Head Coach Bill O’Brien
ILB Brian Cushing
CB Kareem Jackson
OLB Whitney Mercilus
DE J.J. Watt
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What are your thoughts on the game being relocated?
“Look, like I said yesterday, wherever they tell us to play, we’ll play. (If) they want us to play right here, we’ll play right here. It’s a nice stadium right here (The Ford Center at The Star). But, no. As coaches and players, we don’t have any say in that matter. We just try to focus on our jobs and when we’re not doing our jobs, we’re trying to stay in contact with our families.”
Have you seen the response to DE J.J. Watt’s charitable drive (www.youcaring.com/jjwatt)?
“Unbelievable, the reach that J.J. has. I was just talking with him a little bit today on the way over here. I mean, it’s incredible. There’s really not a lot of words that can describe what he’s done. The thing that’s really pretty neat about him is he is really adamant about that money going toward the people that need it. And I think he’s got a lot of great ideas for that money and I think he’s actually putting it into action right now. It just says a lot about who he is and we’re sure lucky to have him.”
Do you guys have any sense of when you can actually get home?
“A little bit of sense. Not anything that I can publicly talk about but there’s a sense we can get back there, I would say, before Monday. I wouldn’t say we can get back there before the game, obviously. We’ve got to play the game. Each day we get a little bit more information based on what’s going on down there.”
What’s the mood of the team and how are they handling what’s going on down there?
“Our team’s in a good mood. We’re in a beautiful hotel over here. It’s kind of that feeling of helplessness, that you’re away from your family. The players and coaches and the trainers and the operations people and the video guys and equipment guys – everybody – they’re all away from their families. So, that’s where there’s a feeling of you can’t really do anything to help. All you can do is FaceTime and talk on the phone, ‘How’s it going, where’s the water?’ All those things and then watch the news. So, that’s probably the biggest issue, but other than that, these guys are a great bunch of guys. They’re focused on our meetings when we’re in meetings. We’ve had two good practices here and it’s been good in that regard, but it is a feeling of not being able to help back at home.”
It is game four of the preseason and some players are on the roster bubble. How are you handling that?
“I think any time you play a game in the National Football League, it’s important. I really do. Look, I realize it’s not the AFC Championship Game. I realize that. But I will tell you for all the guys that are going to play in that game, it’s a very important game. It’s an important game for them as Houston Texans and it’s an important game for them to be able put some good football on tape as they head into the 53 cut. You can’t keep 90 guys. That’s the rule in the NFL, so there’s 37 guys, or about that, that are going to be released and they’re all trying to do the best they can to put their best foot forward.”
Have you heard about what NRG Stadium looks like?
Can you talk about the competition for that last wide receiver spot?
“Look, I think every position’s competitive. I think the wide receiver position’s competitive, I think that running back’s competitive, offensive line. I think, offensively, I think there’s a lot of important decisions to be made over the next three or four days, whatever it is. That’s what hopefully makes you a good football team. When you have easy decisions at the end of August going into September, sometimes I don’t know if that leads into being a competitive team. So, I think having hard decisions means that you have a competitive team.”
Have you had a chance to talk to the guys back home?
“Yeah, we’ve stayed in touch with everybody. Two or three times a day, we’ve tried to reach them. Sometimes the issue is the cell service, not being able to get them on the cellphone. But we’re doing the best we can to help. Some guys, I don’t want to mention specific names, but some guys are in areas that are harder hit than other areas. There are some guys that we were able to move to the Holiday Inn there across from the stadium, but other guys are in some tough areas relative to flooding. So, we’re just doing the best we can to stay in touch and see what we can do to help them.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
What do you think about playing this fourth preseason game?
“I’m not sure. That’s not my decision to make, I guess I could basically say. Obviously it’s important for a lot of the guys to play in this fourth preseason game and it’s important for the film to be out there, but at the same time you have to take a lot of things into account. But like I said, that’s a decision that’s above my head. Whatever we’re asked to do, we will do.”
Most you aren’t going to play anyway, right?
