Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
ILB Brian Cushing
RB D’Onta Foreman
P Shane Lechler
QB Tom Savage
DE J.J. Watt
Conference Call with Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone
Conference Call with Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What do you expect from DE J.J. Watt in his first game back since September of last year?
“Judging by practice, I just go by what I’ve seen. He’s had an excellent preseason. He’s fully healthy. I think I’ve said this now a thousand times. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to block him, so it’s been very difficult. I would expect him to go out there, be his usual self (and) play very well.”
You talked before about how DE J.J. Watt never ceases to amaze you, and with the way he’s juggling a full-time job, NFL football, and this charity effort with $27 million, can you speak to the spectacle that that’s become?
“There are very few people that could do that. And I’ll say this, and I think he would say this, he has a number of people helping him now. He’s very focused on the game. These guys are here from 6:30 in the morning until 5 o’clock in the afternoon. None of them have much time for anything other than studying Jacksonville and getting ready to play the game. So, it’s incredible what he’s done, but I can tell you that he’s very focused on his job on the game on Sunday.”
Do you guys talk in the locker room about how much a win on Sunday would mean to the city?
“I don’t think we’ve talked about it that much. If you have to talk about that, then I don’t know, you probably don’t have much of a clue of what’s going on outside of the building, which that can be the case in certain things, but not in this case. It’s directly affected a lot of guys in that locker room. Directly affected families of players and coaches and support staff. We know what it means, but again, we also know that Jacksonville’s a very tough opponent. They have a whole new regime there with (Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Coach (Tom) Coughlin and (Jaguars Head Coach) Coach (Doug) Marrone. It’s going to be a different ball club that comes in here and we’re going to have to play every snap at a very high level in order to win the game. It’s going to be a very difficult game, but we know that it’ll mean a lot to Houston for us to come out and play well. We understand that.”
What was it like to watch the friendly rivalry with Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye and Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins had and what do you think it will be like to watch them play on Sunday?
“As a matter of fact, I just talked about that a little bit this morning in our meeting – the respect that we have for A.J., what he did here. When we got here, he had been here for a year. He was an undrafted guy, Central Florida, everybody knows his story. Played a little bit in our first year here and then, basically, became a starter. A lot of that was obviously because of his own work ethic, his ability to be here day in and day out and work and then obviously going against Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) on the scout team, that was a very important part of his development too. They made each other better. I know they’re close friends and I think when the game starts, all that goes out the window. It’s just a matter of executing and making sure you’re doing your job on both sides of the ball. But, we have a lot of respect for A.J.”
I know you heard Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone’s brand of humor before, but he had his conference call with us a little bit ago and he said “I never liked Bill O’Brien. That’s all been false. I really like his wife a lot better than him. Many people think we’re friends, we’re really not.” He put out that he and his wife are friends with your wife. He says it’s really three-against-one. And unfortunately for the media, he admitted he was only teasing.
“I would say as a Bostonian he’s speaking like a true New Yorker that he is. That’s how I would respond to his humor. That’s it. True guy from the Bronx sense of humor. No, he’s a good coach, good friend and it’s going to be a tough football game.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone says that you guys really don’t talk at this time, says it’s too hard and there’s too much going on.
“Basically he and his wife introduced myself and my wife. We go back – we coached together, roomed together at Georgia Tech. You’re going back 22-23 years, working for (former Georgia Tech Head Coach) George O’Leary and (former Georgia Tech Offensive Coordinator) Ralph Friedgen and those guys, so we’ve known each other a long time, but like anything else, when it comes to this league and this game, if you’re in this thing long enough you become friends with a lot of different people and when the game kicks off, friendship’s out the window and you’re trying to do the best job you can to win the game.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone says that during the hurricane his wife checked in with your wife.
“Yeah, they talk a lot. They’re good friends. They went to Boston College together, so they’re friends. They talk a lot. He did text me during Harvey. He was with the (New Orleans) Saints during Katrina, so he gave me a couple pieces of advice that he thought that worked, that (Saints Head Coach) Sean Payton did when he was there. So, I thought that was pretty cool of him to do that and that’s basically as much as I’ve talked to him in the last month or two.”
What kind of input does QB Tom Savage have now that he’s known the system for a while and the back-and-forth in the room about what he sees and tells you guys and that he’s developed?
“Our guys in that room always have input. It’s not a dictatorship. We go in there and we try to guide them with what the game plan is and then – look, as the week progresses, there’s certain things as they’re watching film, we’re watching film, maybe they like, maybe they don’t like. We’re not going to run any plays that they don’t feel comfortable with. That would be idiotic. So, there’s a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of emailing, texting, phone calls – not just when we’re in the building. That’s the position of quarterback in this league. When you’re playing defenses like Jacksonville, which is a top defense that is very difficult to go against, you have to be in constant communication with your quarterback to make sure you’re on the same page, ‘hey, we’re thinking about this here, that here, this is how we’re going to practice tomorrow, here’s some of the things we’re thinking about in first- and second-downs, third-downs, red area, things like that.’ So, it’s very much an open line of communication in there.”
Is that a good way to gauge how much QB Tom Savage does understand what you guys are trying? Because when he comes up with his own things, it’s showing you that he has it.
“He has a very good knowledge of what we do. He’s been in it for four years. He’s very – he comprehends everything that we’re talking about. We’re talking the same language and he understands it very well. From a defensive perspective, what we’re looking at and then obviously from our own perspective. So yeah, he understands it very well.”
As QB Tom Savage is making his first start entering a season as the quarterback, it’s kind of an unconventional route for him to get here – multiple colleges, fourth-round pick, sitting behind a free agent acquisition quarterback. Does it surprise you that he’s been able to get to this point and what does it say about the type of person he is?
