HOUSTON -- In early January, Houston Texans chairman Cal McNair made it clear he was looking to find a new identity for the franchise.
In his opening statement of general manager Nick Caserio’s news conference, after mentioning the New England Patriots franchise, from which Caserio came, Cal said, “With respect to their organization, we do not consider ourselves the Patriots' South. We are here to lead this team the Texans' way.”
More than four months after that comment, it’s clear an important part of the Texans' way is keeping things close to the vest.
During rookie minicamp on May 15, the first-time head coach David Culley had spoken to the media since early March, he declined to answer questions about quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct and requested a trade in January.
On Thursday, Culley was asked whether Watson was taking part in Houston’s organized team activities.
“We have nothing more to say,” Culley said. “We’ve talked about the Deshaun situation … nothing’s new on that.”
He hasn't been to the facility?
“I have nothing to say about that situation,” Culley said.
Later in the news conference, Culley was asked whether he’s been happy with turnout at the team’s voluntary spring workouts. He said the team has “had everybody on the Zoom meeting to this point.” Later, when Culley was asked to clarify whether the entire roster has been taking part in the meetings, he said, “Yes, everybody’s been on the Zoom meetings.”
“I have nothing to say about Deshaun at this point,” Culley said.
Watson’s status is the most pressing question the Texans have right now. Between his demand for a trade and legal situation, the quarterback’s status for 2021 is up in the air.
Earlier in the day, the team opened a portion of OTAs to the media for the first time. Media members in attendance were handed a roster that listed players alphabetically, without numbers. While the team’s website has most of the old numbers for the players on the roster last season, there are 50 players listed who don’t have numbers assigned, despite the players wearing jerseys with numbers on them at practice. Editor's note: The Texans' website updated the roster with numbers on Friday morning.
When asked why the roster doesn't include numbers, a team representative explained that because of the NFL rule change for jersey numbers, the list had not been finalized.
The team website has also removed specific positions, for example, listing guards, centers and all but one tackle as simply “OL,” for offensive lineman. Cornerbacks and safeties are no longer differentiated, now just “DB,” for defensive backs.
“Basically, we’ve created competition at all positions and that’s what we want to see and that’s what we want to get done out there,” Culley said, when asked about the lack of numbers on the roster. “That’s what’s happening right now. It’s really not so much the numbers ... [but] that there’s competition at all positions out there. That was the intention of when we put this roster together was to create that, and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Among that competition? Quarterback, if Watson doesn’t show up, is suspended or is put on the commissioner’s exempt list. Tyrod Taylor, who agreed to a deal with the Texans on March 16, has not spoken to the media in a news conference. Quarterback Davis Mills, Houston’s first pick in the draft, has not been made available since the night he was drafted.
When training camp gets going, there will be plenty of competition. For now, though, given how little the Texans are giving away in terms of, well, everything, the cloud of Watson remains the most prominent storyline surrounding the team.