HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What did you think of the first day of camp?
“Yeah, it’s a decent start. These guys, we’ve got a great group of guys. These guys are into it and I thought it was a good start. There’s a long way to go but I was very appreciative of their effort and knowing what to do, where to go, first day in a new place, things like that. It was pretty smooth.”
You had the guys do some conditioning at the end of practice. What are you seeing out there?
“It’s good. I think it can be better but I just think that’s probably the same for most teams. I think they’ve got to get back into football shape. That’s why we’re going to do some conditioning at the end of practice like that – not every day, but quite a bit. Everybody who was able to run the conditioning test passed it. I think that’s the first time in the four years that I’ve been here. It’s a testament to those guys that they worked hard during the summer (and) came back ready to go.”
How meaningful is it that they all passed the test?
“Very meaningful. And there were only like two or three guys who couldn’t do it and that was because they – hamstrings or whatever. So, you’re talking a very high percentage of the team passed it. It’s a good start. It’s a show of their work ethic and belief in what we’re trying to do here.”
What are your first impressions of The Greenbrier?
“It’s a great place. Look, we missed the Houston fans. We know how important it is to them, our training camp there. We’ll be back there in a few weeks and we’ll have a couple open practices for them but it’s great up here. It’s a chance for us to bond, it’s a chance for us to eliminate distractions and have good practices and become a better football team.”
You said you liked day one. What are you trying to accomplish?
“Execution, I thought knowledge of assignments, effort, conditioning level for the first day I thought was decent. Just being in a new place, knowing where to go, how the fields were set up. Everybody was pretty much into it. We practice in a way that they’re all pretty used to now, except for the young guys. I just thought we got off to a good start today.”
How did DE J.J. Watt look?
“Good. It’s great to have him back. He’s a great player, one of the top players in our league, top defensive player in our league, so to have him back, it means a lot to our football team.”
Can you talk about the differences in conditioning between being in West Virginia and being in Houston?
“Yeah, I mean it is different. It’s something that you’ve got to pay attention to there, obviously, for how many reps and how early in the morning you’re practicing and then here, because it is cooler, you probably have to get some extra conditioning in and that’s what we’re trying to do. But I think our guys are in decent shape and I think we’re off to a good start.”
What kind of talk did you have with RB D’Onta Foreman after he got arrested?
“Look, I’ll leave that between D’Onta and I. He’s got a long way to go. I thought he practiced pretty decently today from what I saw but he’s a young guy, he’s learning. He’s a very talented guy. He’s got to learn what pro football is all about, what it means to be a Houston Texan relative to playing football and practicing and meeting and all those things. He’s got a lot of talent and we’re going to work real closely with him to get it out of him.”
What did you think about your three quarterbacks today?
“They all had good days. I thought Tom (Savage) had a good day. He did a nice job of completing passes, getting us into the right play, things like that. Brandon (Weeden) and Deshaun (Watson), same thing. It was pretty smooth relative to the quarterbacks. They did a nice job today.”
How do you plan to manage those reps?
“That’s between me and them. I’m not going to talk about that.”
What are your thoughts on T Duane Brown not being here?
“I’m just coaching the guys that are here. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Duane. He’s been a captain for us my first three years here and he means a lot to me, but I’m going to really concentrate on the guys that are here and I’ll let Rick (Smith) handle that side of things.”
Who stood out to you today that really got your attention?
“I don’t know. I don’t know if anybody – we’re in shells, we’re not in pads. I think when we get in pads and you ask me that question, I’ll be able to maybe give you a couple guys that had good days. Right now, I thought everybody did a decent job out there today.”
What are your overall thoughts on CTE?
“I think that this is a great game but paramount within this game is the need for constant discussion about player safety. I mean, I think that we have to adhere to the rules, which we do. I know all 32 teams do. As a head coach, I’m very aware of it. We showed a 15-minute video to our team last night about the concussion protocol. It’s a great game but we’ve got to do a good job of trying, as much as we can, take the head out of the game and make sure that our players are playing it the right way and safety with our players is paramount.”
What does it mean for former Astros player Jeff Bagwell to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
“First thing I’ll say is Bagwell should have a Red Sock. I’m from Boston, but no, I’m just kidding. I remember watching him – I don’t want to age him too much – but when I was younger watching him play – I mean he played the game the right way. He was a tough player, he came up with big hits, big plays in the field when the team needed it and he was very consistent. For the amount of time that he played in the league and the production that he had, it’s a long time coming for him to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s a Hall of Famer and I wish him the best and I wish the Astros the best. I haven’t talked to A.J. (Hinch) or texted him in a while but man, they’re a hell of a baseball team and we’ve had fun watching them. Now we got to concentrate on football but I wish the Astros the best, too.”
