The Texans ended OTAs early last week since coming together after the NFL draft in April.
“We’ve had a great nine weeks,” Texas head coach Bill O’Brien said. “These guys have worked really hard. We’ve had great attendance and a great work ethic. The keys are in the ignition, the engine is started, and it’s time to go on summer break.”
Houston will relocate to The Greenbrier in West Virginia for training camp beginning on July 26.
The next five weeks are important. There is a rookie development program that sets in place a plan monitoring what they do when they’re both around the team facility and at home. And the training staff and strength staff is still available to work out and help players recover.
Some guys will leave Texas and train remotely. Defensive end J.J. Watt will return to Wisconsin for some time and workout with his brothers. His younger brother, linebacker T.J. Watt, was a first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.
“I think we’ve taken a step forward this offseason,” quarterback Tom Savage said. “This really isn’t the time for a break. I’m going to get some of the guys together and keep moving forward. We can’t plateau and we need to go into training camp running.”
He and veteran Brandon Weeden were joined in the quarterback room by Deshaun Watson, the national championship-winning signal caller from Clemson who was the Texans’ first-round pick this year.
Savage started the final two games of the year for Houston last season and replaced Brock Osweiler in Week 15 to rally the Texans for a win. He said it’s key for the quarterbacks and receivers to use the time in between OTAs and training camp to get to know each other better.
“As a quarterback, you’ve got to have receivers to throw to and it’s important to link up with those guys,” Savage said. “We have a group of guys and a bunch of leaders that all want to get better and it’s not going to be pulling teeth for them to get out there."
Watt also returned to the field after a back injury. He first had surgery to repair a herniated disk in July 2016 and came back to start the season. But he reinjured his back and had another surgery September and has since taken a much more calculated approach on returning to the field.
“I feel great,” he said. “With the amount of time we took to make sure it healed, I hope it responded the way it did. With a major injury, it's easy to let it creep into your mind. That’s what’s been nice about these practices is the ability to let that fade and just enjoy playing football.”
O’Brien said with a smile that even when the practices are without pads, it can be hard for the offensive line to be consistent with Watt back and rushing the passer at a ferocious tempo.
The former Defensive Player of the Year went back to Wisconsin to take in and play some golf over the last week. One day after Brooks Koepka shot a final-round 67 to win his first major championship at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, Watt needed 117 shots to get around the track.
“I’m just enjoying playing football,” he said. “This is where I belong and this is my natural habitat. Being back on the field and being able to lock in and focus on football feels really good. We have a really good group of guys and it was fun to be out here with them.”