Brandon Harris rookie diary: Excited to play after trip home

EDITOR’S NOTE: Texans cornerback , drafted in the second round (60th overall) out of Miami (Fla.), is chronicling his rookie season with periodic diary entries for HoustonTexans.com.

Last week was pretty amazing. It was a chance to go back to Miami as a professional. I’ve been in Miami all my life, through youth football, high school, played my college ball there. To go back home as a pro, I felt real good.

It felt good to get a chance to be with my family. My parents came up to the hotel and spent some time with me with my brothers and my cousins and my uncles. We all just spent time sitting back, talking about how a couple years ago the position I was in, when I was a freshman in college just getting to the University of Miami and things like that.

To actually play at the stadium, that was the most interesting part, because I played there when I was in college. The Dolphins share the stadium with the ‘Canes, and the visitor’s locker room that we were in was the locker room that the ‘Canes used when we played there during college. So I had a chance to sit in my old college locker and just think about the things that I’ve accomplished, and it was a great feeling to walk out there on the field and look around that place and be like, ‘Man, I spent three years of college ball here. It was pretty amazing, and it helped me get to the point I am today.’

My locker that I had at Miami was empty when we were there. It’s funny, because I sat in there and I just looked around I was like, ‘OK, (Sean) Spence’s locker used to be right here,’ and I just started reminiscing about all my other teammates that were back at Miami – who used to be there, what we used to do, going into the training room, doing this and doing that. I was so used to that being my home, and it felt different being the away team at that stadium.

I grew up about 10 minutes from the stadium, so I got a chance to see not much but a little bit of my neighborhood. I had grown such a relationship with that stadium and that community that I recognized the people on sight, even the workers at the stadium. I recognized them, they recognized me, they wished me luck and we talked to just say hi. Everything about that place was a huge part of me.

This week has been fun. It’s going to be a big game. The Saints, they have a great offense. Drew Brees does a lot of things, so it’s going to be an opportunity for us to go out and show the type of defense we are. I think we showed some great things in the first two games, but this game, going against a high-powered offense like this, I think it’d be a great time to go out and make a statement.

I’ve been getting a lot of reps this week in practice, a lot of reps (Editor’s note: Cornerback is out in Week 3 with a hamstring injury). Should get a great opportunity to play this week, and I’m excited about that. Talked to Coach Kub (Gary Kubiak) and Coach (Wade) Phillips, and they’re excited about me getting the opportunity. They both came to me and they talked to me and let me know it’s going to be a big week for me; ‘This is going to be an opportunity to show what you can do.’ So I’ve been practicing and studying hard. No added pressure – it’s fun. This is something I love to do. I’m looking forward to getting out there.

Not playing the first two games, it’s definitely been hard. I’ve never had the experience not playing before. Since high school, since college, I always played and played as a freshman, played my career on through. To get here and kind of have to sit back, I kind of used it as a learning experience. I talked to a lot of guys around the league, a lot of guys who’ve been in my position and played who are huge contributors on their teams now. They all understand and they’re very encouraging. I have my family who’s very supportive also, and they helped me realize that, ‘You’re a rookie. Use this as an opportunity to sit back, watch the game, study, learn. When you get your opportunity to go in there, make plays, earn yourself some more playing time.’ So I looked at it like that.

I know a lot of guys take a negative approach, like ‘I’m not used to this,’ but it’s a game. It’s just made me work harder and to look up to my teammates more, to ask them, ‘How can I get better? What can I do here, what can I do there?’ The whole locker room has been supportive of everybody. They want everybody to do well, and I’m looking forward to getting my opportunity this week. I’m very excited.

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Brandon Harris rookie diary: American Idol dreams

EDITOR’S NOTE: Texans cornerback , drafted in the second round (60th overall) out of Miami (Fla.), will chronicle his rookie season with periodic diary entries for HoustonTexans.com.

This week has been interesting. This is our first week preparing like the regular season. We’re treating this game like a true game week in terms of schedule and time, and we’re out of a camp mode. It’s been interesting just to take on the daily life of an NFL player – waking up in the morning, going to meetings, getting practice done, doing a bunch of stuff but in a limited time.

I realized that it doesn’t take all day to prepare yourself to be ready to play. We have a seven-hour work schedule every day, and that’s enough time from 8-3 to get all your work in and get done and go home and relax. Coming from college, I’m used to grinding all day – waking up at 6 a.m. and not getting home ’til about 9 o’clock at night between classes and study hall. You don’t have to do any of that anymore. It’s kind of a shock to me, like, “Oh, that’s it; I’m done?” Go to practice, go to meetings, study, and I’m gone. There’s no middle work in between. That’s been fun.

