Texans training staff staying busy during offseason

For most Texans players, the offseason started in mid-January. You wouldn’t know it if you walked through the training room at Reliant Stadium on any given morning.

The Texans finished the 2011 season with 12 players on injured reserve. Many of those players are still on the mend from their season-ending injuries, while several others had surgery after the season ended. Quarterback , linebackers and and punter are among those at Reliant just about every day for rehabilitation.

“We’re really busy in here,” Texans director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer Geoff Kaplan said in his office, glancing through a large window into a crowded training room. “We have about 15 guys or so coming in every morning. Guys are very focused. Guys are very committed to getting well and to making next year even more successful than 2011 was, and everybody is just working hard towards that goal.”

Players start coming in for rehab every day around 7:30 a.m. Kaplan and his staff – which consists of five athletic trainers, two of whom are physical therapists – arrive an hour earlier, between 6 and 6:30 a.m. The last players typically leave around 1 p.m.

During rehab, players do exercises designed to help them regain their function, with an emphasis on flexibility, strength, coordination, balance and endurance. Every player does a core or trunk stabilization program.

Kaplan likes to say that “the training room never closes.” He and his staff have not had a vacation day since the lockout ended in late July.

“Those guys all do a phenomenal job,” Schaub said. “All the things they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis in the season and now in the offseason, having to deal with all the guys that are rehabbing little nicks and bruises or surgeries and whatnot, just to get us ready for OTAs and training camp, it’s a year-round thing for them. They do a great job of putting together our rehab plans and getting us back healthy.”

For Schaub, 14 weeks have passed since he had surgery for a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. He arrives at Reliant Stadium between 7 and 8 a.m. every day, or 9 a.m. if he’s taking his oldest daughter to school that day.

Some offseason, huh?

“I’m here every day, working out, working on my foot and just rehabbing everything,” Schaub said, laughing at the question. “Everything’s going real well. I’m here each day ‘til about noon, and then my offseason consists of taking care of my kids and being over there with the family. So that’s the fun part.”

Players lean on each other throughout the rehab process, often telling stories and cracking jokes with their teammates, the trainers and other team personnel who pass through the training room.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Kaplan said. “Guys use each other for support. It’s a long grind a lot of times when you have a season-ending surgery or an offseason surgery. Rehab can be anywhere from a few weeks to 6-9 months, and it takes a lot of support from your teammates.”

That friendly banter is an essential part of the rehab process.

“You got to (do it),” said offensive tackle , who has been rehabbing from a ruptured triceps since September. “The hard part is just being in here and knowing that you have a good 45-50 guys that are vacationing right now and you’re in here working. It’s good to joke around, kind of keep your spirits loosened up so we can pretty much not really think about what the other guys are doing.”

Right guard is one of several Texans who had offseason surgery. After playing through a broken leg in Week 14 at Cincinnati, having surgery the next day and then coming back to play in the Texans’ two playoff games, Brisiel had arthroscopic ankle surgery to repair a minor, pre-existing injury.

Instances like that are common every offseason. Players routinely get elbows and knees scoped to clean out loose cartilage or other issues that accumulated over the course of one season or several.

“I think that’s part of being a successful NFL player,” Kaplan said. “You have to be able to play with stuff. For lack of a better analogy, it’s very similar to your car. Your car takes a lot of wear and tear. You have to take it into the shop periodically for tune-ups or oil changes for tire rotations. Every once in a while, you’ve got to get new tires and get work on your engine.

“These guys are high-performance athletes. There is an extreme amount of wear and tear on their bodies, and the offseasons are a very important part of keeping their career and their longevity going. It’s important that these guys get well so that they can be the best football players they can be in the fall.”


Unassuming Brisiel humbled by All-Joe recognition

While a few of his teammates were enjoying a week in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl last week, Texans right guard received a different kind of recognition.

Brisiel was named the captain of USA Today’s 20th annual All-Joe Team, a squad that “celebrates first-rate players who receive second-rate recognition.” One of the most unheralded performers on one of the league’s best offensive lines, Brisiel played the entire second half of the Texans’ division-clinching victory at Cincinnati in Week 14 with a broken fibula in his right leg.

The fourth-year guard is so modest, so averse to the spotlight, he thought somebody was pulling a prank on him when a Texans public relations official informed him of the All-Joe honor.

“He was like, ‘Hey, this guy from USA Today wants to talk to you,’” Brisiel said. “I’m in the training room rehabbing and I just said, ‘Yeah, right.’ I just kind of laughed and looked at him, and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’

“He was like, ‘They want to do an article on you.’ I was like, ‘Give me a break, man. Shut up.’ Then he said, ‘Dude, I’m serious.’ It took a little bit of time for me to actually believe him.”

After playing through a broken leg against the Bengals, Brisiel had surgery the next day. Just four weeks later, he returned to the lineup and started both of the Texans’ playoff games.

“It was one of those things where I was just happy to be back out there,” Brisiel said. “I got nicked up through the middle of the year and kind of was battling that and then I ended up breaking my leg in that Cincinnati game. I don’t know why, but I got some more publicity out of a broken leg than (anything else); it was ridiculous. But luckily, they didn’t put me on injured reserve, so I was lucky enough to have a chance to play in our first-ever playoff game.”

