Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President / Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson
CB Johnathan Joseph
C Nick Martin
QB Tom Savage
DE J.J. Watt
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
“I’m just going to start with a little statement. I apologize for writing this out a little bit, but I think that in this time there’s a lot of things that are going on that are obviously a lot more important than football, so excuse me while I use my notes here. If you guys don’t mind.
I really just want to start off by talking today about what’s happening in South Texas as it relates to Hurricane Harvey. It’s a tough time. It’s a tough time, and I think – I don’t think, I know I speak for McNair family, I speak for our general manager Rick Smith and I speak for the entire Houston Texans organization when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with the people in Houston and the surrounding areas that have been devastated by this storm. The toll of this storm is unprecedented and it’s been hard to watch as the hurricane continues to hit Texas. It’s tough for our coaches and our players and our ops people and our trainers and everybody that’s involved with this organization right now to have to watch it on the news, knowing that people are back there suffering. So, our thoughts and prayers are with them.
We made the decision to come to Dallas – give Rick Smith a lot of credit on that. (He) had a decisive plan there in action when we got done with the New Orleans game, but we’ve been focused on everything going on back home. We’ve been truly inspired by the resilience that we’ve seen as people continue to deal with what’s been going on. I have seen numerous heroic acts. I think we can all mention the things that we’ve seen on TV from the first responders to people, just neighbors helping neighbors. It’s incredible to all of us. That’s what Houston is all about. Houston is a strong community. I’ve lived there with my family – Colleen, Jack and Michael – now for four years and it’s filled with caring people and it’s been truly inspirational to watch what’s been going on in Houston. We are proud of the fight. We are proud of those people. We are proud of the resiliency that they’ve shown and will continue to show.
Football’s obviously important but I think the most important thing right now is doing everything we can for our city. I will tell you right now, we’re going to dedicate this season to the City of Houston, the people of Houston. There are no guarantees in football, that’s not what I’m here to say, but I will guarantee that this team will go out every Sunday, Monday, Thursday, whenever they ask us to play, and we’ll play our asses off for the City of Houston. I promise you that. We hope that everybody’s dealing with it and it’s getting better, day-in and day-out, relative to the weather. We know that different weather reports are saying different things but our thoughts and prayers are with the city, with our families, with the people of Houston.
We don’t have any information about the game on Thursday so please don’t ask me that. That’s a decision that’s made higher up than mine. But we do really appreciate everything that the Dallas Cowboys have done to accommodate us. Letting us practice here, use their locker room, their indoor facility, their weight room, their cafeteria. It’s just an incredible place here and we really want to thank Mr. Jones, his family and the Dallas Cowboys – Jason Garrett, Stephen Jones – for allowing us to come here and practice. It’s been a really, really good morning for us as it relates to that. They’ve been a great neighbor and they’ve opened up their doors to help us and I really appreciate that.
What I want to do now is I want to talk about a couple different things. Like I said, we’re proud to represent the City of Houston. I saw that J.J. Watt started a fundraising page last night and raised over $200,000 in just a couple hours in addition to $100,000 coming from his own pocket. I think that really shows the type of guys that we have on this team and the fact that they are willing to do whatever it takes to care for our city. Another component I’m extremely proud to announce today is Mr. (Robert C.) McNair and the Texans are pledging one million dollars to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund. Texans helping Texans. I think that’s what it’s all about. These dollars will be put to good use in the relief and recovery efforts. We also hope our actions encourage others to do whatever they can to help their neighbors in need right now.”
Have you talked to your players that were not in New Orleans?
“Yes. We’ve made contact with everybody. Everybody is obviously accounted for, obviously dealing with different issues. Every individual’s dealing with some different things but we’re on top of that and in touch with them.”
As you see what’s happening in the city as you watch these images unfold, what’s your reaction to all of it?
