Friday morning was good for the Houston Texans; They went from 71 people practicing to 85 because of the league rule that didn’t allow free agents acquired after July 26 to practice until the new CBA was ratified.
That happened Thursday night, and finally the Texans were at full strength on Friday.
Or were they?
The team was missing key starters Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels today. Johnson still sitting out with a dislocated finger, and coach Kubiak finally came clean as to why guys have been missing practice lately, and Daniels in particular.
“[Owen]‘s sick. We’ve got a bug going on with our team. We’ve had two or three guys a day, and I think we had six today. He tried to come out here I sent him back in. I hope [it's just one day], it’s been that way with the rest of the guys, so we’ll see.”
He also talked about how it’s tough to be missing these key players; Arian Foster left today’s practice with an apparent injury as well.
“Offensively we’re missing some key pieces on the practice field which concerns me; when Andre’s not practicing and Owen’s not practicing and Arian’s not practicing that’s tough, but at the same time it gives you a chance to get better because all those other guys are getting reps right now, so we just got to stay focused on them and those other guys will be ready to go.”
One thing that everyone watching practice seems to realize is the secondary is playing much better. Even before Johnathan Joseph and Daniel Manning were able to practice today, the defensive backs coach Vance Joseph has been doing a great job with those guys.
Kareem Jackson commented on the improvement of the secondary.
“I think it’s just a little bit excitement, and also us not wanting to have that sour taste like last year. Having a year like that last year, nobody wants to go through that, so everybody is committed to what we’re doing. We’re just coming out working hard every day trying to get better.”
Jackson was also asked what it’s like playing with Manning and Joseph finally.
“It’s good, exciting. As you can see those guys are play makers. The coaches brought them in for us and I can already see they are going to be a vocal presence out there as well as physical.”
Antonio Smith is great in front of the cameras and microphones. He talked about the fact that the Texans don’t typically go full pads all the time and the notion that the defense is soft because of it.
“I’ve never been the type to say when the coach took the pads off me, it made me soft. That’s just my mind set, and when you get in front of me on that field, you’ll know, ain’t no softness coming here and everybody on the defense is probably the same way….If that pads are on or the pads are off, I’m still the same man on and off the field.”
Smith also went on to say his mind set has never changed wherever he’s played; in Arizona with Dennis Green they used to go full pads all the time, but coming here to a more laid back camp has not changed his frame of mind.
One reporter then suggested there must not be a relationship between what you do in practice (in terms of full pads or not) and what happens on Sunday.
“The relationship is who you are inside.” Smith said. “If you tough you tough, if you soft you soft. On the field, off the field.”
He also went on to address people in the media calling the Texans defense soft.
“They [are] just wanting attention, like I said before the person calling us soft is probably the softest person ever. Probably be shakin’ in his boots if he [was] standing in front of me on the field. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, I don’t think one bit that we soft. We had a lot of technical errors and mental breakdowns last year, and the morale kind of broke with a lot of the injuries we had in the leadership.”
This next bit was particularly hilarious. When asked what it’s like when people in the media call the defense soft, Smith said it was insulting.
“Yea it’s insulting. Even if you not a football player and somebody calls you soft it hits you to the chest. But you also got to be politically correct when standing in front of the camera, and straighten up.” Smith lightheartedly added.
However, if he was ignoring being PC, Smith had choice words for those critics.
“I would say, it’s time to meet my ninja sword Katana. You have dishonored me.”
He was asked if it would make any difference if it were coaches or players calling the defense soft, and it didn’t really seem to matter either way to him.
“Some men at heart, are followers. So a coach could tell you anything in the meeting room and they are going to believe it. ‘This player is soft, this defense is soft, this, this’ but once you play, once you get on this field, that’s when you find out who is soft. That’s it. If you think we’re soft, come on. Talkin’ time is over, it’s camp time, we going in to the season, let’s put on the pads, let’s go.”
If that doesn’t get you fired up for the season, nothing will.