Brisiel had season-ending injuries in 2009 (left foot) and 2010 (shoulder) that caused him to miss a total of 15 games. When healthy, he routinely grades out as the Texans’ top offensive lineman on a weekly basis, according to his teammates and coaches.

“I’m happy for him,” said center , one of the Texans’ three Pro Bowlers. “He’s had a lot more hardships throughout his career than I have injury-wise. This year alone, he’s already had two surgeries. That guy’s been through so much, and he’s just a grinder. He’s the most consistent guy on our offensive line, and he deserves a lot more recognition.”

Undrafted out of Colorado State in 2006, Brisiel spent a month of his rookie season on the Texans’ practice squad before he was released. The Texans re-signed him in January 2007, and he spent that spring playing in NFL Europe before getting cut again in August.

After 12 games on the practice squad in 2007, Brisiel was called up to the active roster. He became a starter following an injury to guard Fred Weary, and he hasn’t relinquished the starting job since.

“I tell you what, I told Mike right when we broke (after the season), what he’s done with his career has been outstanding,” Texans offensive line coach John Benton said. “To go from a street free agent, essentially, a college free agent, and build himself into a top-tier type player, it’s neat to see him get that award.”

A native of Fayetteville, Ark., Brisiel entered the NFL with modest expectations.

“I told my dad when I came out of college, I was like, ‘You know what, I’m not expecting anything big-time. I just want to maybe make a little bit of money, save up my money try to get a little head start on the rest of my life,’” Brisiel said. “And the opportunity kind of hit for me and I’ve been able to stick around here. It’s just been a blessing. Each year is a blessing.”

Brisiel also made the All-Joe team in 2008, when he started all 16 games and helped Steve Slaton lead all rookies with 1,282 rushing yards. He and his line-mates helped the Texans rank second in the NFL in 2011 with a franchise-record 153.0 yards per game.

“I try to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Brisiel said. “It might not be pretty, but that’s the kind of player I am. I don’t ever really like to get beat. I just try to work hard every day and I try to be as consistent as I can and, you know, just try not to embarrass myself out there with those athletes.”


Notes: Manning returns, Clemens arrives

Notes from the Texans’ practice and locker room on Wednesday at Reliant Stadium:

Schaub is done
The team placed quarterback on injured reserve, and signed free agent quarterback to the active roster. For more on that story, click .

Manning’s Back
Safety was back at practice, with limited reps, but nonetheless, happy to be with his teammates.

“It’s exciting,” Manning said. “For the four weeks I was out, I couldn’t wait to get back on the field and be around those guys and just being able to be on my feet running around like I am. I truly am blessed.”

Head coach Gary Kubiak also is happy to see Manning back, and described his likelihood for Sunday.

“I expect him to play,” Kubiak said. “He took a limited number of reps today, not the full load, but I expect him to play in the game. We will have to monitor, I would imagine, the amount that he plays, but everything looks like we’ll be ready to go. It’s amazing.”

Nose tackle was extremely happy, as well, to have Manning back on the practice field.

“He’s a leader on this team,” Cody said. “He plays hard and I think you can see it out there in practice. He’s a vocal guy, he’s a leader and we need him out there for our defense.”

Clemens Comments
The newest Texans quarterback found out he was headed to Houston yesterday in decidedly un-dramatic fashion.

“I think I was making my kids breakfast,” Clemens said. “I think it was in the morning sometime.”

The six-year veteran spent training camp with the Redskins, but was released in early September before Week 1. Since then, he said, he led a fairly simple life.

“Just lift, run, throw,” Clemens said. “It’s been a unique situation for me over the last 10 weeks. Just trying to stay in shape, trying to stay ready. I’m in Washington State, that’s where we have kind of a home base. I’ve got two little kids, so I’ve spent some really good time with my wife and kids.”

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison shared his first impressions of Clemens after the third-stringer worked with the Texans for the first time.

“He’s got a really strong arm,” Dennison said. “He’s been around the game for a while. I think he’s athletic. He’s been in camp with Washington, so the terminology is somewhat similar to him.”

Jones-Drew’s Success
Through the first ten games of 2011, running back Maurice Jones-Drew has amassed 941 rushing yards. Only Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy has gained more this season. Jones-Drew has routinely faced defenses that have focused on stopping him by putting more defenders near the line of scrimmage. What’s he’s been able to accomplish despite all that has impressed the Texans.

“Oh yeah, there’s no question he’s a good running back,” linebacker said. “I think he always has been and no matter what’s thrown at him, what defense he’s playing, he’s going to get some yards. He’s a tough, stout kind of runner. I think it does say a lot about him.”

Jones-Drew credits the presence of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, in addition to help up front, as keys to his success so far.

“Obviously our offensive line is doing a great job,” Jones-Drew said. “We’re leaning more on the run game with Blaine being there and kind of trying to let him develop, which he’s developed into a pretty decent quarterback for us right now.”

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is thankful for Jones-Drew’s production.

“Maurice has been the one constant for us on offense,” Del Rio said. “He’s been strong through the first 10 games. From the beginning of the year until now, he’s been a force for us.”

“It’s wonderful.” –Running back , on his emotions when returned to the practice field.

“We’re in a great position. Everybody knows that. We’re going to try and do everything we can to make sure we are the top team in the AFC when it’s all over.” –Wide receiver Andre Johnson on the team’s goals.