“It’s tough. It’s tough not to be there. We have players that are dealing with water in their homes. We have three coaches that are in neighborhoods where there’s mandatory evacuations, (a) couple of coaches that are in neighborhoods where there’s voluntary evacuations, players the same thing. (We’re) trying to do the best we can to keep everybody together. We have an incredible group of players, just a great group of guys that care about each other. Great leadership – obviously I talked about J.J. (Watt) doing what he’s doing. We just have a great core group of leaders on this team. I want to say this too, I want to give our operations people a lot of credit – Rick Smith, Doug West – for having to change plans, get to where we need to get to, change buses, change hotels – we’re changing hotels now, we’re going to a different hotel. I think that people don’t realize what goes into all the things that happen in these situations, so I’m giving everybody a lot of credit here.”
What have you been doing with the players here to get them ready?
“We’ve tried to, first and foremost, keep them updated, make sure that if there’s anything we can do to help with their families back in Houston, that’s the first deal. Nothing is more important than family. We’ve tried to accommodate them as best we can. At the end of the day, football goes on. Thirty-one other teams are working to get to the same goal we’re working to get to, so we’re trying to concentrate on football. We’re preparing for the Dallas game, we’re preparing for Jacksonville, but we’re making sure that our players have time to be in contact with their families.”
Is that hard to focus on that?
“Absolutely. Just speaking for myself, I have my wife and two sons at home and thankfully their neighborhood’s not quite as bad flood-wise as other neighborhoods, but it’s still there and so it’s not easy. But I think as professionals – professionals are supposed to make hard things look easy and this is a hard thing and so we need to focus on football when it’s football time, but the rest of the day we’re going to focus on being in contact with our families.”
How do you go about trying to focus on what you’re doing in that moment?
“I give a lot of credit to the players. Again, we give them breaks during the day. We meet, we get some of our meeting done. We’re pretty efficient with our meetings. We have a great coaching staff. Like I said, we’ve got an excellent group of players that really understand what it means to be a pro, and then we give them time during the day to make contact with their families, make contact with people back in Houston. I think that’s the best way to do it, is segment the day and try to make sure that you give your players and your coaches time to contact families.”
How many players are still in Houston?
“There’s probably about 10.”
Do you try to get them up here? Is there any way to get them up here to join you guys?
“No. No. Absolutely impossible.”
Did any of the players ask to go home to be with their families?
“No. No. That would be impossible. The roads are – nobody’s asked, but the roads are, you can’t travel the roads. So, it’s impossible.”
Would you like to see Thursday’s game cancelled?
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have an opinion on that. Those decisions are made by Mr. (Robert C.) McNair, Mr. (Jerry) Jones and Commissioner (Roger) Goodell. All I do is – when they tell us where the game is, we get ready to play the game. If there’s no game, there’s no game. So, I would just tell you that’s above my paygrade.”
What are some keys for you and your staff and your players to maximize this important week while being concerned with what’s happening in Houston?
“I think you have to really do a good job of organizing your time and budgeting your time and making sure that guys understand when we have this 30-minute football meeting or 60-minute football meeting, we’ve got to be focused on football. I thought our practice today was excellent. We divided the team up a little bit, we worked on Jacksonville, we worked on Dallas, and I thought our guys brought great focus. Again, I give credit to the leadership on this team. We’ve got a really great group of guys. I’ve said that all along. I can’t wait to come to work every day, and in a situation like that, it really pays off when you have a great group of guys, excellent coaching staff, and then, like I said, the people surrounding the football team that are doing all these things behind the scenes – it’s not easy to focus, but it makes your job a lot easier.”
Is there a deadline to make a decision on the game?
“That’s above my paygrade. That’s a question for people above me.”
Does this situation bring your team together?
“We’ll see. I think so. I think what it does, like I said in my statement, I would tell you that it brings us together for the City of Houston. We’re going to play for the City of Houston. We realize how important football is in the City of Houston. We realize how bad the people in Houston want a winning football team and we feel like maybe if we can go out there and win some ball games and play the way we know we’re capable of playing, maybe that lifts some people’s spirits here as they recover from this tough disaster.”