“That’s another decision that’s kind of over my head and not for me to make. Like I said, we have a job and a situation to do, and whatever that is, whatever we’re asked to do, we’ll do it. Obviously we understand what’s going on back home and that’s a huge concern of ours as well. At the same time, we have a job and this is where we are for now.”
What effect do you think it will have on the community when you open the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
“I think any time you play a season opener in Houston, the crowd’s going to be going crazy, but especially after enduring this and what the city has gone through. This is never easy but Houston will pull through like it always does. Just to have that impact and the energy in the stadium the first game will make things go by a lot more smoothly, I think.”
How’s your family?
“They’re good. They’re good. They’re safe and they’re at home. We’ve been fortunate, the situation and where we live, our location. Obviously the streets are all completely flooded with water but at the same time, nothing has really gotten to the house. So, for the most part they’ve been safe. If anything, the kids are just going a little stir crazy, not really having a grasp on what’s going on. But at the same time they’ve just kind of been pent up in the house for a while now.”
Have you and your teammates sat down to talk about everything in your down time?
“You can talk with your teammates to try to get through it but from a father’s perspective, you obviously want to be there. So, it’s tough. It’s never easy. But like I said, we have a job and right now, right here is where I need to be. At the same time, I’ll be very happy to finally get home and be with them.”
How do you keep focus on the first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
“We do. We just have to as best we possibly can. It’s not easy but being a professional athlete isn’t (easy). It’s just one of those things that we’re asked a lot of things of us and to do. So, at the same time we have to juggle a lot of different things and be expected to do it at the highest level. We understand that and we have to continue to do that.”
Is it a little easier now that you know what the next few days will look like?
“I’m not sure. I still don’t think we really know as a team what we’re going to do over these next few days. We’re here for now, and that’s all we can worry about. Like I said, we have to take it day to day.”
How do you think the process of practicing at The Star has gone for you guys?
“Really well. I think the Cowboys have done a tremendous job of letting us come in and use the facility. It’s gone over very smoothly. We’ve been very fortunate with the situation. Like I said, they’ve been very (great) to us.”
CB KAREEM JACKSON
How’s your family?
“They’re good. They are holding up pretty well for the most part right now. Out in my area, the water is pretty high. I have a little lake in the back of my house so it’s pretty high in the backyard and stuff. Overall, they’re fine, they’re fine.”
How anxious are you to get back home?
“Very anxious. It’s a tough time for the City of Houston right now. For us as a group, being away from our families, that’s the first and foremost the most important thing for us. Right now, with the city being in a time of need, with us being there and being able to help and being around our families and stuff, it’s definitely very important for us, so we are very anxious to get back.”
What do you think about the game getting moved to Dallas?
“I kind of expected that to happen with the things that are going on in Houston right now. It’s still a huge opportunity for some of the young guys. I hope those guys are taking it seriously so they can get out there and perform to the best of their ability. Definitely kind of tough with everything that is going on in Houston.”
Can practice serve as a nice distraction?
“Definitely. Any time we are going through adversity off the field, football is definitely one of those things that can take your mind off of it. Once you get in the locker room, you have to try and block out all the outside distractions and stuff. To be around all the guys, the coaches and stuff like that – guys are still trying to be upbeat about things. It definitely takes your mind off of it.”
What is keeping you motivated and focused right now?
“Just the work that we put in throughout camp. Going to The Greenbrier and becoming closer as a team and the work that we put in. At the end of the day, we know the goals that we still have, what we want to accomplish this year as a team. We don’t want our hard work to go in vain. At the end of the day, when we are out on the field, it’s all about getting better. Once we get done with practice and stuff, it’s all about taking care of the family and seeing what we can do to help out back in Houston.”
What have you seen from K.J. Dillion this year?
“He’s progressing real well. With an injury like he had, sometimes it takes a little bit longer than they want necessary to be out there on the field. He’s progressing. He’s getting better each and every day. I think he just has to take it a day at a time.”
What have you guys been doing to pass the time?
