Press Pass: Gary Kubiak

In this edition of "Press Pass," get the inside scoop from Texans head coach Gary Kubiak on his injury situation at quarterback, Mario Williams' progress and his assessment of Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Joey Galloway.

Coach, just start by talking about your quarterback situation, the status of Matt Schaub and who might start on Sunday?

He dislocated his shoulder, so it's pretty severe. The outlook is good that he'll be back before the year is through. The outlook for this week does not look very good. So we will proceed with Sage Rosenfels being our starter and with Shane Boyd, who is on our practice squad, being our backup.

Coach, you've had almost as many injuries as the Bucs have had this year. Can you talk about the difficulties in taking guys that you know about in practice and training camp and inserting them into key roles during the regular season?

It tells you important those positions are on your team, whether it be your practice squad guys or your backups. In this league it's physically demanding and some years you're going to have more injuries than others. It's part of the game and it's something you have to work through. It comes down to the job that your general manager does in finding these young players to put on your practice squad that you feel can develop into good NFL players. That importance is very obvious. I know in Tampa Bay they've done a tremendous job with that. Jon (Gruden) has done a great job there. We're trying to get our roster the same way, trying to develop a good young football team that has a chance to stay intact for a while. But it's a tremendous challenge.

Coach, how is Mario Williams coming along in his second season?

I think he's becoming a fine player. His rookie year, I thought it was a good year. He played hurt. He had plantar fasciitis for eight weeks, which told me something about his toughness and what he's made of. He's come back this year and become a complete player. He's playing both phases well. He's playing the run and rushing the passer well. I think the sky is the limit for this kid. I think he has a chance to be a phenomenal player, but he's a very good player right now who's having an excellent year. He's a hard worker. He loves to play. He should be doing it for a long, long time at a high level. So we're very happy with him and the progress he's made.

Was it difficult for him mentally, aside from the injury, with all the comparisons and expectations?

I think that's what's made him better. When we stepped to the plate and made him the No. 1 pick, we decided to start to build a defense around him and DeMeco (Ryans). You know there's going to be scrutiny when you're in that position when you make that pick (No. 1 overall) and we hope we're not in that position again. But going through all of that, the expectations, dealing with the media — I think that's the key to him being so successful this year. I think he learned how to deal with that stuff and learned that the most important thing is how he plays ball and that he enjoys playing the game. He's come to grips with all that stuff and he has it all under control. He's a sharp young man. I think the reason for his success this year is because of all the tough things he went through last year.

Your rookie tackle is having a pretty good season too. Do you see Amobi Okoye as a Rookie of the Year candidate on defense?

I think he played well early in the season. I thought that he was doing some real good things. I thought he was rushing the passer well. I felt like he hit a wall about two or three weeks ago. For a rookie to play every snap from the get-go, it gets to be a long, long season for those guys. That transition is a difficult one. He's starting to battle back out of it. I thought he played very well at Cleveland. We're hoping for him to finish up strong this season. In a lot of ways, aside from the injury factor, I see his progress a lot like Mario's. We have a lot of guys on this team that have started for us from the day they got on the bus — Owen Daniels, Demeco Ryans, Eric Winston — real young guys. This kid is no different. The more progress these guys make, the better football team we're going to be.

He's a little younger than even the average rookie. Has that been a factor at all?

That's been no factor here in the locker room. It might be a factor in his private life. He's only 20 years old. It hasn't been a factor on the football field. He's a very mature young man. He's fit in well with our guys. That's a big positive for us, knowing the kid is so dang young and we should have these guys for a long, long time to come.

Losing Matt won't help the situation, but tell us how important it was to get Andre Johnson back into your offense?

He's very important to this team. He's been one constant around this organization since it got started. I've only been here two years but he put up tremendous numbers last year. He was on his way to doing that again this year, but he missed eight football games. That was a difficult time for us to go through and it's been great since he's been back. We've tried to be smart with him and not overplay him since he came back, try and work him into the rotation. He did play his most last week and played extremely well at Tennessee. We can always count on him. He's been the heartbeat around here for a long, long time.

Talk about your running back philosophy. Earnest Graham has come in and filled in admirably. You were in Denver where you took a lot of backs that were under the radar and turned them into productive players. What makes a great running back?

First off the good ones I've been around have a mean streak in them. They've all seemed to be successful over a period of time and they seem to have a bit of an attitude. They can play the pass game as well as the run. I think the key to being good in the run game is to be committed to what you're doing. Jon's a great example there in Tampa Bay. Jon is going to run the football regardless of who is back there. That's the mindset of his team and he does a great job of that. In Denver that was our mindset. It didn't matter who was back there or what was happening. We were going to run the football. We're trying to do the same thing here, and it's easier said than done. But it's an attitude that you have to develop with your football team.

Is the key to that more the offensive line than who's at running back?

I think it's a combination. First, you have to have players to get it done. But after that it comes from scheme and commitment to your scheme and just commitment to that aspect of the game. It's so easy in this league on any given Sunday to run away from that and say, ‘Well, we have to throw it today to win.' The teams that stay committed to running the football and don't lose patience with it and preach it day in and day out are the teams that usually do it well.

As someone who's been around offense for a while, can you talk about how rare it is to see a guy like Joey Galloway still be able to stretch defenses at age 36?

I'm absolutely amazed. I was told right away when I hired Kyle Shanahan, when he came here from Tampa. It seemed every time we were talking about a route or a concept, he was showing me an example with a cut up of Joey doing it. So I became a fan of his very, very quick. He just takes tremendous care of his body. Jon does a great job with him. I think he's phenomenal, the year he's having, the way he's playing right now. Those great, great players like that, I look back at (Shannon) Sharpe and Rod (Smith), some of those guys I had in Denver, they all seem to have that same trait in that they all take care of themselves and are able to do it at a high level for a long, long time.

Coach, how amazing is it to you that a team like the Bucs has kept it going offensively despite all their injuries and new parts?

I think it is. They've done a great job of building a roster. They have some prime time players that are stepping in and helping out. They have a running back that's playing extremely well. Garica is out and McCown steps in and plays his tail off last week. If you're going to be successful in the long haul in this league you have to have those guys that are capable of stepping in and doing that. They're playing as well as anyone in football and they're as good a team as I've seen on tape in all three phases of the game.


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