 18 years, so there’s no doubt about that they probably took a peek at how he was doing things. We run a similar offense, so I’m sure they were picking up things that way, too. It was good. It was a good workday.”
Was it fun to see the familiar faces at practice or was it competitive at the same time?
“I think when we hit the practice field, it was very competitive, but it’s great to see these guys. A lot of these guys are real close friends of mine. Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, these guys are some of my best friends. It’s always good to see those guys, but once we hit the field, it’s all about trying to gain more yards than they do, trying to get the ball in the end zone, all those different things.”
You got to spend some time with Patriots QB Tom Brady before practice. How special was it to get some time with him?
“Good guy. Good to see him, great person, just asking each other about our families. You spend a lot of time with a guy like that, you get to know him real well. It was great to see him. It always is.”
You said you wanted to work primarily on the running game today. How did it go?
“I just meant that we ran the ball probably – I don’t know, I’d have to look at the stats when we get back in – but I think we ran the ball a little bit more than we threw the ball based on the periods today. I thought it was decent at times. I didn’t think it was a bunch of world beaters out there, but I thought it was decent at times.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How was it to practice against the New England Patriots?
“It was good. It’s good to see a fresh, new defense and it’s good out there competing.”
What’s the biggest value in practicing against another team?
“I think there’s a lot of things. Obviously you’re going out there and you’re competing against new guys. We’re all alpha males out there. We want to compete, we want to beat each other. That’s the goal. Also, we’re doing team periods where you get to watch the greatest quarterback of all-time play. What’s better than that?”
Is that something that you enjoy?
“Absolutely. I’m still a fan. Even though I’m a starting quarterback in this league, I’m still a fan of this game. It’s fun to watch.”
What do you feel like you’re improving at?
“Obviously we wanted to work on starting some of these drives faster. I think we did a good job today getting off and completing some balls early on in practice. We just have to keep improving on that.”
What about yourself?
“I think just getting the ball out of my hand quicker. I think that’s the No. 1 thing. We have a great line and they’re going to do their best to protect. It’s my job to get the ball out of my hands.”
What does a practice like this tell you guys about yourselves?
“We still have to go watch the film. It looked good but we just have to go in and we have to correct everything that we saw. Ultimately, this is the NFL. It’s an 8-8 league and that’s the way this league is set up, so we have to go out there and we have to compete against these guys every day. It’s a good test every day to go out there and compete against the reigning World Champs.”
What has the quarterback room been like with you, QB Deshaun Watson and QB Brandon Weeden all trying to make each other better?
“It’s been awesome. I say it all the time but it’s just a give-and-take that we have. We’re all helping each other out and we all want this team to win. That’s our main focus. We all know that we all could be out there starting. We’re just going to help each other out and may the best man win.”
Do you like the way the offense is coming together?
“Yeah. This offense has moved the ball really well. Every day we’re going against one of the best defenses in the league, and that has helped us tremendously. The guys are all pumped about it so we just have to keep going out there and improving each day and getting better.”
Do you feel different or have a different mindset this year?
“It’s different just because I’m getting the reps against the ones, with the ones. That’s been huge for me. Just knowing that I can go out there and I can do this and I can take over for this team and handle it.”
How have you seen G Xavier Su’a-Filo improve since he’s been here?
“I think he’s a great player. He’s a great person off the field. I know he’s working really hard. I’m just happy to have him on the line.”
Does it make it difficult that you and QB Deshaun Watson have split reps on occasion?
“I think (with) pretty much every team, the backup’s going to get reps with the ones. I’m just going to worry about what I can control. Listen, I’m out there competing and that makes both of us better. So, we just have to keep going with that. At the end of the day, both of us, we want to win, so we let the coaches handle the rest and we’ll go out there and focus on what we can control.”
DE J.J. WATT
What will you take away from today?
“It was a good day. It was a lot of good work. Two very good football teams going against each other. Some great battles out there. A lot of fun. It’s football. It’s football, so you strip it down to the basics. Nobody’s doing any crazy plays, crazy blitzes, anything like that. It’s just head-to-head football. It’s a good day. We got a lot of good work out there.”
In the last few days in West Virginia, can you talk about the fan reception and what it’s been like to be here?
“It’s been good. West Virginia has been awesome. I think the people have been great. Everybody here at The Greenbrier has treated us extremely well. We’re very fortunate that Mr. McNair has allowed us to come here and have a great training camp and really focus on football, focus on creating that team chemistry we need and having the guys come together. I think it’s been a really good experience for us.”