“Just hang out with one another. I mean, that’s all we can do. Just stuck in the hotels, try to talk to your family as much as we can. Try to stay in the loop there with what’s going on. Other than that, just kind of hanging out with each other, getting dinner here and there, just doing little stuff.”
Did it help when they moved the game so you would know your schedule?
“Definitely, because as of now we are just sitting and waiting for the next move, basically. Getting news from Coach (Bill) O’Brien each and every day. He’s kind of keeping us in the loop with what’s on and what they are thinking about and what we might do. Knowing that the game will still go on, now guys can kind of lock their minds around that and get ready for the game.”
You’ve been in Houston for a while. Do you think the city will rebound?
“I think they will definitely be able to rebound. The City of Houston – sports kind of keeps everybody close, whether it’s us, the Astros or the Rockets. With all of us pitching in and helping one another, I think we will definitely bounce back even stronger.”
Do you believe in the power of sports to aid the healing process?
“Definitely. With the things that are taking place, everybody’s coming together and helping one another, that’s what sports are about: a group of guys coming together for one goal. So, to help to rebuild the city, that’s what it will be all about. Definitely sports is the closest thing to that.”
With the money that DE J.J. Watt’s fund has raised, what do you think that says about him?
“Says a lot about him. J.J. has always been a stand-up guy. He’s always been the guy that if someone’s in need, he will help them. For him to do the things that he is doing now, to raise this money and to donate it to the city in their time of need, it shows the great guy that he is. It’s great on his behalf. Hoping the rest of the guys are going to pitch in and make a donation as well. I know I will.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
How’s everybody doing back home in Houston?
“Everybody’s doing great. I’ve been keeping up with them for the last couple days and everything, so just by the grace of God, everybody’s been good. It’s very tragic seeing all the pictures and everything. I just hope more people are safe as all the rescue efforts are going on and stuff like that. I’m just thankful my family’s good and most of my friends are good and everything.”
Did your restaurant, One Fifth, flood?
“It’s OK. It’s OK. Yeah, I definitely talked to my partners and everything. It’s been good, thankfully, but it’s not really much of a concern for me right now as far as lives are a little bit more important.”
When you look at the situation, is football a good distraction for you guys?
“Football can be a good distraction and everything but we still have our families and it’s unfortunate for us not to be there with our families while they’re going through it and everything. So, unfortunately we’re here and we want to get back as soon as possible as we can. The coaches, the staff and everything are doing their best in order for us to get back, but for the time being, all we can do is just pray and hope for the best.”
Was it hard not knowing exactly what your schedule looks like for the next couple of days and just you wanting to be home?
“Yeah, I mean it is hard, but we’re usually used to things on the fly, things changing always and all that. So, we adjust to it perfectly and Coach (O’Brien) will let us know exactly what’s going on and so we’ll adjust. We’re all professionals.”
How have you passed the time other than checking in at home?
“Go out, go eat something, just chill (and) rest as much as we can. It’s been a long camp (and) everything, a long preseason so far, so that’s about it as far as we can do during our down time right now.”
Has all this time away from home brought you all closer, comradery-wise, between West Virginia and this?
“Yeah, I would say we’ve gotten a little bit more closer now, as far as asking each other how our families are doing and things like that. For the last few days since we’ve been switching hotels and stuff like that, we’ve gotten a little bit more time to hang out with each other and really find out more about each one of our teammates.”
DE J.J. WATT
What are your thoughts on people’s generosity as they continue to keep giving and donating?
“I mean, I literally – it’s very hard to put it into words. I mean, to get a call a little bit ago from Amy Adams Strunk from the Titans and to see them pledge $1 million dollars. That’s remarkable from a team in our division, one of our rivals, willing to go above and beyond football, go above and beyond anything and donate $1 million dollars. It’s incredible and it just speaks to humanity. It speaks to the good in people. So, I can’t say thank you enough to the Titans organization and everybody over there and Ms. Strunk. But then also everybody that’s donating $5, $10, everybody who’s donating whatever they can. I realize that money’s not easy to come by, so whatever people are donating, however generous they’re being, it’s unbelievable. We started out trying to raise $200,000 for this and we’re over $3.25 million. I have no clue where it’s going to go from here. We got the goal set at $4 million now, pretty soon I’m sure it will raise up to $5 million. I don’t know what we can do but it’s spectacular to watch. You have celebrities reaching out. You have Drake, you have Kevin Hart, you have The Rock, you have all these people from all over the world reaching out and donating money. All these organizations, American Family, Guinness, people donating hundreds of thousands of dollars. All I can say is that, as the person collecting it, I can just promise you that I’m doing everything that I can to make sure that this money is going directly back to the people. I’m working very hard at that. I have a great group of people helping me and I’m just going to do everything that I can to make sure that your money goes where it needs to go to make sure that these people are getting the help they need.”
