Expansion Texans to open first training camp today
Saturday, July 20, 2002
HOUSTON -- With fan hopes at Super-Bowl level and team officials trying to lower them, the Houston Texans assemble for their first training camp as the NFL's 32nd expansion team.
While owner Bob McNair preaches patience, expectations already are through the retractable roof of Reliant Stadium, with 57,000 season tickets already sold and fans clamoring to see first-round pick David Carr in action.
"It's easy to get carried away with things," McNair said. "We're optimistic but at the same time realistic. We don't know which games we'll win or lose but each week we'll take the field with a mindset to win."
Almost three years after McNair paid $700 million for the franchise, the Texans will report for their first training camp today. They take physicals on Sunday, then hit the practice field in pads for two-a-days on Monday.
They are training at home, across the street from Reliant Stadium at a lush practice facility that includes two natural grass fields and an air-conditioned indoor field.
McNair wants the Texans to be competitive in five years, but realizes the Texans are like previous expansion franchises -- without much depth.
"It takes three years to develop depth," McNair said. "Hopefully, we'll be competitive at that point, but a lot depends on luck too. We've got some quality players, probably better quality that I expected. But you can't develop depth overnight."
There are reasons for the early optimism.
Dom Capers is beginning his second tour as head coach of a first-year team. In 1995, he led the Carolina Panthers to a 7-9 record, best ever for a modern first-year franchise. He had them in the NFC championship game the next season although they plummeted afterwards and were 1-15 last year.
Potentially, the Texans have a solid offensive line to protect Carr, headed by former All-Pro tackle Tony Boselli, the team's first pick in the expansion draft.
The Texans' 3-4 defense has some well-known names like cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman, linebackers Jamie Sharper and Kailee Wong and defensive end Gary Walker.
"This is football country, people have a passion for the game," Capers said. "If you are going to put in the long hours to start something, it's nice to have fans with passion."
The downside is that both Boselli and Walker, the team's best offensive and defensive linemen, won't be ready to start drills today and staying healthy is foremost in Capers' mind. And Carr, despite his promise, is still a rookie quarterback.
"We need to stay healthy, stay on the field and approach the season with an idea of urgency," Capers said. "We did more than any other team in the off-season. We asked them to do a lot and they responded."
Boselli's shoulder problems limited him to just three games with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. He's had three operations on his left shoulder since last November.
Walker is recovering from a groin injury and hernia surgery. He expects to be limited in training camp.
"Tony is doing well," McNair said. "When he is ready to play is something that we just don't know and we don't want to rush him. When he gets on the field, we want him to stay.
"Certainly, he is a mainstay for us in terms of our offensive line. We are a much better team with him in there. He's getting good results from the operations but he still has to recover."