“He’s a resilient guy. I’ve known him for a while. I knew him when I was at Penn State. He had been at Rutgers and was thinking about going somewhere else and that’s the first time I met he and his brother and his dad. I was always struck with his demeanor, his poise and his straightforwardness and you could just tell that he was a guy that believed in himself through all the things that he had been through and what he has been through up to this point. He’s had a good camp. He’s had a good offseason. A lot of quarterbacks in this league go through a lot early in their career. If you look at the history of quarterbacks in this league, not everybody just starts from day one, the good ones. Some guys have different things that they go through, so Tom’s earned the right to be the starter and we’re looking forward to seeing how he plays.”
Have you seen a difference in how QB Tom Savage understands things? Because for three years he knew the offense and now this year, whole offseason, he’s running the offense, he’s getting all the reps, he’s playing.
“It probably has shown itself more because of the fact that he’s out there doing it more. He’s getting more reps, so as a coach you’re looking at him and you’re saying ‘Yeah, I like this guy.’ These are plays that you really hadn’t seen him run in the past. Now, since the end of July to where we are now, that’s a long time. So, we’ve seen it a while, we’ve seen it in OTAs because he’s been getting a lot of the reps, obviously most of the reps. You’re right though, I think he has shown us a lot by being out there, getting all those reps.”
You’ve run the ball more than any other team since you’ve been here. Bringing in RB D’Onta Foreman, is he where you want him to be at this point and what do you expect from him?
“Foreman’s going to be a good player. No, I don’t think any of the rookies are where you want them to be, where they’re going to eventually be, I wouldn’t say that about any rookie. It’s too early. There’s so much development that goes on with our coaching staff. I’ve seen rookies take a big jump from Week One to Week 10. I’ve seen rookies take the jump in their second year. D’Onta Foreman is a downhill runner, a guy that’s got instincts, he’s got good vision, but he’s got a ways to go. If he plays, if he’s active on Sunday, we’ll see how it goes, but Lamar’s (Miller) the main guy and we’ll go from there.”
Can you put into words what the last five weeks have done for your football team? Being in West Virginia, the flood, just everything – it’s not a typical preseason.
“I think this is a good group of guys. Like I said, I was on some radio thing yesterday and I can’t predict anything, I’m not a predictor, but I do know that this is a very, very good group of guys to work with. You come into the building every day like you really can’t wait to coach them. They work hard. They’re very attentive in the meetings. They’re all good teammates. They care about each other. They listen to the coaching. They take the coaching. They’re attentive. They have good input into the game plan and what we’re doing. So, I really enjoy this group and I think a lot of that has to do with us being away together for a while.”
Can you tell us about a guy like ILB Dylan Cole making this roster?
“He’s had a productive preseason. He’s made a lot of plays. Again, just like the answer to D’Onta (Foreman), none of these rookies are where they’re going to be eventually. But, they’ve all earned the right at this point to make the team and they have to keep it going. I would say that Cole has really made a lot of plays on special teams and when he’s gotten in there on defense he’s running around. He can run. He can tackle. He’s a tough kid, but he’s a long way away from being where he’s eventually going to be, I think.”
Who will be the captains?
“I have a leadership council and I’ll choose the captains each week from that leadership council.”
What does DE Joel Heath bring to the team that made you list him first on the depth chart?
“He was out for a while, but he had done a lot last year and we had seen what he could do. He’s a tough kid. Michigan State guy. He’s a guy that – when he played last year, he made plays for us. We knew that he was, obviously, hurt and going to be back at some point. When he got back, he made some plays. He’s a ways away from being fully back, but he was able to go in there and make some plays. He’s got good length. Tough guy. So, we’re glad to have him back.”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
What have you seen in the development of QB Tom Savage and how do you feel about him as a starter?
“I think Tom had a real solid spring, ever since I’ve been around him, in and out of the meeting room. He’s just done a good job of kind of taking right into that leadership role, has stepped up from day one. He had a good grasp of our offense coming into the year but I think he’s even taken it a step further. He’s been solid the whole way, both in the learning environment and out on the field. Been really happy with where he’s come.”
How has your transition been coaching the quarterbacks? Do you like it?
“I do like it. It gives you a little broader view of everything when you move out of the receivers room and into the quarterbacks room. I did it once in New York. I went from the receivers room to the quarterbacks room, so I’m familiar with it, I’ve done it before. But it’s a lot of fun and it kind of gets you involved in every aspect in terms of not only the passing game, but your protections, the run game, the whole deal. It’s been a real good step for me.”
Does it really take a few years for a quarterback to get comfortable in this complex offense?
“I think there’s always challenges to your offense. We certainly have a multiple offense where we’re able to do a lot of good things. We want our quarterback to make some decisions in both run and pass game, so there’s certainly a lot of intricacies to it. But I would tell you, for young guys coming into the league, there’s a growing curve in every offense. Certainly we like what we do here, but I think Tom’s assimilated and done it and Deshaun’s (Watson) come along and done a decent job for us as well, learning.”
Is the curve significantly steep with the offense compared to others?
“I think, like I said, it’s a multiple offense. So, these guys got to be on their toes, they’ve got to be smart, they’ve got to handle things, different situations and what the defense does. And we want them to get us into good plays and make good decisions, but I think that’s pretty true of most quarterbacks in the league.”
As the quarterbacks coach, do you help Head Coach Bill O’Brien game plan during the week? How does the collaborative process work?
“We have a great situation in our offensive staff room, and really, it’s a collaborative effort with all of our offensive coaches, with OB (O’Brien) leading the charge. But every guy having some input with their expertise in their area and everybody kind of understanding the challenge that everybody else faces in their room, working together and coming up with good ideas. But it’s a collaborative effort with the entire offensive staff.”
What do you think about the relationship QB Tom Savage has with his receivers, especially WR DeAndre Hopkins? They seem to be close.
“I think that’s definitely true. To be honest with you, I think Tom’s got that with the majority of positions on the team, in particular on offense. I think it carries over with obviously the receivers, which is important for those guys to have that chemistry, but he’s tight with the offensive line, he’s got good relationships with the backs, the tight ends, the whole deal. He really gets around. He makes an effort to really get to know these guys and not just on the field, but I think off the field, too. It shows up, it shows up. Certainly the chemistry with DeAndre’s been apparent.”
