Full pads and helmets was the topic of the day at Houston Texans training camp Day 3 as the back-to-back AFC South champions edge closer to the regular season by working out the kinks in camp.
Though Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said things got a little “testy” in the morning practice, he told the Houston media that it was a good thing.
“It got a little testy out there this morning,” he said. “That’s a good thing. I thought we were very good, guys competing, but this is when the team really starts to come together, when you’re out there banging on each other and guys have got to carry their pads around.
“I just told the players, ‘That’s why there’s all kind of guys that can play this game.’ It’s not always the fastest or this or that. There’s a spot for everybody and being able to play in your pads and being a physical player and think has a lot to do with it. We start to separate ourselves today with stuff like that.”
One setback to the day was the injury stats of outside linebacker Sam Montgomery, who injured his ankle.
“Sam’s got an ankle (injury),” Kubiak said. “We put him in a boot. He’s going to miss a few days, so he’ll be day-to-day. (Sam) just rolled his ankle.”
Since it is just the third day of practice and their first in pads, there still isn’t a whole lot the Texans know about the physicality of this year’s team, but that will soon change as each practice takes place.
Nose tackle Earl Mitchell said it is good to see players across the team working their way to become starters on the team, as he too has worked his way to the starting lineup.
“When guys get their opportunity, you’re definitely groomed,” MItchell said. “You’ve got to figure out what the guy’s teaching you, and that’s just how the league works. That’s basically a respect factor.
“Nose tackle is not really a position that people know, but if you make a mistake, everybody knows about it, so you definitely have to understand what you’re doing. You have to play technique, and you’ve got to make sure you’re a well-rounded football player before you get out on the field.”
Being a nose tackle, Mitchell is no stranger to contact in the trenches. Mitchell was excited to be back to contact.
“It felt good,” Mitchell said of putting the pads back on. “It’s been a long time since we were able to put pads on. It was the first time since the last time we played that we were able to kind of just hit each other a little bit more. It’s definitely good to finally get the pads on and get back into it.”
Defensive end J.J. Watt also spoke about it being the first day of pads in camp, saying, “It’s football now.” What else would you expect from the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year?
“It’s football now,” Watt said. “We haven’t played. We haven’t gotten to play in a while, so it feels good to play real football … (to) put the pads on, bang some heads and have some fun. This is what it’s all about.
“This is fun, this is what I love and this is what makes coming to work fun. Anybody can look good in shorts, it’s what happens when you put the pads on that you get to actually see who is really good.”
Watt also spoke about finding out about players once teams start hitting in practice.
“This is when you find out who’s got it,” Watt said. “This is what gets your juices going. If you’re a real player, if you’re a guy who loves the game, you love coming out to practice with the pads on because you get to hit every single day and you get to prove yourself.”
Tempers did flare up a bit in the morning practice, but like Kubiak said, it is expected, especially in a competitive environment like the NFL.
Defensive end Antonio Smith said “that (tempers flaring) comes with putting the pads on.”
“I have hardly ever been on any team where when the pads come on, it might not be the first day, but before long you’re going to have some skirmishes,” Smith told the media. “Sometimes, nothing good can come out of it. Sometimes it just shows the toughness of your team.
“(It also shows) the competitiveness because once you put those pads on, you got grown men going at it and trying to win each down, so it’s going to have some competition in it.”