The grand entrance -- Houston Texans to open inaugural training

Saturday, July 13, 2002

HOUSTON -- Charley Casserly was driving along a Houston freeway during a business trip after the departure of the Oilers after the 1996 season when a thought struck him.

"I said: 'What's wrong with this picture?"' Casserly recalled. "Here was the nation's fourth-largest city in the heart of football country without a pro football team."

At the time, Casserly had no way of knowing he'd some day be general manager of the NFL's newest franchise -- in Houston.

The Texans take the field for real Saturday when coach Dom Capers assembles the squad for their first training camp, leading up to their first preseason game Aug. 5 against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

From the beginning, owner Bob McNair has made a strong effort to make the team fan friendly. When practices begin, the Texans have set aside eight nights at their new training facility adjacent to Reliant Stadium for fans to watch practices and get autographs.

The Texans are scheduling the workouts so fans can watch at times when the team will be outside on two manicured fields instead of inside the air conditioned bubble for morning drills.

"We always want to try to make it a pleasant experience for the fans," McNair said. "We don't want them to come out expecting to be right there on the sideline watching the team work out and then they find out that the team has gone into the bubble and they can't see them work out."

The Texans are constructing bleachers at their practice site to accommodate up to 2,000 people. There is no seating in the indoor practice field.

Off to a big start

A preseason practice highlight will be a scrimmage Aug. 2 with the Dallas Cowboys at Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston. About 30,000 tickets have been sold.

The stadium formerly was called Jeppesen Stadium and was the site of the 1962 AFL championship game between the Oilers and the Dallas Texans, which later became the Kansas City Chiefs.

Players who participated in that game will be invited to be a part of the festivities.

McNair has done much right since paying $700 million on Oct. 6, 1999, for the league's 32nd franchise. And fans have responded, swarming to buy tickets to watch the first pro football in the city since the Oilers left for Tennessee and became the Titans.

"We certainly don't need giveaways to sell tickets," said senior vice president Jamie Rootes. "We have sold 57,000 season tickets. I know that exceeds the Cowboys, and the most the Oilers ever had was 45,000."

After playing their next two exhibition games at New Orleans on Aug. 10 and Kansas City on Aug. 17, the Texans will play their first game in their $365 million retractable-roof Reliant Stadium on Aug. 24 against the Miami Dolphins.

The regular season begins Sept. 8, after a full week of citywide celebrations. The Texans will open against the best of all possible opponents for fan appeal -- their rivals to the north, the Dallas Cowboys.

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