Texans back at work after weather delay
HOUSTON (AP) — While he enjoyed his offseason, J.J. Watt couldn’t wait to get back on the field Wednesday for Houston’s first offseason practice.
“This is where we feel comfortable,” he said. “This is where we feel the most at home when we’re out there playing the game and working, competing and trying to get better.”
The start of offseason practices for the Texans was delayed by 24 hours after severe flooding inundated the city overnight on Monday and left conditions too treacherous for the team to make it to the stadium for practice on Tuesday as planned.
But Watt didn’t see the text telling him practice was canceled and he trekked into work anyway.
“I was already here and got a good workout in,” he said. “But obviously, seeing the photos and seeing what happened around the city was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that. Our thoughts are with everybody in the city and we sure hope that everybody’s doing OK.”
Watt, last season’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, had a busy offseason that included taking in some basketball during March Madness and traveling to London to watch the soccer team Chelsea FC beat Sunderland in the English Premier League championship.
“I think it was the perfect amount of time because I was really itching to come back and I think it’s been great to be back with the guys and there’s nothing better,” he said. “I realize, like I’ve always said, we only get so many years to do this, so you try and take advantage.”
The defensive end, who signed a $100 million contract extension before the season, had 78 tackles, 20 1/2 sacks and scored five touchdowns to win Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in his short career. His stellar play helped the Texans make a seven-game improvement last season to finish 9-7.
In practice on Wednesday, the Texans split time at quarterback between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, who will compete for the starting job. Mallett made two starts last season after the Texans benched Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he tore his pectoral muscle and missed the rest of the season. Hoyer, who started 13 games for the Browns last season, was picked up this offseason.
Mallett is healthy after recovering from pectoral surgery and loved being back in the huddle with his teammates on Wednesday.
“It felt like I haven’t played ball in a while, so it was good to go out there and go 11 on 11, not just install plays and run with the offense,” Mallett said.
Hoyer is well acquainted with quarterback competitions after vying with Johnny Manziel last season in Cleveland, and isn’t daunted by the challenge of competing for the job.
“I’ve been through it before, so I’m not going to let it affect me,” he said. “I’ll just be myself and really focus on the things that I can control.”
Even though Houston is the fifth team Hoyer has played for in his NFL career, he still got a few butterflies for his first official practice with the team.
“There’s a little bit of anxiousness because you can go out and do coach drills and routes on air all day,” he said. “But once you throw a defense out there with new guys and a new system, you just want to know how everything is going to go and how you react to things. I thought, as far as that standpoint of going out and playing against our defense, reacting, and things like that. I thought it went really well.”