• Brian L. Barefield

Passion: Texans Hold Joint Practices As They Prepare for Their Second Preseason Game

I remember playing basketball in a league for an older gentleman. No, it was not a senior league for those who like to make fun of my age. As we are warming up, one of my teammates gets into it with a player from the other team. It got so heated that the teams had to be separated and my teammate was ejected before the game even started. That one gesture had us so fired up that we ended up blowing the other team out. His passion drove us to step our game up another level.

The Houston Texans had a similar situation this week during their first joint practice with this week’s preseason opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. With fans in attendance, Texans All-Pro WR Deandre Hopkins and 49ers DB Jimmie Ward got into a small kerfuffle. Hopkins helmet came flying off after Ward, who was beaten on the route, pushed it off his head. That infuriated the Texans WR and the two got into a shoving match that had to be broken up. Both players were ejected from practice.

Head coach Bill O’ Brien, who made it clear the day prior that he would not tolerate training camp fights was very unhappy after practice. “Yeah, it’s ridiculous. Just have to move on.”

That passion shown by Hopkins fueled the team to step it up a notch and play with more intensity. Texans S Tyrann Mathieu intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo which led to a round of cheers from the rest of the defensive backfield. You could tell that there was an extra something the Texans wanted to prove before Saturday night’s game.

Coach O’ Brien was happy with the way the rest of the practice went and was excited on what he is seeing from his rookies. “We have a good group. They work hard, compete and learn something new every day.”

Speaking of rookies, one that is making his presence felt is Houston native and the third pick in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Duke Ejiofor. The outside linebacker who had three quarterback hits in his NFL debut against Kansas City displayed some nice pass rush moves against the 49ers first team offense. Ejiofor is getting more practice reps as the Texans are being very cautious with 2018 All-Pro outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who is rehabbing and preparing for the season opener against the New England Patriots.

Going into the second pre-season game against the 49ers the Texans will be looking to improve the offensive line play, which will be key this year in protecting QB Deshaun Watson. But the real battle will be between wide receivers Braxton Miller and Sammie Coates. They both had outstanding catches during the joint practices to the cheers of the fans watching every minute.

Years later I asked my teammate why he started that skirmish before the game. He just smiled and said, “I needed to do something to get the passion back into the team.”

The Texans will take on the San Francisco 49ers at 7 pm on Saturday at NRG Stadium.

Brian Barefield is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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