As the focus is now on the Texans’ active 53-man roster, head coach Lovie Smith sees it more like a 69-man roster.
The veteran NFL coach made it clear Thursday as training camp broke that the 16-man practice is also stocked with players who may be moved on the active roster at any time. It sounds like much of the Texans roster could be quite fluid for the 2022 season.
“You have an idea of what our roster is going to look like right now,” said Smith, who is in his first season as the Texans head coach after being promoted in the offseason after David Culley was fired after one season. “A lot has been said about the 53-man roster, but it’s really about the 69-person roster.
“That’s what we were trying to do, whatever we were trying to do to get those 69 guys together. Some of our guys are vested, we ask them to come in a little bit different way, whether it’s practice squad or whatever.”
The Texans got down to the NFL-mandated 53-man roster on Tuesday but then spent the next two days adding some of the players who were cut back to the active roster and practice squad, while letting go a few of the players who seemed safe on Tuesday.
Perhaps the biggest surprise Tuesday was the release of running back Marlon Mack, who may have been the biggest offseason acquisition. The Texans seemed to make it clear that they believe in rookie running back Dameon Pierce to help re-ignite their pedestrian ground attack, but then Wednesday added Mack to the practice squad.
In another surprising move, receiver Chris Conley was initially let go Tuesday but a day after general manager Nick Caserio hinted that Conley would be back with the team, he was re-signed to the active roster Thursday.
The Texans also unexpectedly traded defensive lineman and Houston native Ross Blacklock to the Minnesota Vikings. But they also picked up another promising young receiver when they grabbed Tyler Johnson off the waiver wire after he had been cut by Tampa Bay.
All of a sudden a receiver room that still seemed to be full of question marks has become a little more interesting with the return of Conley and the addition of Johnson.
“Waiver wire, when it comes out, we look at all of our players and as you go through the process, through the draft, you see a lot of guys. You can’t get them all,” Smith said. “Tyler is a player that we liked for a period of time and he was available. We continue to look to upgrade the roster, it made sense. Excited about him coming here”
Smith was also excited about the spirit and enthusiasm that he saw during the players’ last day of training camp. They now have three days off before returning to start preparing for the Sept. 11 season opener against AFC South rivals the Indianapolis Colts.
“We’ve gone through a lot, all season, training camp,” Smith said. “Then you get down to the last practice before the guys throughout the league have three days off. In my time in sports, a lot of times this hasn’t been our best practice, where guys are one foot in the car, thinking about the weekend. Complete opposite today. Maybe our best practice we’ve had. It was a grind. It was hard and padded and they’ve done the way they’ve done throughout everything we’ve asked them to do.”