Texans go full pads, get free agents back on busy day

It was an eventful Thursday at the Methodist Training Center.

The Texans practiced in full pads in the morning for the first time in their 2011 training camp. Three key players – , and – sat out because they restructured their contracts with the team, making them ineligible to practice until the ratification of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The CBA was ratified by the NFL Players Association in the afternoon. That cleared the way for those three players – and the Texans’ 12 free agents – to join their teammates on the practice field for a 30-minute walkthrough.

“We didn’t know if we would have them back this afternoon or what,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “Things worked out good… We’ll come back in shorts tomorrow, and hopefully I’ve got them all on the same page by the weekend.”

Kubiak’s task now is to catch up the Texans’ free agents – including cornerback , safety , fullback , running back , quarterback and wide receiver – to the other 73 players on the roster.

“I think we’re ready to do that,” Kubiak said. “Those guys, I think they’re in good shape. We’ll see. I’ve got to evaluate them each day. We’ll be able to do that now. Those guys are chomping at the bit. They want to play football.”

That sentiment was echoed by just about every player who had to watch the first three days of practice from the sidelines.

“It was boring,” Joseph said. “It’s been a long time coming; seems like a whole year or two years since I’ve played any football with the lockout. Tomorrow, I’m just looking forward to it.”

Turning heads
First-round draft pick continued to turn heads in his first week of practice. The rookie defensive end from Wisconsin, who has been practicing with the first-team defense all week, blew by and charged through offensive linemen several times in one-on-one and team drills on Thursday.

“J.J. Watt is stepping up and being a starter right now,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “We didn’t see that early. Usually, you don’t step in and be a starter, but he’s come in and really accepted the role. I look at what the other players look at, and they seem like they think he fits in well, as do I.

“It worked out that we had some guys that played last year (who) weren’t able to practice and one of the starters from last year (Amobi Okoye) is in Chicago now, so it was an opportunity. Kube (Kubiak) says it a lot: ‘Anytime you get an opportunity, then take advantage of it.’ He’s doing that.”

Second-year linebacker also made the most of his opportunities on Thursday.

“Sharpton really flashed at me today,” Kubiak said. “DeMeco was out, so he got a chance to go in and run the defensive football team. Just watching him, I thought he did a hell of a job. had a very good day, and there are kind of new guys every day showing up. I liked the way Sharpton stepped in when he got a chance to run the football team.”

Receptive students
Last year’s first-round pick, cornerback , has been steadily improving in his second training camp. Kubiak at least partially attributed that to new defensive backs coach Vance Joseph.

“He’s doing a good job,” Kubiak said of Jackson. “He’s all business, but he was all business last year. Kareem comes here every day to work. I think he’s really taken to Vance. Our system that we’re running is really what he ran in college. I think he feels very comfortable in it.”

Safety also has enjoyed working with Joseph, a former NFL cornerback who coached in a 3-4 for six seasons in San Francisco.

“When you get a guy that knows exactly what his scheme is and a guy that knows how to help the players to make plays, it can only benefit the players if we all buy in,” Quin said. “And I think that we’re doing a great job of buying in, so we should be a whole lot better this year.

“With him bringing that excitement, that fun, that attitude to the game, to the practice field, to the meeting rooms, it makes the players relax a little bit but also be concentrating on what we’re supposed to do. When you’re relaxed and having fun, you’ll automatically play better.”

Health check
Inside linebacker (knee) sat out of the full-speed morning practice for the fourth consecutive day.

“I watched him run today,” Kubiak said. “I think he’s better every day. He’s not ready to come back out here quite yet, so we’re being smart with him. Is that this weekend? Is it next week? I don’t know. We’ll see. We’re day-to-day with that.”

Quotable
 “It was good. Just sitting here, watching and learning and sitting in the classroom, it was like taking a test again, like the ACT or something. It was fun to get back out here.”
-WR Jacoby Jones, on what it was like to get back on the field after waiting four days for the CBA to be ratified

“I’m a passionate football player. I love the game. I love the challenge. I love the fullback position, because it’s a position to where it’s going to make you either a man or a coward. One of the two. And so I’m going to be a man. I ain’t never seen a coward, heard a coward. Coward’s not in my vocabulary.“
-FB Lawrence Vickers, on his playing style

Conference call: Texans chairman/CEO McNair on CBA

 

Following are statements from Houston Texans Chairman/CEO Bob McNair, who spoke to reporters on a conference call Thursday evening regarding the NFL labor situation.

(Opening statement) “I’m pleased to report that the definitive agreement that we’ve negotiated with the union, the owners approved it today by a vote of 31, with one abstention, and I’m quite pleased.  It’s a 10-year agreement.  It deals with a number of issues that I think are important to us and important to the players and it will be for a 16-game season.  The players were not ready to look at an 18-game season.  We’d said all along we weren’t going to try to go to 18 games without player approval, and so that was the case.