RB D’ONTA FOREMAN
What did you think about the first day of practice?
“It went pretty good. I’m excited to be here. I’m happy. I just went out there to do everything I could possible, just to make sure I’m ready and show what I got.”
What did you like about what you were able to do?
“I’m just learning. That’s the main thing, is learning, learning as much as I can from the veteran guys that’s in my room and just trying to go out there and put it all together. I feel like today I was able to do that. I want to continue to put days together.”
Your lawyer made it clear to us that you were innocent in what happened in Austin. Can we get your point of view? What would you like to share about that situation?
“I would just say that, yes I was innocent, and I think everything will take care of itself. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.”
What do you think about being at The Greenbrier and being in West Virginia?
“It’s great. It’s a great view. To be out here at practice and to have a view like this, it’s something new for me. It’s new for a lot of guys so I just want to experience it all. This is my first camp so I’m just taking it all in and I’m glad to be here.”
After minicamp wrapped, you all had the break and reported now, do you feel conditioning-wise you’re in good shape?
“Yeah, definitely in good shape. But I can always be better, continue to grow. But I came in in good shape and I’m ready to continue to grow in that.”
What do you hope to get accomplished in training camp?
“Just learn as much as I can, like I said, from the guys in my room and continue just to be physical on the field and do what they ask me to do, whatever they ask me to do, just go out there and give it 110 percent. Like I said, and just be a great teammate.”
What do you think you need to work on to be better at what you’re trying to accomplish here?
“Like I said, just learning. I think that’s the biggest thing right now, for this being my first training camp, is just learn how things go, learn how to be a pro. That’s the biggest thing because you never can just come into something like this and just feel like you know everything or feel like that it’s just going to be easy. So, you watch guys, you learn from guys and then you try to feel your way around and then you go out and just try to do what you can when you get on the field.”
What about the running back group? Can you talk a little bit about the time you spent around RB Lamar Miller and RB Alfred Blue and what you’ve learned?
“Two great guys. Just learning, just following their steps – what I see those guys do at practice, seeing what those guys do in the film room and how they take notes. I’m taking everything I can from those guys, everything positive and just trying to implement it into my game and then go out there and just lay what I got on the field.”
What did you learn from the experience of being arrested?
“I just learned that it’s certain things and certain people that I can’t always involve myself with. Those guys that I was with are my friends but we understand now, with that happening, that there’s certain ways that we have to move and certain ways that we have to go about doing things. I think, my friend, he understands that and I understand that and we’ll definitely be better.”
How do you feel about the situation?
“I definitely feel good about it. My lawyer is great. He’s doing everything possible to get everything dropped, and like I said, I’m innocent and I feel like – it’s the truth, I am innocent – so we’re looking forward to getting everything dropped and everything will take care of itself.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What did you think of your first practice here?
“Oh, first day, couldn’t have went better. I think Tom (Savage) and I completed every ball he threw.”
What do you think of the weather here compared to Houston and how is that going to help you guys?
“I really didn’t sweat that much. You walk outside in Houston, you sweat automatically so it’s a complete 360 from Houston. I think it’s good for guys that aren’t acclimated and not used to that heat because when you’re in Houston, you’re thinking about surviving the heat, you’re thinking about doing things to survive the heat. Out here, it’s assignments, it’s football.”
What are some things that you want to work on early on here in camp?
“Chemistry. Just chemistry.”
How do you do that?
“Go out and practice the plays that Bill (O’Brien) draws and try to run it the best we can.”
Did you guys get together with QB Tom Savage over the break and what did you guys do and how important was that to lay the foundation?
“Yeah. We got together in Philadelphia and threw a couple days and we also communicated the whole offseason just about football and personal. More so just about me and him, what’s going on in our lives. His daughter, my daughter, stuff like that. Just communicated a lot throughout the offseason.”
How important is getting together with him in those situations?
“That’s big because he’s the quarterback. He keeps the ship running and I’m the No. 1 wide receiver. Everything goes through us and Lamar Miller and other guys out there that are the key players on this offense.”
What do you think about this offense right now?
“I think we’re at a good point, definitely, for sure. You can tell guys have been working in the offseason, doing things that they needed to work on and it showed today.”
Thoughts about being in West Virginia?
“It’s a great place, it’s a great place. It kind of reminds me of South Carolina a little bit with the mountains. Just not a lot to do out here but building chemistry is the key thing and I think it’s going to help us for sure.”
What’s the first day like after the break and starting new?
“It was exciting. It was exciting just to get back and see everybody, see how everybody’s been doing this offseason, talking about trips, talking about things we did in the offseason. Football, we’re going to do that, we’re professional athletes. We’re going to take care of business.”