What did you think about Houston Rockets G Chris Paul donating $50,000?
“He was one of the early ones in. He called me right away and said he wanted to be in. That just helps. I mean, to get the big name people who are willing to go out there and put their money out there, it also helps raise the awareness, so it was really special of him to do that. Everybody that’s involved, my teammates are putting their money in. We have players from other teams putting their money in, celebrities, musicians, I mean, everybody. And it’s not just the money. It’s the retweeting, it’s the reposting, its people talking about it. It’s so special to see and I can’t thank everybody enough. All I can say on behalf of the City of Houston is ‘thank you’ because we’re going to do so much good with this money. We’re going to help so many people. We’re going to help them get back on their feet. We’re going to do whatever we can. Like I said, I’m going to try and make this money go as long as it possibly can to help these people.”
Where are you hoping the money goes?
“What we’re trying to do right now is I’m setting up – nothing is set in stone so I don’t want any of this to be set in stone but what I’m trying to do right now is I’m setting up – because I want this to go directly back to the people, I’m setting up basically trying to get semi-trucks full of water, food, clothing and cleaning supplies so that – hopefully, the goal is this weekend, once the floods are down and once we get back to Houston, we drive those semi-trucks up to a few locations throughout the city and we start handing it out. That’s the tentative plan at the moment. It’s obviously very taxing logistically but I have a great group of people helping me out. My mom is leading it. She’s superwoman. Amy (Palcic) and the Texans have been unbelievable helping me out. But that’s what we’re working on right now, is filling these trucks up, getting them down to Houston and then distributing the goods because I want this stuff, like I said, to go directly to the people, not to any administrative fees, not anywhere else. Your money is going to go right to the people.”
And Texans players have been contributing?
“Yes, my teammates have already put in money. I know that some of them are going to come out there and help us this weekend. Obviously there’s going to be volunteers. There’s so many volunteers already willing to help out. We just need to make sure we coordinate it properly. The City of Houston is very resilient. The people of this country, the people of this world – I mean, we’re getting donations from all around the world. I can’t say thank you enough. It’s so special to see what happens when humans help other humans.”
What did you think about the decision to play the game on Thursday? Do you think it could be a nice distraction for the people of Houston and your teammates?
“No. I think the only good thing that can possibly come out of a game on Thursday would be a massive fundraiser. That’s about the best case scenario that could come from a game on Thursday, is if it raised multi-million dollars. Other than that, I don’t see it being – I mean, this is bigger than football. It’s bigger than a game. It’s bigger than any of us. So, we need to make sure we’re thinking about these victims and the City of Houston before anything else.”
Have you heard any feedback that they might do that?
“I’m hoping so. I don’t know. That’s well above my pay grade over there at the NFL.”
What would the Week 1 game against the Jaguars mean to the healing process?
“It’s a long ways away. The one thing I know about this season is that if – like I’ve said the whole time, football is secondary in this conversation. This is so much bigger than football. But during this season, if, for three hours every Sunday, we can take people’s minds off of what’s happening and put a smile on their face, we’re going to do that and we’re going to play as hard as we possibly can to make these people proud. Then, obviously the rest of the time, we’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that we help them rebuild.”
What do you think about Head Coach Bill O’Brien dedicating the season to the fans?
“I think that’s – we’re going to do whatever we possibly can to make sure that our fans and the City of Houston is in the highest spirits we possibly can.”