DALLAS COWBOYS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT / CHIEF BRAND OFFICER CHARLOTTE JONES ANDERSON
“I would just like to echo Coach (Bill) O’Brien’s comments that our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to everybody in the Houston area and actually all of South Texas. This truly is a day of Texans helping Texans. It has been great for us to have just a small part in being able to open our doors to the Texans, given the crisis and everything that surrounds it. A lot of our players have jumped on board wanting to help. We’re going to have a telethon tomorrow, channel 11, with all of our cheerleaders and a lot of former players who are going to be hopefully inspiring a lot of people to call in and make donations. But on top of that, the NFL Foundation is going to match the Houston Texans’ donation of one million dollars to give to the United Way Relief Fund, which also goes to help all of the relief efforts in the Houston area, but particularly with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Those efforts will continue beyond the immediate disaster relief as we assess the needs in the area and hopefully come back in to support some of the programs that deal with youth football in the area that we hopefully can rebuild them after the devastation that has hit. So, again, our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone in South Texas, but particularly in the Houston area, and we hope that we can just do our part to lend our support. So, thank you all and, again, appreciate the Texans.”
Could you explain that matching donation?
“Yes, so the NFL Foundation is matching the Texans’ donation of one million dollars to the United Way Relief Effort. Those funds go to support the Red Cross and the Salvation Army in the Houston area, as well as all of their relief efforts associated with that. In addition to that, we know that there will be ongoing issues, that that is for emergency relief only, and the NFL Foundation will assess those needs in the area of Houston as things progress throughout the year to find where programs in the youth football areas have been hit most and address those by looking at their field conditions, equipment rooms that are flooded, things to that nature so that we can be there when they have a chance to see really what has happened with the devastation.”
How quickly did all this come together, with you opening the doors? I know they talked about it on Saturday, I believe.
“It all started to unfold on Saturday. Kind of towards the beginning of the game, things seemed like they may not be quite as critical and then they became immediately critical and we opened our doors for the Texans to come this way and we’ll continue to have them open as long as they need them.”
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
How is your family doing back in Houston?
“Everyone’s doing well. Just being in constant communication with my wife, talking to my kids. Just want to keep them comforted, keep them updated with our status here.”
When you watch the videos of what’s going on in Houston and you can’t be there because of your job, what’s that like?
“It’s like a punch in the gut, you know? You want to be back there for your city, your family, of course your kids. They’re obviously young. They don’t really understand exactly what’s going on so you try to explain it to them, talk to them as much as you can and keep them at ease. But, I think, all in all, it’s kind of a touchy situation for everybody. Everyone’s involved and just want to say your prayers and let God handle everything else.”
Would you like to see this game cancelled?
“That’s kind of out of my decision (making). Obviously I think there’s other things going on that are more important than this game. Of course we’d like to play it because there’s people who still enjoy this game but I think taking care of the city, that comes first.”
How difficult is it to focus on football?
“We’re professionals, so at the end of the day we have a job to do. I think that’s the way you have to go about your business and handle it. But it’s kind of hard at the same time to kind of sit there and play football and then think about your family that’s back home when there’s constantly updates going on around the clock about things that are going on back in your hometown.”
What are you hearing from your family? How are they doing?
“They’re good. We have some great neighbors there actually so I’m thankful for that. They’re able to kind of help them out when I’m not there. I think they’re more concerned with everyone else that’s needing help around the city.”
Have any teammates talked about flooding in their homes?
“We’ve got a few guys that have some flooding, closets getting flooded and things l like that, backyards backing up to the bayou. A lot of guys have the little lakes and the rivers in their backyards. We all stay in different parts of the city, so it’s kind of hard that way also.”
Have you talked to any of the players who didn’t make the trip and are still in Houston?
“Yeah, I think a couple of those guys kind of stuck back. I know a few guys actually didn’t have any food or anything. They had some surgeries, so those guys actually had to get taken care of, I think. Just an unfortunate situation.”
What if you still have to play the game? How hard is it focus on a preseason game?