Do you start this season with championship expectations?
“I wouldn’t step on this field if I didn’t have those expectations and I hope nobody else on this 53-man man roster would step on the field without that expectation.”
What’s the story with those cleats?
“I’ll go over it for the 100th time. This is all, folks. My nickname is Nuk, kind of like the nuclear explosion bomb on the side as you can see. This side has, ‘This is all, folks.’ Adidas created these for me. I can’t wear them in a game of course because they’re not the color, but it’s practice.”
QB TOM SAVAGE
How does it feel to get training camp going?
“It feels great. We’re in beautiful West Virginia out here practicing. It’s gorgeous out. We’re just out here having fun and getting better.”
What are some things you’re trying to work on early?
“I think just ultimately getting off on the right foot, starting fast. We don’t want to kind of take steps backward from OTAs. We want to keep going forward and just consistently get better.”
How important is it to build chemistry with WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“It’s huge. We got together a couple days in the offseason up in Philly (Philadelphia). We’ve just been throwing, and we talked probably every other day this whole offseason. I think it’s huge just to kind of get to know the guy and be on the same page with him.”
What did you guys do in Philadelphia?
“We threw. We worked Jaelen’s (Strong) camp. I know him and the guys, they went and got cheesesteaks. I was watching my weight and I didn’t want to get fined. But yeah, we just got together, hung out, threw, and it was good. Really beneficial.”
Now that training camp is here, how much did it help to get the majority of the reps in OTAs and minicamp?
“Ultimately just going out there and getting the reps with the guys, it’s huge. I mean, just them seeing me in the huddle, hearing me in the huddle, hearing my cadence, hearing everything out there. It’s good for them to get used to that and move forward from there.”
How special is it for you to have this opportunity?
“It’s special, but like you just said, I have to earn it. I’m not going to really sit back and say it’s real special because I have to go out there and I have to earn it. I know how fast this can be taken from me, and you have to earn it every day all the way until the last game.”
Can you talk about the make-up of the quarterback room?
“It’s an awesome room. Brandon (Weeden) is an awesome guy. Deshaun (Watson), he’s a great guy. He’s really coming along and always picking our brains and stuff, so it’s good to have that room. With Sean (Ryan) and Pat (O’Hara), it’s a good room.”
When you step on the field, is it on your mind that you have championship expectations?
“Yeah. That’s ultimately what you’re doing everything for. You want to win a Super Bowl. Anything less is a failed season.”
Can you talk about being at The Greenbrier a little bit?
“Yeah, it’s gorgeous. You look at it out here – I came out here and went over my plays with a cup of coffee at 5:30 in the morning. It’s a little more of my nature, being a Northeast guy. It’s nice, but we just have to stay focused out here and realize what we’re here for, and that’s to get better and shoot for a Super Bowl.”
Was it tough not to have T Duane Brown out there today?
“I guess all that stuff’s between him and the coach and the GM and all that. I can’t really say much on that. He’s a good guy, though.”
Is it easier said than done to have the mindset that you have to earn it every day?
“It’s pretty cut and dry. You just have to do it. You go out there – it’s a pretty simple equation. You go out there and you win games, you stay in there. And if you lose, you lose your job. That’s just what it comes down to. I realize that. That’s why all of us sign up and play this position.”
What are your general thoughts on the CTE study that came out a couple days ago?
“I haven’t read the study but I know what I signed up for. I love the sport.”
DE J.J. WATT
How was day one?
“It was good. It’s good, it’s fun. It’s a beautiful facility here. A lot of fun to be back out with the guys, a lot of fun to be in a hotel with the guys and all-day meetings with the guys really just build that team chemistry and build the bonding. I think it’s going to be great for us, and people have been great here.”
What was it like being out here for the first day?
“It was good, it was good. It felt good. Like I said, it’s just good to be back on the field, be back playing football, be back with my teammates. It’s just – it feels good. It feels like where I belong.”
What can you say about the resort and your experience just being out here and seeing the atmosphere for the first time?
“Yeah, it’s beautiful. The place is unbelievable, the land around it is phenomenal, the weather is – I don’t even have to say anything about the weather – but it’s beautiful and the people have been unbelievable, everybody at The Greenbrier, all the fans seem to be great, so I’ve had a great time.”
What do you like about what you’ve been able to do right off the bat?
“Practice. I like being able to be on the football field. We’ll be smart about it from here on, we’ll take days off here and there, but it’s just nice to be playing football.”
Does it make you appreciate all the hard work you put in to get to a day like today?
“Yeah, obviously it’s been a long time coming. We’ve done a lot of work to get to where we are, but today’s just the beginning. Today’s just day one and I’m really looking forward to stacking up days and, like I said, I just really enjoy being with my teammates.”
