Head Coach Bill O’Brien
WR DeAndre Hopkins
RB Lamar Miller
DE J.J. Watt
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
How have the injured players pushed and motivated each other?
“I think that any time you’re going through that somewhat together, I think it’s good. It’s way better than being alone having to go through it. We’ve got a lot of good guys on that list and I’m sure they’re all just helping each other. Some of the guys have been there before, so they know what it’s all about and it’s a one day at a time, one step at a time type deal, but it I’m sure it’s good for them to all be together doing it.”
Do you have an update on G Xavier Su’a-Filo?
“Yeah, he’ll play.”
Will WR Braxton Miller play Sunday?
“I would say Braxton will be inactive on Sunday.”
Do you think the NFL would benefit from a developmental league?
“There’s a lot of that that makes sense. When they had the World League a few years ago, that season took place during, basically, the NFL offseason. That was a good thing because you could send, let’s just say, a young quarterback over there and maybe a guy that was on your roster and he could get some reps over there playing against decent competition. With my background in coaching, professional or college coaching, I think a lot of this is about the improvement and the development of young players. Not just young players, but veteran players. I think that any way we can find to be able to spend more time with our players would be beneficial to everybody in football, I believe.”
Do you think there’s a value in the way WR DeAndre Hopkins trains, which emphasizes distance running as opposed to heavy lifting?
“I think everybody’s different. I think with our program here, our strength program, I always encourage guys to stick around Houston. I really do. Now, a lot of the veteran players have their own ways of doing things, like Hop, like he talked about. But I think, for especially first-, second-year players, they should really stick with Craig Fitzgerald and Ian Jones and Brian Bell because there, they’re going to get everything that they need relative to weightlifting, speed and conditioning, pliability, flexibility, all those things with the training room right across the hall. Like I said the other day, that’s not anything that we can rule on or anything because they’re free to do whatever they want to do once the season ends. I think our program’s pretty good here.”
What do you think of 49ers LB Reuben Foster?
“Reuben’s probably one of the best insider (line)backers we’ve played against. He’s very active, very athletic, very instinctive. He’s trained at Alabama with Nick (Saban). He knows how to play. He’s good in both phases, run and pass. He obviously studies film. He’s a very explosive player. So, like when he’s making a tackle, he’s not just laying on you, like you know you get hit. It’s a big challenge for us to make sure that we try to get him blocked on Sunday.”
How long do you think it takes for a head coach and general manager to build something, which it looks like 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and 49ers GM John Lynch are doing?
“I don’t know. I think that each situation’s different. I think it starts with the owner. What does the owner want? What type of team does the owner want? What’s the owner’s philosophy? I think it’s all about alignment, being aligned. Everybody in lockstep as to how to field a winning football team, everything from drafting to free agency to what we just talked about before, strength and conditioning, sports medicine, all of that. So, I think it all depends on what the philosophy of that organization is. I think that John and Kyle are a good team. I know both those guys, have a great deal of respect for them and I think you’re right, I think they’re building something there.”
How important would a win be this week?
“I think it’s important. I mean, it’s a big, big game relative to being a home game, relative to we’ve lost a bunch of games here recently and we have to get back on top. It’s one game, but it’s an important game because we’re putting a lot of time into this thing. The guys are working hard. We have been through a lot but we need to find a way to win a game. It’s going to be tough. They’ve won two out of three. They’re playing pretty good, got a good coaching staff, got Jimmy (Garoppolo) in there playing quarterback now for them, a lot of weapons in all three phases, so it’s going to be tough but it’s an important game.”
How often have you seen DE J.J. Watt during his rehab and what have you seen him do?
“I see him every day. I see him in the training room. Relative to where that injury was when It occurred and where he is now, it’s remarkable, I think. I don’t think anything about J.J. surprises any of us but I think he’s on his way back to being where he wants to be. He’s in there every day working very hard.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
Are you excited to have WR Will Fuller V back this game?
“You know it. It’s always good to have Will back. Adds elements to this offense we need.”
You’re on the nomination for the Pro Bowl, what have you thought about the season you’ve had this year and what you’ve been able to accomplish?
“A lot. I feel like not enough though. I’m a perfectionist. Earlier in the season I had some drops I wish I could’ve had back. But, it’s the Pro Bowl. It’s voted on the most. People watch it. So, cool of everybody to vote for me. Our fans and other fans, thankful.”