When you go against Patriots QB Tom Brady, how much does that help a defense?
“The old saying goes ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and I think, obviously one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. It’s always good to go out there and get some reps against somebody of that caliber. It’s a lot of fun. Any time you put two good teams together on the practice field and get great reps like we had today, you’re going to get better. So, we’ll all go in and watch the film, we’ll learn and we’ll see what we did well, see what we didn’t do well and grow. I think it was a great day.”
As you get closer to a real game, how anxious, excited, antsy, whatever are you to get back on the field after you had never missed any time before last year?
“I’m very excited. To me, I treat practices like games, so every day is exciting and any time you get to go out there in full pads and practice and work on your craft, I think that’s really gameday to me. So, days like today are great because you get to go out there, you get to work, you get to grind, you get to make mistakes and fix your mistakes and see where you’re succeeding and see where you’re failing. So, as long as you treat every practice like gameday, you get hyped up every morning. I’m very fortunate. I get to be at a job where I wake up in the morning and I’m hyped to go to work. I can’t wait to get to work with my teammates. I can’t wait to get out there and work on my craft. So, it’s a lot of fun and days like today are what you dream about.”
Do you feel like the player you were before your injury?
“I feel great. I feel very good. I’m very excited to be out there. I’m not here to make any proclamations. I’m not here to say any breaking news, but I’m very, very excited. I’m very excited for the season.”
Do you feel like, with who you are and what you’ve done, you’ll get the other guys’ best, even in practice?
“Oh yeah. You live for that. That’s the goal. You want somebody to give you their best shot. You want somebody to give it everything you have because that’s the only way you find out how good you are. You’re never going to find out how good you are if they don’t give you their best shot. So, it’s a lot of fun. I love the competition. I love competing. So, days like today are great.”
Have you managed your body any differently in this camp, or do you plan to do so going forward?
“Yeah, we’ve done a good job. The coaching staff has a good plan in place. The trainers have a good plan in place. We’ve had great success with it so far, leading up to this point, and we’re going to continue it down the road. It’s not necessarily any less work, it’s just smarter. Trying to make sure we do it the smartest way possible because as I grow, I understand that it’s all about 16 Sundays and then beyond that, so I just need to be ready for those.”
Is it hard to make yourself do that because it’s so different than what your coaches always say?
“I think it’s something that has come with growing as a person over the last year. Learning a lot about myself, learning a lot about what’s most important and really just making sure I get to those Sundays, gamedays, because I can have the greatest practice in the world today, but it doesn’t matter at all if I don’t make it to the Sundays. So, I need to get out there and play in the games.”
What’s been your impression so far of this New England Patriots offensive line?
“It’s good. It’s always good to go against another team in training camp. We’ve been beating up on each other for a little while now, so it’s good to get a new group in here. I had a lot of fun, had some good work today. So, we’ll come out tomorrow and do it again.”
Did you have the chance to put Patriots QB Tom Brady on his back without actually touching him at one point?
“You can report on whatever you want to report on. I’m not here to talk about any of that.”
Do you think that this offense is any tougher to stop than last year?
“I was sitting at home watching last year, so you’ll have to ask some of the guys that were playing in the game last year.”
I know you’ve touched on it, but what has The Greenbrier been like?
“It’s been great. The people here have been great. They’re first-class all around. They treat us very well. They’ve been very accommodating, so we’re very thankful that they treat us so well here.”
Were you with the group that went on the ATVs, the off-road stuff?
“No, I was over here. Part of the being smarter is – I just didn’t know how bumpy the course was and making sure my back is in the best possible shape. So, it’s another one of those things where I had to listen to the people that tell me what to do.”
Does a practice like this give you guys confidence that you’re good to go against another team?
“It’s just a lot of fun. It gives you great film is what it does. It gives us a chance to go in – tonight we’ll watch the film, we’ll learn. Especially for the young guys, getting a chance to go against another team. They’ve been going against the same guys every day. Getting a chance to go against another team – now they have this on film, get to see what they did and really, what’s cool about it, is you get to go out tomorrow and try and correct what you did wrong today. So, it’s really good stuff for us and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
As a defense, how much pressure do you put on yourselves when you know you’ll have a relatively inexperienced quarterback?
“We always put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We always go out there and we try to do whatever we can to put our team in the best position. You control what you can control, and that’s always our goal, is to go out there and do the best that we possibly can as a defense – hold them to the least amount of points and give our offense the ball back.”