Can you talk about that relationship that you and DE Jadeveon Clowney have out there?
“Yeah, we have a great group and obviously with J.D. and D.J. (Reader) and Cov (Christian Covington) and Joel (Heath), we have an unbelievable group and some very talented guys – and Whitney (Mercilus) – and all the guys that we’ve got. We have a really fun group, and we go out there to practice and whether it’s meetings, practice, workouts – we’re always laughing, we’re always having fun. I think that’s, like I said, that’s what I miss most about last year is you don’t get to be around that. So, for me to be back out here, it’s a blast. It really is like we’re a bunch of big six year-olds out there. If you heard the conversations we’re having, it’s not anything groundbreaking by any means, but we know how to make each other laugh, play four square before practice, we’re just having fun. It’s a kids’ game we play – I heard Weav (Anthony Weaver) say ‘kids’ game for a king’s ransom,’ and that’s really what it is, and we’re still just kids playing it.”
How did the four square come about?
“It came about because, I think it was we were out to practice really early one day in OTAs and there were these squares set up that we have for the O-line (and) D-line and there were these balls that we were using for pass batdowns, and we saw the setup and we were like ‘We got extra time to kill, let’s just play.’ And then ever since probably the first week of OTAs it’s been, we come out a half hour early just to play four square as our warmup, and it’s a great warmup because you stretch while you’re in line, you play four square. It’s competitive, it’s fun and it gets heated quickly. But it’s a great way to warm up and obviously we bust each other’s chops pretty good.”
How special is it for you and DE Jadeveon Clowney to finally match up now?
“Yeah, I think it’s special for all of us. You got some phenomenal pass rushing ability out there – I mean you’ve got Jadeveon, you’ve got Whitney (Mercilus) – it’s going to be great. Just to see the talent that we have and the ability to put it on the field at the same time and to come from different angles, it’s going to be really special.”
How would you describe the accommodations compared to a training camp hotel?
“I mean, first-class. This place is – when you look out and see the mountains and you see the golf courses and the creeks and the rivers that they have here – you would think that an NFL team lived here full-time the way that they have these fields set up and the way that they have their facilities set up. They really roll out the red carpet for you and we’re very appreciative to everybody here in West Virginia for that because it’s going to make a great experience for us and I think it’s really going to help us throughout the season.”
You talk about last year, possibly retiring early. Has your mindset changed from that, coming back from the back injury?
“I’m just enjoying playing the game. I’m really enjoying it. Obviously I went through some tough times there last year, but I just really enjoy being out there with my teammates. I really enjoy playing football. I really enjoy the fans. I enjoy every aspect of the game so I’m just really thankful to be able to be out here and playing.”
How much have you grown as a football player after all that you’ve been through? How much has that helped you grow?
“I think I’ve probably grown more as a person than I have as a football player. I think I’ve grown, learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about just life in general. But then yeah, you grow as a football player as well. You learn from watching things, you learn from how you treat your body to how you treat each game, you learn how to be a better leader, learn how to be a better teammate, things like that. So, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot and I think I’m going to continue learning – I’m only 28 years old so there’s still a lot left for me to learn. It’s not like I have any life secrets figured out but I’m sure going to try to figure them out as I go.”
Any thoughts on Jeff Bagwell going into the Hall of Fame?
“I think it’s great. Obviously to have him and (Craig) Biggio both in the Hall of Fame is pretty special. I think with the team that we are watching now play at Minute Maid, you never know, there may be a whole bunch more in the future the way those guys are playing. It’s a fun time. It’s a fun time in Houston. You got the Astros rolling, you got the Dynamo playing well, you got the Rockets obviously doing big things and then you got football back in Houston. You can’t ask for much more, and we’re just trying to do our part to make sure that we add to the excitement, to the fun of the Houston sports town.”
Did you have a chance to talk to Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni? He was here today.
“No, I did not, no. I should probably go have a chat with him, right? Give him five, or how many fouls do you get in the NBA? Six? All right, give him six hard fouls and a couple dunks a game. It’s got to be worth something, right? The way they pay those guys, it’s got to be worth something. Give me like a hundred million to do that, I’ll do that.”
Speaking of the NBA, you had a little fun with the Ball family on social media. What was up with that?
“I was just promoting my shoe. I was just trying to sell some shoes. It worked.”
How do the sales look?
“They look great. It worked. You guys blew it up. I appreciate it, thank you. You guys marketed it way more than I did so thank you. It worked very well.”
What are your general thoughts on CTE?
“I like football. I like the way it is. You can talk to people a whole lot smarter than me for that.”