The 2011 lockout gave us some sensible things.
The rookie wage scale that brought first round picks' salaries and signing bonuses into proper calibration with the players' inexperience and lack of any NFL resume was a positive. Gone were the days of $40 million guaranteed for JaMarcus Russell.
The 2011 lockout gave us some fun things.
Who among us didn't like the rapid fire, wham-bam-thank you ma'am vibe of 2011 free agency crammed into like one week after the lockout was finally resolved in late July, a week before camp was set to start? That was awesome! (And ironically, it was easily Rick Smith's best offseason as a GM, signing Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning.)
But the 2011 lockout giveth, and the 2011 taketh away, and you probably didn't even notice it...
If you're like me, one of your favorite parts of the preseason (up until 2011) was when the Texans and the Saints would hook up for a few days of organized practice, leading up to a game on Saturday. It was always insightful seeing how other NFL teams worked in practice, and very cool watching the teams go against each other in that secluded environment, almost like watching Brock Lesnar and John Cena do their Summerslam title match on an independent card in a VFW somewhere.
Also, bonus, it was fun gambling with other media members on who would be the first player to start a fight! (My wallet misses you Antonio Smith!)
Well, if you're reading this and now saying "Hey! Yeah! When did the Texans stop practicing with other teams?!?"
2011, kids. The lockout stole that from us. And the Texans never gave it back. Until this week!
On Wednesday, the Texans welcomed the Atlanta Falcons (along with a couple dozen Hard Knocks cameras) to the practice complex across from NRG Stadium for a couple days of practice leading up to the second preseason game of 2014. As they get ready to take the field again this morning, here are five quick hit observations:
1. As I mentioned, Hard Knocks is in town with the Falcons this week, and that seemed to be the first question among many of the media members -- "Soooooo where are the Hard Knocks cameras?" (Translation: How do I get on TV?) Ok, and by "media members," I mean me. That we had to ask around is indicative of just how seamlessly all of the HBO production people blended into the sweaty, out of shape tapestry of "media at training camp."
2. Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Brian Cushing were all back at practice. I get the sense that Foster and Johnson could work out whenever they want to. I'm guessing that Bill O'Brien has a secret agreement with Johnson to let him optionally work out when he feels like it, and I'm guessing Foster isn't even hurt, he's just like "Whatever, these workouts blow. If you want a body in there, call Ronnie Brown." (In other news, the Texans signed Ronnie Brown on Monday.)
3. As for Cushing, his return to the practice field on Wednesday was pretty much the same as all the days that he was at practice while on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list -- he walked around looking like a bad ass super hero, he just did it with a jersey and shoulder pads on this time.
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4. If I needed to find an NFL player to be my champion in a Game of Thrones style trial by combat, I think I'd pick J.J. Watt. And yet rookie Jake Matthews stood in on him nicely in one-on-one drills. We shall see which one is Oberyn and which one is the Mountain on Sunday. (Wait, they both ended up dying. Bad analogy. Throw Tim Jamison in there against Matthews. Sacrificial lamb.)
5. Wednesday, the Texan fans welcomed back T.J. Yates, who of course is now battling for the backup quarterback job with the Falcons. Yates will always hold a special place in the hearts of Texans fans, having won the first playoff game in franchise history as a rookie. Somehow, he found himself in fourth place in the worst three man quarterback race in the entire league. (Yet, he's in line to back up Matt Ryan on a dark horse playoff team. Weird league, man.) One underrated storyline Saturday will be the performance of Yates -- if he goes in an tears it up (Reminder: Logan Thomas -- LOGAN THOMAS -- went 11 for 12 passing against the Texans last Saturday.), and the Texans' three QB's all stink like they did in the first preseason game, well, there's your first bank of phone calls in our Crown Royal Black post game show Saturday night (on Sports Radio 610!)
And with that cheap plug, I head out to Day Two of Falcons-Texans practice. My money is on Jon Weeks at +80,000 to start the first fight.