What allows him to do that?
“I think it’s his demeanor, his personality and the way he handles himself. I think he’s just a welcoming type of guy. He’s willing to help people, to give them information to kind of understand what the challenges of their job are and able to, in some ways, tell them what his job entails. I think between those two things, guys feel comfortable talking to him.”
He told the media today that he’s even-keel in press conferences but more energetic on the field. Who is the Tom Savage that you know?
“I mean, yeah, definitely. Gameday you have to tell him, ‘Hey, you got to reel it in.’ Sometimes he gets emotional, but in a good way, you know what I mean? I tell him a lot of times, like, ‘Look, man, I like to see that fire, that competitiveness.’ And I don’t think you can be successful at this level of level of football without that. As a quarterback, you’ve got to be able to control it and make it work for you, and I think Tom can do that. But there’s no question, I’ve seen his interviews, he’s an even-keel guy, but he gets a little fired up. It’s good to see, though.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
What are you expecting to see from the crowd on Sunday?
“Obviously just a lot of emotions, a loud stadium. I think the best thing for the city is to come out and play a game, and obviously if we can get a win that would be huge. The energy will be high and it will be really good to be back home playing in this stadium.”
Does the first game still get your nerves going like it used to?
“Yeah. It has a special feel to it. It’s awesome. It’s just a lot of fun. It never gets old. It’s one of those things, no matter how many times they come around, that first game definitely has a special feel to it, always.”
Given what the city has been through the past few weeks, what are your emotions right now?
“Well, it’s nice to be home, first and foremost. It’s a good feeling to be back in the routine and doing stuff that you’re used to doing. Obviously, everything the city’s been through, it’s a lot. You drive up and down the street, you see all the people’s furniture outside and all the things that are just waiting to be collected and thrown away, and all the rivers and bayous are raised still. The physical damage is obviously there still. It’s just one of those things we’re going to help out as best we possibly can. Knowing that a lot of people have been through a lot of stuff, both physically and mentally, and try to offer support as best we possibly can. Like I said, obviously the game will help as well just to kind of continue to move forward past all of this.”
Can you talk about the challenge of the Jaguars running backs?
“They have three or four good running backs. They have a good offensive line. They have a good offense. We’re going to be expecting them to come out and try to pound it a little bit. But for the most part, they have a very capable offense. They can throw the ball, they can run the ball, they can do it all. We have to bring our best performance.”
RB D’ONTA FOREMAN
What do you expect to do in your first game?
“I just want to go out there and play hard, like always, and just contribute as much as I can to the team and do everything that the coaches ask me to do and try to get a win.”
Do you think you can do in the regular season what you did in the preseason – big plays, not just running but receiving?
“Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to try my best to go out there and just be productive always and just do what they ask me to do. My thing is go out there and play hard, make plays for the team and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Do you think you’re capable of making a lot of big plays like you did last year and in preseason?
“It comes with the game. Just preparation – good preparation leads to executing on the field, so if you prepare good in practice and then you go out there and just leave it all on the field.”
Will you take an extra look around the stadium and appreciate being in your first NFL game on Sunday?
“Oh yeah, definitely. I always look around and just soak in the moment. Like I said, I’m blessed to be here. I never take it for granted, never take a day for granted. Like I said, this was always my dream. I always really wanted to play for the Texans, too, so to be here is a dream come true.”
This is your first regular season game, how does that hit you? Have you given much thought to that?
“I think about it every day, just leading up to it. You’re nervous a little bit, but also you understand that it’s just football. I’ve been playing football a long time. I just want to go out there and do what the coaches ask me to do and be productive as much as I can be.”
How does it hit you that you’ve worked all your life for this moment and here it is?
“It’s a blessing. I prayed about it. God was with me and my family, for them to be able to see me do something that I always dreamed about, it’ll be wonderful just for my family and the people back home in Texas City just to see me be able to accomplish something that they know I always wanted to do is amazing. For me to go out there and play well would be even better.”
P SHANE LECHLER
Do you ever stop and think about how long you’ve lasted and are still playing at a very high level?
“Yeah, I think about it. I think about my career every now and then, but it’s kind of one of those things – you put in the work and prepare all offseason for this moment, so I feel like I’m ready to go. Nothing out of the ordinary, just going out there and try to do the best I can for the defense.”
What do you think about where this team is right now?
“We’ll see. It’s still early in that process. We cut the team down to the numbers we’re at and it’s kind of a different vibe. The locker room feels good right now. So, I don’t know what that means. We’ll see. I’ve had a lot of openers and I’ve felt good about a lot of them. I’ve felt good every single season I’ve played, so we’ll see how this one ends up.”
How do you keep going at your level?
“I challenge myself every week. It’s not only – the fact that I’m competing a game within a game. I’m trying to win the field position every week. There’s a lot that goes into the kicking game now. It’s changed over the years. Now it’s go out there and do your job, and my job is to put the defense in the best position I can put them in and then let those guys go to work.”
Given all that has happened, what do you think it will be like out there on Sunday?
“The emotions and the crowd – I’ve been a part of a lot of home openers here in Houston now, I think this is my fourth one. I think we opened up my first year here out in San Diego on a Monday night game, but ever since then, this crowd and this city is going to show up. They always do. It has a little bit of a different feeling with what’s gone on with (Hurricane) Harvey and all this stuff that’s going on around the city, but they’re going to show up. They do every Sunday. This one, they may have a little added to it, but I’m expecting nothing but the best. They always show up here.”
Does the start to this season feel any different than the last three years when you went 9-7?
