You can tell something different is going on at Rice University's stadium, just by walking through the parking lot. The cars you see aren’t anything close to what the average college student can afford. There are expensive Porches and BMW’s. The cars belong to players for the Houston Texans Football team.
The team is practicing at Rice because they aren’t allowed inside the team’s headquarters at Reliant stadium until the players union and NFL owners agree on a contract. Tight end James Casey, who went to Rice, says they’ve been quietly practicing at Rice for months.
"You know there’s some cameras out here today watching us, but we’ve been doing this for a long time, just haven’t had cameras out here. So just going through the things, getting better, doing as much as we can on our own. We can’t get taped and we don’t have trainers out here, so we can’t be too combative, but we’re doing as much as we can to make sure we’re ready whenever it happens if it next week, the week after, whenever."
The workout is strictly voluntary. There are no coaches no assistants, not even a ball boy. They are dressed in shorts and t-shirts, but no Texans logos. If it weren’t for the cars and the fact the some of the guys are really, really big, they could be mistaken for a group of guys just playing football on a hot Houston day. Quarterback Matt Schaub says the voluntary workouts are helping them stay in shape as well as build team chemistry.
"Any chance we can to get together as a group as a team, just us on our own and without the guidance of coaches, that’s good and necessary. But I think for us to be out here as a team and a group of guys choosing to be here, in the long run will serve us good."
The owners and players union have been talking and most observers believe a deal will be reached soon.
Even with fall and football season right around the corner, defensive captain DeMeco Ryans says getting the right contract is more important getting it done quickly.
"Until there’s a fair deal for both sides, that’s when it’ll happen, so I’m not putting a time frame on when it needs to be done, it just need to be a fair deal."
If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, the entire NFL season could be canceled, but few people believe that will happen. Most believe there will be a season. But will it be a full season and will there be a full training camp? Schaub says the players need at least a short camp to get ready.
"You know just get your football legs underneath you, get the pads on and get to playing. We can do this all day, but we need to have some type of camp."
After a couple hours of running plays in the hot sun, the guys called it a day. There were no fans wanting autographs. They couldn’t even shower in a locker room. They just got in their cars and left.