“Like I said, we’re professionals. That’s what they call us it for. We have to get up there and still do our job and go out there and play to the best of our abilities because at the end of the day, like I said, we’re in the National Football League and they pay us to do a job. If they call for the game to be on, everyone has to go out there and put forth their best effort. Once the game is over, we have to go back and take care of our business with the thing that’s going on off the field.”
How focused have you guys been in practice?
“I think it’s just been a long week altogether, flying in, coming from New Orleans, straight from that game, thinking that we’re going to have a chance to fly home and don’t fly home. Then it kind of escalated. Each and every day you wake up, you here more and more things going on. So, I think – guys, we’ve had a lot of free time to ourselves – so I think that helped also.”
C NICK MARTIN
Your brother, Cowboys G Zack Martin, is a fixture here. How cool is that for you?
“It’s really cool. Obviously we played together in college, became obviously very close, played together in football and everything. I actually just saw him in the weight room, so it’s kind of cool to be in the same setting again like we were back then.”
How much do you both communicate right now?
“A lot. I was able to go to his house yesterday, which is kind of weird in season, but very cool to spend time with family and everything.”
How are things back home? Do you have anyone there to check your stuff?
“Yeah, absolutely. When we’re not here in football, always communicating. I have a fiancé back there and we’re talking and she’s doing well. Obviously thoughts and prayers to all our family and the City of Houston.”
What is the mood around the team right now?
“It’s tough times but in tough times, we need to come together. Like I said, when we’re off, we’re talking to our families and everything but when we come together, you have to be professionals and go out there and practice.”
What is your initial reaction to seeing the images of Houston?
“It’s tough. It really is. You feel for those families, especially (since) most of us have families in that situation down there and we really just want to come together as a team and more as a city, too, of Houston.”
Did you expect things to be this bad?
“I did not. I’m from Indiana. I’ve never been a part of anything like this and it really is – it’s tough. Like I said, in tough situations, you’ve got to come together.”
How hard is it to focus on football?
“It is, and it goes back to when we’re off, we have that time to call our family (and) make sure they’re doing all right, stay in communication with them. Then we come to practice like this, the helmet comes on, you’ve got to be professional, you’ve got to get stuff done.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How is your family doing?
“They’re good. I just got off the phone with them minutes ago. We stocked up on baby food, so we are good in that department. Everyone’s good.”
How you would you describe watching the events on TV for you?
“It’s just devastating. It’s a shame that it’s happening. When I got drafted here I kept hearing that term ‘Texas Tough.’ Everyone is ‘Texas Tough.’ It really shows in these situations. Houston is a really resilient city. We try and instill those traits into our football team. I know we all wish we could be there with them and be helping. It’s just a shame.”
What have you thought about Texans Tough?
“It shows. Everyone’s out there. Everyone’s fighting. Everyone’s battling. I know as a city we will get through this. It’s just really unfortunate.”
I understand a couple of you guys have young kids. What is that like as a father?
“Yeah, she (Summer) just turned seven months. She’s the most amazing baby in the world and obviously I want to be there with her. But I know my wife has it under control. Here you kind of feel a little handcuffed. You can’t do anything. As a father, you want to be there and you want to be there to support her and protect her. That’s the hardest thing for all the guys. I can speak for them. They all want to be there. We’re the fathers. We want to be out there.”
What has Head Coach Bill O’Brien like during this time?
“He’s been tremendous with it. It’s really tough spot to as a coach because so many guys want to be with their families and stuff. At the same time, it is what it is. We have a game coming up. It’s a divisional opponent and we have to really stay focused on Jacksonville and obviously Dallas coming up. I can only imagine how hard it is for him to be able to separate that. At the end of the day, family is family and I know a lot of us want to be there for him.”
Has your wife told you to just focus on what you have to do?
“Yeah, that’s always how my wife has been. She’s a very selfless person in that term. She’s always texting me every five minutes telling me that Summer is OK. My mother-in-law is in town with them so that helps a lot. She’s very supportive and understanding, but at the same time, I have seen her probably three days in the last month. It just is what it is.”
