It’s that time of year.
We’re almost through July, summer vacations are in full swing, the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife and there’s a tropical storm in the Gulf.
That can only mean one thing. It’s time for training camp! For the past four months I was wondering if I was going to be able to write those words.
One of the best decisions made years ago by the Texans organization was to construct a world-class training facility and hold training camps right here in Houston.
Texans training camp opens on July 31 (the first practice open to the public is August 6) and for those who can attend a session or two, it’s a fringe benefit that enables fans to connect with their team in person, as opposed to reading about them practicing in foreign places like San Angelo or Oxnard.
And having attended most, if not all of the Texans public training camp sessions over the last several years, I thought I’d offer some tips to those who have yet to experience this “must-do” for all Texans fans.
First things first — get tickets. The free tickets are currently available at houstontexans.com.
Just register for the session you would like to attend and you will receive the ‘ticket’ in an email attachment.
After you get your tickets, get an up-to-date Texans roster/depth chart from houstontexans.com or your favorite NFL website. Most Texans fans know the starters but there’s a lot of new players among the 90 guys you will see on the practice field next week. Heading out to camp knowing the numbers, names, and relating that to faces will help make your training camp experience much more enjoyable. There are usually daily rosters available at the gate if you forget to print out a copy from the website.
Get there early for all practices if you want a good seat. Parking is at the north end of the practice facility, in the lot across McNee Rd. To get there, take I-610 to Kirby Dr., go north on Kirby for a few blocks and the practice facility will be on your left across the street from Reliant Stadium. Look for the “bubble,” you can’t miss it. Take a left on McNee and parking is on your right.
Gates open at 7:00 a.m. for all practice sessions open to the public.
Once you get inside the gate, you can mingle about the various booths or go straight inside and claim a seat. Seating is first come-first served and is restricted to a set of bleachers along the east sideline. There is also a small area in the north end zone to stand and watch the practices. The south end zone is restricted to player’s families, VIPs, etc.
Autograph sessions occur after practices at the south end of the field. I’m not an autograph seeker so check the Texans website for details. Toro and the cheerleaders usually roam the areas behind the bleachers during practice and there are activities for kids and places to buy Texans gear.
The sun is at your back during morning practices so glare is not that big of an issue, but the morning sessions are hot and steamy so forget about wearing anything dark and/or tight.
If you get there early, watch the players ride over to the practice facility in the ‘golf cart trains.’ There is limited locker room space at the training facility so the players get dressed at Reliant and ride golf carts across the foot bridges over Kirby. Every once in a while, you can get close enough to the players to offer words of encouragement or snap a picture.
Some players walk over to the training facility instead of riding the golf carts. Again, I’m not an autograph hound but there are usually autograph and photo opportunities where the players cut across the training camp ‘midway’ on their way to and from the practice fields.
Binoculars will help you spot your favorite players and coaches on the field and on the far sideline. Find Coach Kubiak and the other coaches and watch them put the rookies through their paces.
Check out Wade Phillips, Reggie Herring, Vance Joseph and the new look of the Texans defense.
Check out the position battles, especially in the secondary and at backup wide receiver.
Check out Ben Tate to see how he’s doing after a year off due to injury.
Check out DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin who are recovering from serious injuries.
And of course check out rookie draft picks J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris.
I’m very interested watching the three undrafted wide receivers Terrence Toliver, Lestar Jean and Jeff Maehl who were signed by the Texans earlier this week.
By the way, today the Texans gave WR David Anderson permission to seek a trade, which means he’s going to be released.
While at training camp enjoy the camaraderie of other Texans fans and whatever you do, please don’t try to save 10 seats in the bleachers for your people if they aren’t going to get there until halfway through the practice – and then leave early.
Enjoy the action on the practice field. The sessions start with warm up exercises and then morph into unit drills, special teams activity, and various drills on offense and defense. If you can’t find a spot in the bleachers, walk over to the north end zone and watch the big uglies beat on each other.
Over the two-hour period you will see a variety of drills including individual units working on techniques to 7 on 7’s, 9 on 7’s, full team and 2-minute drills involving almost every player on the roster. It’s a perfect time to get an early look at the new draft choices and free agents in action.
Afterward, don’t be in a hurry to leave. As the players work their way back to Reliant after practice, there’s always the possibility of a photo opportunity or autograph from a player. Media types usually conduct interviews of players on the field after practice and people watching can be entertaining.
And after the last practice (usually) the entire team, or at least most of them, come over to the fence near the bleachers to sign autographs.