“No, it doesn’t feel any different to me. I always go into the season thinking, ‘Man, we can win this whole thing.’ That has happened even in some of the dark years in Oakland, I felt good about every season going into it. That’s just my way of approaching it and I haven’t changed, I don’t see why I should.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
What do you think the moment will be like when you guys take the field for the first time this Sunday?
“Oh, it’s going to be unbelievable. I know we’re all really excited about it and it’s going to be a fun atmosphere.”
What do you remember from being thrown into the Jaguars game last season and having some success?
“I mean, it helped a lot. Obviously just going out there and kind of just reacting out there. Obviously you don’t get as many reps during the week but you’re kind of reacting, you’re communicating with DeAndre (Hopkins). I was happy to get him the ball a few times. It just helps. Any experience helps.”
How confident are you entering the season as the starting quarterback?
“I’m real confident. I’m super excited to get out there on Sunday and can’t wait to get going.”
What will it be like going against Jaguars CBs A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey?
“They’re both really talented guys. I know we got our work cut out and we’re going to do what we need to do to find a way to get these guys the ball in space.”
Have you had a moment this past week that stuck out to you or made you feel like you were making a difference in the community?
“Yeah. Even Sunday with J.J.’s (Watt) thing, it was – I mean, it kind of hit you a little bit when the cars are pulling in and they needed stuff. It really hit home. Obviously, this week we’re really focusing on the Jaguars and I think the biggest contribution we can have to this city right now is a win on Sunday. I know that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Is it challenging to focus on football when everything like this is going on?
“I mean, it is, but that’s part of being a professional. This is our job. You guys (the media) are here doing your job and we’re here doing ours. I know we would love to be out there doing everything we can 24/7 for the city, but like I said, I think what would really help this city right now is a win and kind of lift the spirits up. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Is that message said amongst you guys throughout the week or is that known?
“It’s kind of known. We say it but it’s definitely known. It’s an important week for so many different reasons obviously. The hurricane, to lift this city up, it’s a divisional opponent and it’s our first game and we need to come out rolling.”
How has your patience and ability to allow things to develop in the NFL helped you and keep you calm?
“I think it’s just kind of controlling what you can control. I have full trust and confidence in this organization to do the right thing that’s going to help the team win. When they named me the starter, I knew that’s what they felt was best for this organization and that’s what I’m going to do and do whatever I can to help this organization win.”
How much have you matured in this three-year period to this point?
“I’ve matured a lot. I’ve seen quarterbacks come and go, I’ve seen how this business works, I’ve seen how this offense works. I think all that’s added up and helped me and kind of helped me to be the quarterback I am today.”
With your knowledge of the offense, how much input do you have during the week?
“I have tons of input. That’s the one thing I love about coming to work every day – it’s communication with the coaches. It’s not him just saying, ‘Hey, this is what you’re going to do. You’re going to throw it to this guy and that’s it.’ It’s really open, there’s a lot of give-and-take and ultimately we’re the ones out there, so guys like me, DeAndre (Hopkins), Braxton (Miller), all the running backs, the line, we have to be on the same page. So, we’re doing a lot of extra stuff on our own to kind of communicate and watch film together because at the end of the day, we’re out there.”
What’s it like playing for Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan, who moved over from coaching the wide receivers?
“He’s helped tremendously. I can’t say enough about Sean and what he’s done for the quarterback room. He’s just kind of – he simplified it for us. He’s making it easy to go out there and do our job and just him knowing the receivers as well and saying, ‘Hey, this is what this guy’s looking for here, this is how this guy’s seeing this route.’ It kind of helps bridge that little gap there.”
What was your mindset like when you got hurt in 2015?
“Back then, I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be on the roster, I wanted to be playing. Like I said, I trust this organization and they’re going to do what’s best for this organization and this team and they chose to put me on IR. I was going to take that as an opportunity to sit there and learn and yeah, I think it was pivotal. I mean, I had a little project each week with Pat (O’Hara) and some of the coaches to kind of just getting to the base of this offense and really, fully understanding what this offense is about and how it operates.”
Did you think at any point you might get cut?
“Always. That’s how this league is. You’re always prepared. A lot of it was just because the guys in the locker room. I wanted to be around the guys in the locker room. It wasn’t like me coming in – I remember I showed up first every day still and I didn’t do that for the coaches, to get the coaches’ praise, it was just I wanted to be there for the guys in the locker room and whatever I could do to help, I would. Not that I offered that much help, I was still early in the system, but I just wanted to be around my guys.”
How much do you think you see what Head Coach Bill O’Brien sees on the field?
“Just the give and take with what goes on in that meeting room, it helps a lot. He’s been around this league for a really long time, he’s coached the greatest quarterback of all time, so whatever he says, it really, really sticks with you. I know me and Deshaun (Watson) are really kind of all ears when he’s in that meeting room and whatever he sees, we’re taking it and we’re going to learn from it.”
Was there anything that surprised you on your journey to being the starting quarterback for the Texans?
“I’ve always had the confidence that I could do it. Obviously though, like I said, there’s a lot of things that are out of your control, but obviously my college career, a lot of that was self-inflicted and I learned a lot of valuable lessons at a really young age. I said it earlier, but it’s always that ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ mentality. You know what I mean? (I) come here every day. This is a privilege to be on this team, it’s not a right. You’re not entitled to anything in this league and you have to go out there and earn it and show it every day. Those are the kinds of values I learned in college and I’m going to take with me until the end of my career.”
Do you consider that this is the best opportunity you’ve had in college and the NFL?
“Yeah, absolutely. All that stuff built the foundation to where I am now. I’m super excited to be out there with the guys and play. I know I’m very flat-line in here, but I’m telling you, out there at practice, I’m pumped and I’m ready to go.”