How tough is it to focus right now on your job?
“It’s tough, obviously. We have all this stuff going on back home but I know the guys – we have a really good room in there, really good leaders and being a professional is handling this stuff and also handling the stuff outside of the locker room. I feel like that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing a good job of it. We’re all very concerned with everything going back. At the same time, it would be a good breath of fresh air to get a win versus Jacksonville for the city. That’s our focus right now.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you are dedicating the season to the City of Houston. How much does that mean to you?
“This city kind of instills some of those traits that they have into our team. You look at our fan base, it’s the most passionate group you’ll see in the NFL. Just being the quarterback, it’s a huge message that – I’m going to go out there and sling the ball down the field and we’re going to do everything we can to get some wins in. Like I said, it’s an unfortunate situation but we’re going to focus on Jacksonville and do whatever we can to get a win for this city.”
Your thoughts on the charitable contributions that are being made such as DE J.J. Watt?
“Obviously J.J. is one of the most selfless guys you will ever meet and all the people that are out there donating. I just got a text from a couple of guys back in Pittsburgh that they are going to do something. Everything helps. Like I said, we all want to be there, we all want to be there to help and support. Right now we’re kind of handcuffed. We’re kind of stuck.”
Would you like to see this game cancelled on Thursday?
“That’s way above my pay grade. Obviously, everybody wants to compete, everybody wants to play, but at the same time, there’s nothing more important than family. As a father, I want to be there for my daughter and be there to protect her while all this stuff’s going on.”
Do you get to FaceTime with Summer?
“I do. Every break I get. She has no idea what’s going on and she is still smiling, so it’s a relief. Obviously, there are some things going on that are very unfortunate.”
DE J.J. WATT
What are your thoughts on Hurricane Harvey and what’s going on back in Houston?
“Yeah, it’s very, very tough. Like I said yesterday, it’s very difficult to watch your family, your friends, your city go through a time like this and not be there to help, not be there to go through it with them, not be there to experience it. Our thoughts are most definitely with everybody. We hope everybody stays safe. Like I said yesterday, we’re just trying to do whatever we can to help from afar because we can’t get there. We can’t help physically so we’re going to help raise that money, we’re going to try to make sure that we get a jumpstart on it. We’re not going to wait until it’s too late to start. We’re going to try to raise that money right now because we know what’s about to happen. We know that once the storm stops, there’s going to be massive, massive recovery efforts and we want to be there. We want to be ahead of it so we can really get a jumpstart on getting these people back on their feet.”
Can you talk about the response to the fundraiser you started (www.youcaring.com/jjwatt)?
“I think that it’s been an unbelievable display of what can happen when people come together. Just to see how many people are sharing it, to see how many people are donating. Like I said, whether it’s $5, whether it’s $500, whatever it may be, to see so many people’s support, to see so many people send the message, spread the message, it’s incredible. And I think that’s what Houston’s all about. It’s a very diverse city. It’s a very resilient city. It’s been through things like this before – maybe not of this magnitude, but it’s been through these types of situations. People are coming together, people are helping raise each other up. I think it’s not only from the state of Texas, it’s from all over the country, and I think that’s something special about this country. That’s what this country is about, is helping each other when we’re down, lifting each other up when we’re down. I think we’re in a time right now where obviously the City of Houston, the state of Texas especially, the southeastern part is down, so we need to help them as much as we possibly can. I think it’s been unbelievable to see the amount of support people have shown.”
What players are dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey?
“There’s some guys dealing with water in their homes. There’s a couple guys that have young kids, they have wives back there, that have full families back there, so it’s very difficult. Obviously you’d like to be back there to help. Sometimes power’s going out, water’s being shut off, families can’t leave their homes. So, it’s very difficult. You’ve got a mom and a child at home alone, that’s a very tough situation. We wish we could be there. It’s nice that we’re all together so that we can go through it together and we can support each other. We obviously want to get home as quickly as possible so we can help our families and all families of Houston because really, we’re all one big community.”
