HOUSTON – The defending AFC South champion Houston Texans arrived to training camp Thursday morning ready to work, and for the first time in three years, the team is training in Houston rather than the Greenbrier in West Virginia.
Several questions swirl around the Texans as they prepare for the 2019 NFL season, chief among them whether or not outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will suit up this season. As expected, Clowney held out of the first practice, and still has neither signed a long-term deal, nor his franchise tag. He is not required to sign the tag until the the season starts, and cannot be fined for missing camp. After Thursday's opening practice, head coach Bill O'Brien was outspoken in his desire to keep him in Houston
"I can tell you unequivocally that we want Jadeveon Clowney here," O'Brien said. "He's part of this team. We want him here. There's always a difference when you're talking about money relative to wanting him on the team. That's something that the agent and our organization are working on, but relative to the player and the history he and I have together, we would love to have him here. He's a really talented football player who has made a lot of good plays for us in the past."
Houston made headlines when they placed defensive end J.J. Watt and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the "Active/Physically Unable to Perform list" last Sunday. Apparently, that move was news to Watt, as well.
“I found out I was on PUP when you tweeted it," Watt said, in response to a reporter's question. "I've been planning on practicing the first day the whole time. So, I just think it was a precautionary thing.”
After showing up healthy, Watt was immedately activated and was a full participant in the day's workouts. This will be the first time he enters training camp without lingering injuries since the 2016 season. Over the course of the next two seasons, he underwent two back surgeries and suffered a season-ending tibial fracture in 2017. His 2018 season was a return to form, finishing second overall in the NFL with 16 sacks. Now, he says, he feels better than ever to start this year's camp.
“I don't think I'll fully know my conditioning level until the heat turns up a little bit because today is kind of false confidence, but I feel really good," Watt said. "I'm happy with my conditioning level, happy with how my body feels and I'm just excited to be able to practice and participate with my team.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson was a full go, as well. The 2018 Pro Bowler threw for more than 4100 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, and he isn't letting the weight of early-season expectations get to him.
"I'm not looking into the future, I'm focusing on today." Watson explained. "Whenever tomorrow comes, I'll focus on that. I'm taking it one meeting at a time, one workout at a time and just one interaction at a time. If we can do that each and every day, and stack the days, making sure that every time we step on the field is beneficial and we’re getting better in those areas, that’s the biggest thing. Of course we have expectations, but at the same time, we try not to worry about that and focus on one step at a time.”
The Texans return to pratice in the Houston Methodist Training Center at 9:10 a.m. Friday.