DE J.J. WATT
Opening Statement from Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes
“Welcome, everybody. Good to have you here. My name is Jamey Rootes and I’m president with the Houston Texans. I’ll tell you, we’ve been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey for well over a week and I’ve constantly been looking for what the silver linings are in a catastrophe like this, and one of them absolutely is the resilient nature of this community. This self-reliant community. A community that helps. Neighbors help neighbors, corporations step in to help others, great individuals like J.J. Watt does a landmark thing in generating a tremendous amount of financial support that is so needed in our community and we are incredibly proud of J.J. and all that he’s done. And it’s a reminder that we are individuals but at the end of the day, we are Texans and we come together when we’re facing adversity and rely upon our friends, our neighbors and our partners. There’s a partner that I want to introduce. Certainly, an individual who’s been a great friend to me since we started the Houston Texans back in 2002. Has been a great partner of our organization – in fact, I remember back with Hurricane Ike, we worked together on the Texans Helping Texans campaign and he coined a phrase that I reminded him of yesterday – ‘if you can, you must.’ (President of H-E-B Food and Drug) Scott McClelland, his entire team, (H-E-B Chairman and CEO) Charles Butt, the H-E-B organization lives that – if you can, you must – and they step up when the community’s in need. He’s a tremendous champion for Houston. I know he’s now taking on a larger role for H-E-B, but he’s still ours. He’s a Houstonian, he’s a great Texan. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the President of H-E-B Food and Drug, Mr. Scott McClelland.”
Opening Statement from H-E-B Food/Drug President Scott McClelland
“Good morning everybody. It’s good to be here. Scott McClelland, I work for H-E-B, but I’m here today on behalf of (H-E-B Chairman and CEO) Charles Butt. I think last week we saw, with the storm, the weather at its worst in Houston, but I think with regard to the people of Houston, we saw the people of Houston at their best. The narrative I think of this storm is going to be that people came out in masses to help their fellow humans to really recover from this storm. One of the people that we have tremendous respect and admiration for is J.J. Watt. J.J. really stepped up and took action. He didn’t wait for someone to come and bail out Houston, and I think that’s the story about Houstonians in general. We didn’t wait for someone to come in and help us out, but in particular what J.J. did and from that first video where he said ‘I’d like to raise $200,000’ and 20 minutes later he realized he had to up the game and today he’s sitting at $20 million. Our owner, Charles Butt, who really is the beacon of our company and does so many good things within the state of Texas to make it a better state to live in, whether it’s selling groceries or helping communities become better, today has announced that he will make a donation of $5 million to the J.J. Watt Foundation, which will take the total from $20 million to over $25 million. So (H-E-B Group Vice President Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs) Winell Herron, who is our group vice president of public affairs – we’d like to donate this to you, J.J., to help your good efforts and we’re so impressed that you’re committed to giving it to the end users, those who are in need, and in the spirit of sense of urgency, let’s go fix this city. So, thank you very much.”
Opening Statement from DE J.J. Watt
“Obviously, this has been an incredible disaster for our city, for everybody involved, but like (President of H-E-B Food and Drug) Scott (McClelland) just said, the shining light through all of this has been the people, has been the response, has been the resiliency of not only Houston, but people around the world showing their support, showing their help. To (H-E-B Chairman and CEO) Mr. Charles Butt and everybody at H-E-B, a donation of $5 million is truly incredible. There are no words to describe when people step to the plate like that, especially somebody here in our home city, to show that type of leadership and to show that type of commitment. So, I can’t thank you guys enough for everything. I can’t say enough as to what’s happened over the past week and a half since we started with a goal of $200,000 to where we are today. This will put us a couple hundred thousand dollars shy of $27 million. It’s hard to say it without even really – I mean, it’s unbelievable. So, I can’t thank everybody enough. Please keep donating. Please keep sharing. I’m going to keep this thing open until September 15, Friday, September 15 at 5 p.m. Obviously, at which point I’m going to make sure that I do everything I can to get this money out to the people of Houston and the surrounding areas – the Gulf Coast. I want to make sure that everybody understands that those areas that have been affected are included – Rockport, Port Aransas, Beaumont – all those areas are included in what I’m trying to do. I’ve been meeting with organizations, I’ve been meeting with people, I’ve been meeting with boots on the ground here in Houston, because the whole point of all this was to raise as much money as we could to help people in Houston, to make sure that the money doesn’t go anywhere else, that it stays here in Houston and that’s what I’m working to do. Like I said a while ago, I’m taking my time. I’m making sure I do it right. The biggest piece of advice I’ve gotten from everybody who’s handled disaster relief is take your time, gather all the knowledge you can and do it right. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’ve learned an immense amount in the last few days. I’m going to learn an immense amount moving forward. I just want you to know that I am taking my time to do it the right way. So, with that, I will open it up for any questions you guys have and there’s still a football game to be played, so I’m very focused on that as well.”
How do you balance the relief efforts with football now that you have to get serious about getting back to the game?
“It’s obviously a balance. That’s exactly what it is. It’s a balance. I’ve had a foundation my whole career, I’ve been doing things like this my whole career, obviously not on this scale, but when I’m in meetings, when I’m at practice, when I’m in the weight room, that’s where 100 percent of my focus is. It’s on the field, it’s with my teammates, it’s in the weight room, it’s doing those things right. As soon as meetings end, as soon as the practice is over, I’m back to making sure that I do everything I can for this relief fund to help these people because that’s what’s important. I’ve said the whole time that this is so much bigger than a game, but I also realize that that game can help lift people’s spirits, so I’m very committed to both things and I know that I can divide my time up evenly.”
You’ve always talked about the importance of you getting a lot of sleep. Are you getting a lot of sleep?
“I have now adjusted my schedule back to a more proper sleep schedule because it’s a game week, because I know exactly what I need. Admittedly, the last week and a half was a lot less sleep than I’m normally used to. But, I think that everybody – I have such great people around me, I’m very fortunate to have a good team around me who can help take some of that off my plate because we all know how important my body being ready for the game is.”
What do you think it’s going to be like Sunday when you guys take the field?