What would you guys as a team like to accomplish these last few weeks?
“Win. And whatever else happens, happens. It’s not the best season. It’s not the season that we wanted, but to win out, that would be good.”
Is it easy to forget about what happened the week before and look ahead?
“Yeah, it is, especially when you got guys in the locker room who’ve played a lot of football before. It makes it easier to kind of get over it because it’s a long season in the NFL, and guys who’ve had seasons like this before, they know what it takes to come and bounce back.”
Were you impressed with the improvement that QB Tom Savage has been making?
“Of course. Of course. That’s the way he practices. I can see a difference every week of him improving. Everybody else can as well. So, he’s relaying it over to the field. Nobody’s perfect. All it takes is one play to kind of mess up an entire game of good football, but he’s definitely been improving.”
What are you doing to your body to be able to stay healthy?
“Eating the right things, just getting rest, basically just taking care of my body in the weight room and offseason as well. I’m not putting too much stress on my body before I come here because I know it’s a long season. I know I play every down. So, the way I train as well.”
When’s the last time you saw snow growing up?
“It’s been a while. It’s been a while. I would say like high school. Maybe my 10th grade year in high school.”
It snowed in South Carolina?
“Yeah. Here and there. Not that much, though.”
How excited are you that Clemson is back in the College Football Playoff?
“It’s big, man. It’s big. It’s a small town. I’m from there, born and raised, so for that city and that town to have a team that is nationally recognized like that is big. It’s probably an 8,000 population city, but the football school is 30,000, so it’s a football city. It’s exciting.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
When you think about where the running game is, how motivated are you to get things rolling?
“I’m looking forward to it. Me, personally, I think we just have to go out there and just be decisive. Hit the hole once we see it. We just get positive yards.”
Growing up in Miami, have you ever seen snow before?
“I’ve seen snow once I got to college, but growing up in Miami, we never see snow.”
So, what do you think about the snow today?
“When I woke up this morning, I walked outside, I saw some snow on the ground and I never drove in snow, so it was kind of like, I hope it’s not that much snow on the ground. I got here pretty fine, so that’s good.”
What do you think WR Will Fuller V coming back helps you and the rest of the run game do?
“It helps out a lot. It helps out the running game and it helps Hop (DeAndre Hopkins). You have to key on a speed guy. He takes the top off the defense. We’re looking forward to him being back and making plays.”
With the way that you guys have suffered injuries, especially in the running back room, do you like and embrace taking on that workhorse type role?
“Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I came here, to get the ball. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and whenever the coach calls my number, I’m looking forward to getting positive yards and just trying to make a play for this team.”
DE J.J. WATT
How are things going with your rehab?
“Things are going great. Things have been going really well. Our staff’s obviously doing a great job. Just very happy to be able to walk. I mean, when you’re not able to walk for two months, you really kind of understand how much you take it for granted on a day-to-day basis. I’m just very happy to be able to get up and get my own food out of the fridge.”
Did what you went through last year make it easier or harder for this year?
“I think one of the biggest things that’s a little bit easier about this year is, with the back injury, nobody can see it. You’re walking around, you look normal, everything seems normal. When you’re on crutches – people can understand a broken leg a lot easier than they can understand a broken back. For me, last year I felt so guilty because I could walk, I could move, but I couldn’t play. This year, I mean, my leg’s broke, what am I going to do? For me, it’s easier mentally, but I’m really excited. I just can’t wait to continue to work and get back to play next year.”
What are some activities you’ve started doing? You are leg pressing now?
“Yeah, it’s real light. I wouldn’t call it heavy pressing by any means. Riding the bike, walking, strengthening my legs now. It’s a long process. It’s a very, very long process but every day that I get to do something new is an exciting day. It’s just one day at a time. That’s all it is.”
Since you’ve been away from the team before, does it make it any easier to do it again this year?
“No, it sucks. It sucks. I’m not going to lie to you. I want to be out there with the guys. I hate not being out on the field, I hate not being at practice. But, I also understand that it’s just part of the game and all I can do is do everything that I can in the rehab room to be ready for next year. I think the biggest difference between last year and this year, for me, is I’m not letting myself go into that kind of like depressed, injured-reserve mode. I’m still going to be optimistic, I’m still going to have fun, I’m still going to try to enjoy myself because there’s no point. If you let yourself get down on yourself, then you’re going to have a rough time. But I’m trying to have fun and be happy and just do the best that I can to stay optimistic.”