“In terms of some of the offseason work, that will be reduced.  We’ve addressed a number of the health and safety issues, so all in all, I think we have something that gives a lot to the players and at the same time, gives us some of the things that we needed, so we’ve got a business model that we think will work for the next 10 years and we’re excited about it.  We’re sorry that our fans had to go through this whole process with us, but unfortunately, that’s just part of the deal.  We’re anxious to get our players back in and get them on the field and start an exciting season.”

(on the salary cap and the salary floor under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) “The salary cap is $142.4 and the floor changes over time, but basically it’s about 95 percent of the cap is what it will average, so everybody will be pretty much in the same pay range.”

(on whether he expects the Texans players to be in the team’s facility on Saturday) “I think that the players would come in probably about three days after the union has approved the deal and signed off on it, so probably sometime next week, but it all hinges on when the union approves it, so we’re waiting on them.”

(on when free agency begins and whether the roster size will increase) “We didn’t get into the roster limit at this point in time, but what we will be doing is next week, probably sometime during next week, we’ll start signing college draft picks that we’ve made and our own unrestricted free agents, and then it will be after that that the regular free agency will open up.  (Texans senior director of media relations) Kevin (Cooper) has got the calendar, so what you’ve got to do is just look at the calendar, and the starting time is when the union signs.  That’s when the clock starts, so until they do that, the clock won’t start, but hopefully the whole process will be starting next week.”

(on if the whole process was worth it and if he felt like the owners did well in the negotiation process) “There were a lot of things we needed addressed and many of them did get addressed. We didn’t get everything we wanted and the players didn’t get everything they wanted. We got enough modifications in there so that we have a business model that will work for the next ten years.  It’s set up so that there’s incentive for us to go ahead and invest in the teams, invest in the stadiums and those are the things we have to do to keep an attractive game for our fans. They want to be in a nice environment; they need nice facilities, nice venues in order to do that.”

(on if there is lingering resentment between the players and owners, given some of the things said by both sides during the lockout) “I think you just don’t pay attention to that. I don’t pay any attention to it and I hope the players don’t. We’re looking forward to seeing our players. I’ve missed them and I know they miss being in our facility. I think everybody will be quite happy that we’re all back at work.”

Conference call: Texans owner Bob McNair on CBA

 

Following are statements from Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who spoke to reporters on a conference call Thursday evening regarding the NFL labor situation.

(Opening statement) “I’m pleased to report that the definitive agreement that we’ve negotiated with the union, the owners approved it today by a vote of 31, with one abstention, and I’m quite pleased.  It’s a 10-year agreement.  It deals with a number of issues that I think are important to us and important to the players and it will be for a 16-game season.  The players were not ready to look at an 18-game season.  We’d said all along we weren’t going to try to go to 18 games without player approval, and so that was the case.

“In terms of some of the offseason work, that will be reduced.  We’ve addressed a number of the health and safety issues, so all in all, I think we have something that gives a lot to the players and at the same time, gives us some of the things that we needed, so we’ve got a business model that we think will work for the next 10 years and we’re excited about it.  We’re sorry that our fans had to go through this whole process with us, but unfortunately, that’s just part of the deal.  We’re anxious to get our players back in and get them on the field and start an exciting season.”

(on the salary cap and the salary floor under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) “The salary cap is $142.4 and the floor changes over time, but basically it’s about 95 percent of the cap is what it will average, so everybody will be pretty much in the same pay range.”

(on whether he expects the Texans players to be in the team’s facility on Saturday) “I think that the players would come in probably about three days after the union has approved the deal and signed off on it, so probably sometime next week, but it all hinges on when the union approves it, so we’re waiting on them.”

(on when free agency begins and whether the roster size will increase) “We didn’t get into the roster limit at this point in time, but what we will be doing is next week, probably sometime during next week, we’ll start signing college draft picks that we’ve made and our own unrestricted free agents, and then it will be after that that the regular free agency will open up.  (Texans senior director of media relations) Kevin (Cooper) has got the calendar, so what you’ve got to do is just look at the calendar, and the starting time is when the union signs.  That’s when the clock starts, so until they do that, the clock won’t start, but hopefully the whole process will be starting next week.”

(on if the whole process was worth it and if he felt like the owners did well in the negotiation process) “There were a lot of things we needed addressed and many of them did get addressed. We didn’t get everything we wanted and the players didn’t get everything they wanted. We got enough modifications in there so that we have a business model that will work for the next ten years.  It’s set up so that there’s incentive for us to go ahead and invest in the teams, invest in the stadiums and those are the things we have to do to keep an attractive game for our fans. They want to be in a nice environment; they need nice facilities, nice venues in order to do that.”

(on if there is lingering resentment between the players and owners, given some of the things said by both sides during the lockout) “I think you just don’t pay attention to that. I don’t pay any attention to it and I hope the players don’t. We’re looking forward to seeing our players. I’ve missed them and I know they miss being in our facility. I think everybody will be quite happy that we’re all back at work.”