HOUSTON – Just like J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins' stay on the "physically unable to perform" list was a short one.
After missing the first day of training camp, the Texans' star wide receiver was taken off the list Friday afternoon, and was a full go at practice. Hopkins had been recovering from ankle and shoulder injuries that he suffered toward the tail end of the 2018 season, but passed his physical Friday morning.
“It felt good to be back, participate, see the guys out there and just have fun," Hopkins said. "No matter what day it is, to be back out doing what I love, it feels great.”
Heading into his seventh season, Hopkins has firmly cemented himself as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. In 2018, he tallied 115 catches for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. His efficiency and consistency received the attention of EA Sports, who gave Hopkins a 99 rating on the video game, Madden NFL 20. It's the highest possible rating a player can be given.
“Oh man, it was cool," Hopkins explained. "I’ve been playing the game since [I was] a kid. A lot of guys never make that 99 club, so it’s a privilege. It’s nice to be recognized, but that’s individual accolades. I want it to carry over to the team winning. I haven’t won the ultimate goal of what I feel like is the best any player can have, so there’s still a lot of room I can improve on. Even though my rating is 99 on a video game, I’ve got to improve it every day.”
Hopkins won't be the only wideout responsible for the Texans' success in 2019. Fourth-year wideout Will Fuller V has made a complete recovery after tearing his ACL in Week 8 of the 2018 season, and has taken the practice field on both days of training camp.
“It feels good to be back out there, running routes and dealing with the guys again on the field, communicating, the whole thing. It feels good to be back,” Fuller said.
Despite a rough start to his physical rehabilitation, Fuller enters camp nine months removed from his injury, right on schedule based on his initial recovery diagnosis. For help in dealing with the tough circumstances, he leaned on teammates who went through similar experiences.
“All the guys helped me, especially the guys who had ACL injuries," Fuller explained. "Deshaun Watson had an ACL injury. Aaron Colvin, I talked to him a lot. Jaelen Strong was here a couple of years ago, I talked to him. J.J. (Watt) was doing rehab with me a lot. All the guys that were rehabbing and all the guys that had ACLs before.”
In the seven games for which he did suit up, Fuller was a major contributor, finishing with 32 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans are also hoping Keke Coutee can stay healthy for a full 16 games. The second-year wideout put up solid numbers in his rookie campaign, despite battling a nagging hamstring injury, posting 39 receptions for 397 yards and two touchdowns over seven games. With both Fuller and Coutee back and healthy, Hopkins likes what he sees from the Texans' offense -- at least on paper.
“It’s special to have those guys out there," Hopkins said. "They can help this team win games. What we did last year, what Will did last year before he got hurt, what Keke was doing, I love to watch those guys play. Sometimes I get caught just watching them do their thing. It’s a great feeling to see those two back out there with me.”