“It’s going to be special. This is so much bigger than a game, but for three hours on Sunday, we want to take people’s minds off of everything that just happened. We want to give them an escape from everything that just happened, so I know for a fact that our guys are going to give every single thing that we have to make sure that we put a smile on this city’s face and give them something to cheer about for three hours.”
Have you thought about how you’ll feel when you go on the field?
“I’m going to try not to hyperventilate. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be incredible. Just from a football standpoint, I miss the adrenaline rush. I miss running out of that tunnel. I miss playing. I can’t wait. Obviously with all this other stuff added in and everything that we’re playing for now, it’s going to be a very special day all around.”
Has there been a moment in your action in this community that you’ve felt like “this is why I’m doing this”?
“I think Sunday when we were all handing out the supplies, the first wave, that was really the thing that hit me the hardest. When you see cars pull up and it’s car after car and they’re lined up for miles and miles down the road and people come up and you give them a box and you give them water and you give them whatever you can and you see the direct impact that you have on the people and you see how hard people were hit and how affected that they were and how thankful they are to get some support, that’s really what hits you so hard. I think that, I said it earlier, but when you’re watching on TV and you see all this stuff go down and it’s the streets that you drive on that are flooded, it’s the landmarks that you know that are wiped off the map, those are the types of things that really hit you the hardest, and I think that that’s what makes this hit so close to him. Going out and seeing the people directly and meeting with them directly, that makes it very real and that makes you want to make sure that you do right by everybody involved.”
When you’re at practice or meetings your focus is there, but obviously you care about this squad and millions of people are trying to get a piece of you to help out or do anything, how do you mentally block it all out in those times?
“It’s airplane mode. I have airplane mode on my phone. My phone goes on airplane mode from the time I walk in to meetings to the time I go out to the field and then, obviously, in between I take it off, but it literally has to be that disconnect otherwise it won’t work. So, that’s the way that it goes so that I can devote 100 percent of my attention because it’s unfair to my teammates. It’s not fair to anybody if I’m not all the way there, and I am. It’s been really good. My body feels great. My mind feels good. All this stuff aside, it feels awesome to be playing football again.”
Have your teammates told you anything about this entire process how proud they are of you?
“They’ve been incredible. We have so many guys who have not only donated their own money to the fund, but also came out, obviously, to this last weekend (and) help support it in that way. They’ve offered their support in any way that they can. Our guys understand how big this city is for us. We wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for these incredible fans and these incredible people supporting us and our guys have been unbelievable about trying to give back and do whatever they can. It’s been really cool to have their support behind all of this.”
How do you feel about people calling you a hero?
“No. No, I’m the coordinator of people right now. There’s an incredible amount of generosity out there in the world. What I try to do is harness it and put it towards a concerted effort to make sure that the people of Houston and the surrounding areas get some relief. That’s all I did. I just coordinated some mass effort from an incredible amount of generous people.”
Have you had any time to talk to your brother, Steelers LB T.J. Watt, about how he’s going to make his first NFL start on Sunday?
“Yeah, I just spoke with him. Very excited about that, obviously. It’s incredible to see what he’s done and to have him starting for the Steelers and to have my other brother (Los Angeles Chargers FB Derek Watt) starting at fullback for the Chargers, it’s special. It’s surreal to have three of us all at the same time. So, I told him I was going to DVR his game and watch it when I get home on Sunday night. I’m happy for him. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s been through a lot of adversity throughout his career and to go to such a great organization like the Steelers and be able to start as a rookie in your first game, that’s going to be very special for him. I’m excited.”
How do you make sure you and your foundation get this right and are there any basic ideas that you’re looking at right now to try and help out the area?
“Of course. The plan has obviously changed quite a bit from when it was $200,000, now it’s $27 million. The first thing is gaining as much knowledge as I could on the situation and still doing that to make sure I get it right, because I realize that all these people are trusting me and obviously all the people affected are obviously looking to see what happens. I think one big thing to understand is that this is – they say that this is over $100 billion rebuilding program, so $27 million is an incredible amount of money and there’s so many people out there in need. What I’m trying to do is make that $27 million go as far as it possibly can. That comes with working with local organizations, working with people here on the ground who have established themselves and who are going to make sure that this stays in Houston and that we help the people that have been affected. Then, also leveraging what I can bring to the table and hopefully – I saw a great quote from somebody I spoke to on this that said ‘you try and turn your two dollars into twenty dollars of impact,’ and that’s what I’m going to try and do is make that $27 million go as far as I can. I’m learning a lot of information from people who handled Katrina and how they did well and what kind of mistakes they made. So, it’s going to be working with organizations that are here, that are helping in this area, eliminating those unnecessary costs and making sure that we get down to the nitty gritty and we help these people because that’s what I said I was going to do and that’s what I am going to do. I’m going to make sure that Houston and the surrounding areas are taken care of.”
When you’re drafted, you know you get a five-year deal, you know this is going to be your new home, but did you ever envision Houston meaning to you what it obviously means to you now?
“When they booed me on draft night, I don’t know if I saw it going this way. But, I think that over the course of the years and just the love that I have developed for this city and the family atmosphere that I feel, I feel like it’s one big family, especially at a time like this. It’s really hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t gone through it and who’s not in it, but right now this city and the surrounding areas feel like one massive family and it feels like everybody is stepping up to help their fellow family member in whatever way they can. Rich, poor, black, white – it doesn’t matter. Everybody’s going out. It was with boats when the water was high, now it’s with demolition tools to help people break down the mold and get the drywall out of their house. People are stepping up in whatever way they possibly can and then around the world people are stepping up with their dollars and they’re showing support that way. It’s incredible. I’m very fortunate to have landed in a city like this. They’ve shown me such incredible love and support over the last seven years, it’s the least I can do to show as much as I can back in a time like this.”
Do you have any worries or concerns about your game and what will take the longest to get back to where you want it to be?