Have you talked to any of your teammates who are still in Houston?
“No, I actually haven’t now that I think about it. We’ve been trying so hard to really get this going, but I know they’re safe, and that’s the biggest message. Everybody stay safe. Don’t try to go on the roads, don’t try to do too much. We’ll get this thing all cleaned up and rebuild the city once it’s all over with.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said the Texans will dedicate the season to the City of Houston. What does that mean to you?
“I think that obviously you do that every year but I think this year’s something special. This is much bigger and much more important than football. There’s no question about that. But, if on Sundays this fall we can take people’s minds off of the situation for a couple hours, if we can put a smile on people’s faces for a couple of hours and be a distraction away from everything that’s going on, we’ll gladly do that, and we’ll do our absolute best to make sure that we give the people the best show possible. Like I said, this is so much bigger than football and we’re not trying to stand up here and act like we’re anything more than we are. We’re just football players at the end of the day but if there’s a way we can help, if there’s a way that we can brighten these people’s days a little bit, we’re going to do it.”
Considering that this is the fourth preseason game and all that’s going on in Houston, would you prefer to see this game cancelled?
“I think there are much bigger things at hand, absolutely. I think that the most important thing right now is family and friends in the City of Houston back home, making sure that they’re safe, making sure that they’re taken care of. And if there is something played this week, I think we should definitely involve some sort of fundraiser, some sort of way to benefit the people back home because I think, like I said, this is a much bigger issue than just a football game.”
You just played a game in New Orleans. Did you ask some of those players what it was like to go through a similar situation?
“One of the sentiments that I heard a lot back in New Orleans was how Houston welcomed some of the refugees from (Hurricane) Katrina, from all the people that had to evacuate New Orleans and go over to Houston and how a lot of those people stayed in Houston and how now it’s kind of Houston’s time. Houston needs the help. Houston’s the one that needs some of the funds. They need some of the help. They need the resources. So, it’s nice to see people from all over paying Houston back and giving that chance to raise Houston up. It’s going to be a long process. It’s not going to be a one-day (thing), it’s not going to be a one-week thing. It’s not something we can forget about once the rain’s gone. We’re going to have to rebuild a lot of people’s lives, we’re going to have to rebuild a lot of people’s homes, our whole communities. So, we just need to make sure that we’re in it for the long haul and that’s what I want the people of Houston to know. We’re with you in the long haul. We’re not here just for one quick fundraiser, we’re here to help you out until we get this city fully back on its feet.”
What is your message to the people in Houston right now?
“Our thoughts are with you. I don’t know how much my thoughts mean to you but I want you to know that they’re with you. Just stay strong and stay safe. Heed to all of the advice, heed all of the warnings that people give. Help out in whatever way you can with those around you, but the biggest thing is stay safe. We don’t want any more casualties, we don’t want any more people going out in harm’s way. We just want everybody to stay safe, come out of this on the other end and we will come back stronger. We will rebuild the city stronger than it was. We’re a very tough city, we’re very tough people. So, we’re going to come out of this better on the other end. Just stay safe for now and once it’s over, we’ll rebuild.”
Would you like to see the game cancelled?
“I just spoke a little bit on it. This issue is much bigger than football. This is something that we need to put our focus on, we need to put our attention on. If a game is played, I think there definitely needs to be an aspect of it that involves a fundraiser or some sort of way to give back to the community, some way we can make it a positive impact on Houston and help rebuild these people. I do believe this is a much bigger issue than football and I think that our first priority should be on the City of Houston and the lives of those people back there, not necessarily on a game.”
What are your emotions watching all of this stuff?
“You feel a little helpless. You feel like you wish you could be there to help. I feel like I’m up here in Dallas and I’m practicing football and in a hotel watching it on TV and you just wish you could be back there to help everybody out. It’s very tough to know that all the people are back there and you really can’t do anything about it. That’s why we’re trying to do whatever we can because it is – it’s a little helpless.”