How much help is it to have other guys in the training room to motivate each other?
“It’s not good. We have a Pro Bowl roster in our IR room. It’s not good, but it is one of those things where we look around at each other. There’s a lot of guys in there that know how to have fun and a lot of confident guys. If somebody’s having a rough day, the other guys pick him up. There’s a lot of dancing going on in there, there’s a lot of joy and happiness and I think that there’s a sense of what can happen once we all get on the field together, once we all have a chance to play at the same time. I think there’s some really big things ahead and we’re all really excited about that possibility.”
What have your doctors told you about the outlook of a full recovery?
“This is an injury where once it’s done, it’s done. So, it’ll be no problem. Once I’m back, I’m healthy.”
When do you expect to be back on the field?
“I’ll be back next season. I’m not going to make it for next week, I can tell you that.”
What does it mean to be nominated for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award and win the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year?
“I think one of the things for me with these awards is, whether it’s Sportsperson of the Year or it’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, I don’t like that they’re singular, because for me personally, I don’t feel like I’m singularly deserving of any award. I think that there were so many people that went into these efforts. I think there were so many deserving. I think that all of Houston is deserving of the awards. I think that all the people who donated are deserving. Especially with Walter Payton Man of the Year, when you look at all the nominees and the guys from every team, I think it’s so great that we have guys from all around the league who are so deserving to be nominated and I think the more we can highlight the good and the more that we can highlight all these people who are deserving, the better we’re going to be.”
What would it mean for you to win the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award?
“Like I said, I think it would mean for me to be able to share it with all the people who are deserving of it. All of Houston. Anything that I get to do, any honor that I get, any credit that I get deserves to go to the city of Houston, deserves to go to all the people who donated from all over the country and all over the world. I’m just the conduit who helped try to make it all happen.”
Is there an update with what’s going on with the $37 million you raised for the City of Houston?
“Yeah, it’s going great. Obviously I laid out the distribution plan a few weeks back. I’ve been out to visit. I’m going to continue to visit in the next few weeks, months and years and once I’m able to go out, I’m going to start helping on my own. It’s been awesome. I mean, to hear the stories – you literally can’t fully understand and wrap your head around it until you go out and you meet the people and you see the stories and you see their homes and you see the excitement in their voices when they get to go back into their homes and you see the sadness that they had during those times. For me, it’s just been such a great experience to be able to learn from them and see where this money is going and also try and share that with the people so they get an update.”
Do you expect to be back on the field by OTAs?
“I don’t know the answer to that one. I’m just taking it one day at a time. That’s all I can do.”
Where did you get your custom cane?
“The internet. I mean, they told me I had to have a cane for a couple of days, and so I said well I’m not just going to have an everyday cane, I’ve got to get a cool one. And now I think I may have a cane for life because I like it. It’s cool. I think I may stick with it.”
You’ve worn a Houston Astros hat in the past and now you’re wearing a Houston Rockets hat.
“Houston’s treated me extremely well my whole life here, so I always want to support the teams. Obviously the teams are doing incredible. It’s a fun time to be in Houston. The Astros and everything that they did, the Rockets and what they’re doing right now. The Dynamo had a great season. We’re very fortunate. I like supporting the local teams. They’re such great guys, Chris Paul, James Harden and those guys have been so good to me and then obviously the Astros. Houston’s a great place to be, I’m very fortunate and now that we have snow it’s an even better place to be.”
How excited are you about the future and where this team can go?
“I think it’s very exciting. I think that everybody can see the possibilities, but I think it’s up to us to make it a reality. I think that the possibilities and potential and future are all great, but it really comes down to executing and making it happen and we understand that. That’s something that we have to go out there and do.”
What’s it like sharing the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year award with Houston Astros Second Baseman José Altuve?
“It’s great. He’s deserving. José and the Astros are so deserving, especially of an award called Sportsperson of the Year. I mean, those guys and what they did, the ability to have sports lift up the city in such a difficult time, they deserve every award that’s coming their way. They deserve everything because it truly was special. Just the smile that they brought to our faces and the smile that they brought to a whole city. You really can’t replace that.”