“I do not. Any of those concerns were more handled in OTAs and training camp and then the preseason snaps that I did get. I’m going into this game extremely confident. I’m going into this game with a ton of energy, with a ton of excitement and I feel very, very good about where I’m at going into this game.”
What do you think about people already saying you should win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which isn’t voted on until after the season?
“I’m one man. I’m one person. Over 160, 170,000 people have donated to this fund. A lot, like (H-E-B Chairman and CEO) Charles Butt, a lot more money than I have. I don’t see myself in that type of light. All I did was try and harness the good that there is out there in the world. There’s such an immense amount of good out there in the world. People just needed somewhere to put it. People wanted somewhere to donate. People wanted a way to help out. All I did was give them an opportunity to do that. So, to try and paint me as something bigger than that, that’s not really my place to say. All I tried to do was give people a place to help out.”
How did Jimmy Fallon tell you about his donation on behalf of himself and The Tonight Show?
“He didn’t. I found out like everybody else did, and then, obviously, we got the $1 million donation in and I’m actually – I have to reach out to him here today and thank him for it because I watched the video and saw the choir. It’s incredible. To see somebody like Jimmy Fallon, to see somebody like Ellen (DeGeneres), to see all these insane contributions from people, it’s really heartwarming and it’s also just an incredible, incredible gesture. So, I appreciate him and sorry, Jimmy, you can look out for an email from me here as soon as practice is over.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH JAGUARS HEAD COACH DOUG MARRONE
What have you seen from Jaguars QB Blake Bortles and how do you feel about him heading into the season as your guy?
“I feel good. Obviously the true test will come on the Sundays, but he’s doing everything he can from the standpoint of working hard and going out there and practicing hard and doing what he needs to do. So, I think the test always comes on Sundays, especially for not just everyone, but obviously everyone’s looking at that position.”
What do you hope to see from Jaguars QB Blake Bortles this Sunday?
“I think it’s the same thing. I think when I look at quarterbacks, you want to see a consistency about them, you want to see them being able to get people involved around them in the offense. You want to see good decision making, good ball security, things of that nature. So, I think the list of what you’re looking for from someone as far as their production and what you need to do if someone has ability to execute the game plan, manage the game. I think those are the things that you’re looking for, and then obviously the big test comes on Sunday.”
How much has Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye meant to this defense?
“We feel fortunate. Obviously we have Jalen Ramsey opposite him, so we feel we have good corners, but again, they’ve got to go out there and play. Both of them have done a good job. A.J.’s been a great asset for us. I’m sure that the people in Houston know about him as a person and obviously he has a great work ethic and has really done a nice job for us. So, a lot of it depends on scheme, what’s going on, what we’re going to try to do with those guys and what we ask of them, but again, I’m very pleased with the way he’s gone about his business.”
If you could talk to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien right now, what would you tell him?
“We’re talking about someone who’s one of my best friends in the business. We’ve been friends a long, long time. So, our conversations are – and again, during this period of time, we don’t talk. It’s just too much for us and we just go and compete. The players are on the field and we’re trying to do the best job. I was just trying to be there just to support him through what was going on. Obviously I’ve been through some stuff like this when I was in New Orleans and Buffalo, so just calling to say, ‘Hey, my prayers are with you and your family, the players’ families, things of that nature.’ But really, that’s been the gist of our conversations. It hasn’t gone anywhere away from just making sure that the people in Houston, the players’ families and the coaches’ families and whoever’s with them are safe.”
When did you get a chance to reach out to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien about the hurricane?
“Pretty much when all that stuff was going on. We were talking about going to Dallas and they were switching the game and things of that nature. I just kind of reached out and just shot him a text and really just explained what I just said. I just think it’s important. Having gone through it, I think you can understand how difficult it is because I’ve always thought having been in New Orleans for post-Katrina, you look at the news and you see things that happened, you see pictures, but I know the one thing I learned in New Orleans was after Katrina, really the pictures and the news and things like that, it was really a lot tougher than what you would see from a media standpoint, when you’re down there and you’re with families and you see what they go through. It’s a situation that’s obviously close to me, and again, my prayers go out. I’m sure everyone’s looking forward to the people to get back together, rally together and get the city and whatever they have to do to get back up on their feet, which they will.”
Did you and your wife reach out to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s wife since he wasn’t here in the city?
“Yeah, my wife did. They were roommates in college. They’re close.”
How tough is it to contain Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and what do you see from him as a wide receiver?
“I mean, obviously I watched him before he was even drafted, when he was coming out. I just love his skillset, I love his route-running ability, I love the way he can pluck a ball, catch it, and even I think the run after the catch. I think he’s physical, very difficult to press him and do things of that nature. I have all the respect in the world for him and I’ve always enjoyed watching him play when we’re not playing against him.”
What do you see when you watch Texans QB Tom Savage and tape and see his maturation?
“He throws a great ball, he’s got a smooth release. I think he has a good command of the offense. I think he’s a guy that can have a high completion percentage. He can complete a lot of footballs, he can beat you short, dump it off. He can beat you with the long ball. Again, saw him last year come in and beat our football team last year when we were in Houston. So, I have a ton of respect for him and what he can do.”
What has been different about Jaguars QB Blake Bortles as of late?
“I just think it’s been more consistency. He’s been more consistent, and I’m talking about on the field. He’s always been outstanding in the classroom and things of that nature, so we were just looking for better consistency. Just wanted to make sure that we were making the right decision. We wanted to put it to a competition, get that now, and see what gives our team the best chance to win on Sunday. A lot of the focus was on that position, which I understand, but we actually did that with multiple positions on our team.”
There’s so much talk about what the environment will be like in Houston on Sunday. Do you address that environment with your team?
“I think we know the situation. It’s opening day in the NFL and you’re starting on the road. I think there’s obviously more to it with the things that have happened down there. I think it’s something that our players understand and I think it’s something that’s addressed, we all understand that. We’ll talk about it from a humanitarian standpoint, ‘Okay, listen. The people there are going through a lot, this and that,’ but as far as whatever happens when the ball snaps, obviously we’re focusing in on what we have to get done.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH JAGUARS CB A.J. BOUYE
What’s it going to be like to go up against WR DeAndre Hopkins in a game? Will it bring back old memories?