Last week’s game against the Saints was a good experience. It was a good chance to go up against a great team, a team that’s a Super Bowl contender every year. It was exciting to me just to go out there in pregame and get a chance to talk to some of my fellow ‘Canes who play for the Saints, Jimmy Graham and Jonathan Vilma. We all just got together and just joked and laughed about different things that we can relate to, and it was fun to be able to do that for the first time. We didn’t have any Miami guys on the Jets’ roster.

Other than that, things have been going great. I’ve been having fun. We installed a lot of things for San Francisco, which should be pretty good in the game. I was able to do some great things on special teams in the game last week. Coach Kub (Gary Kubiak) and Coach Joe (Marciano), the special teams coach, they applauded me a lot on special teams and are going to give me more opportunities to go out and play that way. That’s all I want: An opportunity to play. Special teams is a huge part of the sport. I just want to be able to get on the field, and getting that opportunity is going to be exciting.

I’m excited about the first road trip. Get to travel with the team, get on the airplane with the guys, have that camaraderie, stuff like that. I’ve heard it’s a pretty fun experience. I heard the plane is nice. I already know everything’s A-plus with the organization. Every hotel we’ve stayed in has been top-quality, so I’m excited just to get a chance to travel with an NFL team. We had a pretty good traveling experience at Miami, but to know you’re at the highest level, I know they do things different. That’s what I’m excited to see. I’m excited to see just the simple things: The buses, the hotel, all of that.

I heard American idol was here this week. I was trying, I was begging and pleading, for three days for somebody to set me up with an audition. I couldn’t get it done. I don’t know what I had to do. I just wanted to get in the audition room and just show ‘em what I can do. I’m a decent karaoke guy; I have fun with it back with my family and friends in Miami. So I think I could pass. And I’ve been saying it for a while, I really want to meet J-Lo. But they couldn’t make it happen for me. I was screaming to anybody who would listen to me to get me in the room and just shake some hands and just introduce myself. That’s all I was asking for, but unfortunately it didn’t come true.

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Thursday notebook: Johnson chasing historic milestone

Texans linebacker returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a sore foot. Wide receiver missed practice for the second consecutive day to rest his sprained right ankle.

“We’ll see where Andre’s at tomorrow,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “It’ll probably still be a game-time decision. I don’t think he’ll do much (Friday).”

Asked if he was more concerned about Johnson’s availability than in previous weeks, Kubiak said, “I’d say it’s the same at this point today.” Johnson has been injured since Week 2, but he has played in every game except for the Texans’ Week 4 trip to Oakland.

Chasing 1,500
Johnson needs 284 yards in the final two games to become the first receiver in NFL history with 1,500 yards in three consecutive seasons. He had 1,575 in 2008 and 1,569 in 2009, and he has 1,216 so far in 2010.

“It would mean a lot,” Kubiak said. “It is something that I thought about, and I know it would be important to him, throughout the season. I’ll be honest with you, seven or eight weeks ago, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell in where he was with his foot and the time he had missed. Yet he continued to play well and have big days. It would mean a great deal, but at the same time, we’ve got to be smart in what we’re doing with him. So I’ll strictly listen to him, but it has been on our mind.”

Johnson and Marvin Harrison (2001-02) are the only receivers with 1,500 yards in two consecutive seasons.

“Like I’ve said before, I’d rather be playing to go to the playoffs, having something like that happen, than to be worried about getting to 1,500 yards,” Johnson said. “But of course you would love for it to happen.”

Sharpton standing out
On Monday, Kubiak said that rookie linebacker played as well as anybody on the team in Week 15. A fourth-round pick from Miami (Fla.), Sharpton has started the last five games at weakside linebacker.

“He got a chance to play and kept getting better and better,” Kubiak said on Thursday. “Last week, it was so impressive what he did. The whole team watched the film together. He’s a guy that’s proven every week that he belongs here. He’s getting better. We are giving a chance to lead a little bit more in these last two weeks. I’m very impressed with what’s happening… He’s a downhill, physical player.”

All-Pro Owen
After missing five games with a hamstring injury, tight end has nine catches for 136 yards in the last two weeks. The 2008 Pro Bowler could be headed for a strong finish to the season.

“He’s back,” Kubiak said. “He was mad at me for about five or six weeks when we went through that situation when we sat him. I thought it was best for his career moving forward. So he’s got a smile back on his face. He’s played like Owen Daniels these last two weeks. He’ll be back, and he’ll be an All-Pro. I’ve been very impressed with the job the training staff has done with him. It’s been hard on him, but we did the right thing by him and he’ll benefit from it.”

Surgery for Mario
Defensive end had surgery on Tuesday to repair the sports hernia that landed him on injured reserve on Dec. 15.

“He was actually out here today walking around,” Kubiak said. “He flew back here yesterday and had some pretty extensive work done on both sides. He’s not feeling very good and has got a long road back. (But) it was done, and to my understanding, done well and successfully.”

Williams, who had a streak of 77 consecutive starts snapped by the injury, had 8.5 sacks in 13 games this season.