No team suffered through a more incredibly horrific campaign than Houston. The Texans were supposed to compete for a Super Bowl after two straight playoff appearances. Instead, Houston started 2-0 before losing its final 14 games. Now, with a new coaching staff and unsettled quarterback situation, the Texans begin the climb back.
Bill O’Brien performed admirably at Penn State over two seasons, posting winning years despite being under some of the harshest sanctions in history because of the Sandusky scandal. It appears O’Brien has another challenging project on his hands.
The team’s offseason workout program officially began Monday, via voluntary conditioning workouts. The sessions will be forgotten by the time minicamps and organized team activities begin, and the team’s new coach wasn’t directly involved. But for returning players such as T.J. Yates, Garrett Graham and Shane Lechler, Monday’s informal kickoff clearly represented O’Brien’s new vision for the Texans.
“It’s completely different from before,” said Yates, during a charity tournament hosted by former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub at the Houstonian Golf Club. “So I think that really puts a little bit more fire in everybody, a little bit more energy to start something fresh, start something new.”
The Texans have decided to build almost exclusively through the draft, and with the top overall pick that is not a bad option. They did add Fitzpatrick in the wake of Matt Schaub’s departure and added depth in the secondary with Lewis and Clemons.
Head strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who spent 2012-13 at Penn State with O’Brien, significantly altered the Texans’ weight room. A squat area resembled an “erector set,” while athletes have the opportunity to utilize mixed martial arts-style training techniques.
“I’m up for anything. Whatever they want to do, we’ll do,” Lechler said. “It can only make us better. You can only go in there and lift the same weights and run the same runs so many times. It’ll be nice to do something different, maybe.”
Graham acknowledged an “earth-shattering message” wasn’t delivered. But veterans such as Chris Myers publicly requested last week that players attend the voluntary sessions, as the Texans attempt to move past an embarrassing 2-14 run in 2013.
“Everybody was 15 to 20 minutes early to the team meeting. … It was a lot like the first day of school,” Yates said. “Everybody’s got a fresh start, so it’s kind of like everybody’s a rookie out there.”
The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Redskins also began their offseason work on Monday.