“I mean, I guess so. I’m just looking forward to the matchup. I know what he brings just like he knows what I bring. It’s going to be a dogfight, we already know. I’m just going to take it one play at a time and just go out there and compete.”
Will it be emotional for you to have your first game since leaving the Texans be here in Houston against them?
“I don’t know what you all mean by emotional, but I’m thinking like I’m not going to be emotional. I’m just going to be really focused, ready to make plays and help the team win. I’m definitely going to tune out all the other noise, whatever’s being said and everything before the game starts. I’m going to say, what’s up to my old teammates out there and everything but we know what it is once we step across those lines.”
What did you think when you saw the images and videos of the hurricane hitting Houston?
“I was just really praying for everybody. I thought about if my daughter was out of town, if everything was good. Luckily they made it out, but then I saw it was getting worse and I was just glad that they weren’t there. But I was also worried about those whose families, especially my old teammates, those whose families were affected and just praying for everybody, really.”
So your daughter is living in Houston while you’re there, correct?
How hard was it knowing about the hurricane going around in the city that your daughter lives?
“It was very scary, but like I said, they made it out of town just in time. I’m just thankful that they weren’t affected by it, but I know that there were people who probably had their kids there and didn’t know what to worry about. So Lord knows what they were thinking.”
How much did individual matchups with Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins in practice last year help you develop?
“It helped out a lot, definitely, going against one of the best receivers in the league. He had plays on me, I made plays on him, and one thing I tried to do was see what I could do better. I’d ask him that and I just took it a day at time, not really focusing on the negatives, just trying to make myself better as a player to help the team win at the time. I’m appreciative for the coaches never giving up on me and giving me an opportunity to go on scout team and to follow him. So, I believe that helped me out a lot.”
What are your fondest memories when you look back on your time in Houston?
“Just all the time spent with the DBs, especially those Thursday nights, whether it was going out to eat, watching the games or going bowling. Just all the fun things that we had with the teammates, the coaches and everything. Just all the fun times that (Bill) O’Brien was able to lighten up the mood and everything and not just make everything serious really. I keep in touch with Kevin (Johnson) a lot, always check on him and everything. He always calls me and checks on me, so just the chemistry that we had off the field and everything, that meant a lot to me and that’s going to be missed.”
How do you feel now about your decision to sign with the Jaguars and your journey from an undrafted rookie to a top corner in the NFL?
“I just felt like it was a fresh start. Like I said early on, I miss all those guys over there. They know it, I know it, but like I said, it’s a business. I knew exactly what I was doing. I’m glad to be where I’m at now, making new friends, developing new friendships. That’s what it’s all about, too. Like I said, I miss those guys. I know that they’re working hard and I know that they’re going to be ready to come Sunday, and we’re going to be ready, too.”
How do you feel about the chemistry between you and Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey and what do you think about the prospect of you two forming one of the best tandems in the NFL?
“I think we have great potential. We watch a lot film together, we talk a lot of football even when we’re not on the field. We just try to pick each other apart as far as what we see each other doing. Not only with me and Jalen, but with (Aaron) Colvin, Barry Church and Gip (Tashaun Gipson), we have great chemistry on and off the field and we’re excited to see what happens come Sunday. We know that we’re going to do whatever we’re capable of. We know how we’re going to go out there and compete every play and like I said, we’re very excited to see and we’re going to help the team win. That’s the plan.”
What are your thoughts when you reflect on how far you’ve come in this game?
“I’m just blessed. I’m glad I didn’t focus on all the setbacks, especially early in my career when a lot of people counted me out, said I wasn’t supposed to be there, get cut and everything. I just used all that as motivation and I’m very appreciative of the coaches and the organization of Houston for just never giving up on me and giving me another chance to go out there and make those plays when the opportunity was given to me.”
What former teammates did you check in on during the storm in Houston?
“I’m still in a group chat with the DBs, so I know they were just in there updating everybody. But the main people that I really talked to, at the time he was there, was Robert Nelson Jr. and me and Kevin (Johnson) talk weekly. I was on the phone with him, I think, two days ago. I talked to J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) a couple of days ago. So, I definitely keep in touch with those guys just to see how they’re doing, how everything’s going. I can say Kevin really does the same for me. We’re over here always on the phone just trying to motivate each other. Kevin says I help motivate him a lot, he wishes I was still there and everything. We laugh about that, but at the end of the day, we already know what it is come Sunday. But I tell Kevin I’m going to be watching him throughout the whole season just like he said he’s going to be watching me throughout the whole season. So, I’m definitely looking forward to Sunday because I know we’re all going to be locked in on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a great game for the fans.”
With all the practice time you’ve had against Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins, do you think you have the inside edge on how to stop him Sunday?
“I’m not going to say I have the inside edge because, I mean, he can probably say the same thing. At the end of the day, I just have to trust my preparation on the field and off the field and with film study. We’ll see something new. Just like I know how to play against him, he knows the same things to get me and I’m going to be expecting that just like he’ll be expecting. So, I’m just going to have to feel it out early in the game and just get going. Can’t be ahead of it, just got to try to make plays. That’s the plan.”
Do you think you and the Texans receivers will chatter during the game, before the game, things of that nature?
“I don’t know. We’ll see when that comes. Like I said, it’s going to be a hostile environment. We’re going to be out there competing. I know when I probably warm up early before the game, I’ll probably see J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), Kareem (Jackson) and Kevin (Johnson) out there. I’ll probably holler at them for a little bit before I have to focus on getting ready. Not going to take up too much of their time, but like I said, before the game, it’s going to be all good but once the clock starts and we’re in between those lines, I’m doing everything I can to help Jacksonville win.”