There's a place in the NFL away from the football field that players rarely talk about in public and that fans hardly notice. It's a place without stats or the crushing sounds of the gridiron. No officials whistles or cheering fans. Yet players find themselves in this kind of limbo. That's where I found former Texan defensive end Eric Powell. Because Eric was so open about his experience, we can get an inside look at the Texans as a team.
Who is Eric Powell? He was signed by the Texans to a reserve/future contract on January 2, 2008. He was released July 22, 2008. The Texans' coaching staff liked him because he was a big man who could move. Earl Cochran helped recruit him to the Texans.
He'd been training for months to compete for a spot on the Texans' active roster. During OTAs, he tore some connective tissue in his hip. This didn't outright end his season; rather it thrust him into a strange limbo. From the moment he was released, numerous conflicting options blossomed. Several NFL teams and even Arena League teams called to inquire about his availability the day he was cut. He could go play for any of those teams, but he would have to sign an injury waiver so if he couldn't play because of pain or further aggravation of his injury, the team he signed with might not owe him any compensation. Because his injury occurred while he was under contract with the Texans, he could take an injury settlement and get paid for this season. He could also be moved to IR if the Texans decide that he is part of their plans for next year.
Despite these options, what Eric Powell wants most is to get back on the field. He's been in Houston since March training non-stop. When other players left on vacation, he stayed at the Texans facility and trained and then trained some more. Football is more than an occupation for Eric Powell, it’s a passion.
In the time that we talked, there was nothing more thrilling than to hear about the Texans' work ethic as a team. Eric Powell has a unique insight into teams' training camps. Professionally, he's been in training camps with the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, as well as the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe. He said that he has never seen a team work as hard or be as focused as the Texans are in camp.
He said that the Texans had 100% attendance at all team offseason activities. From the stars to the scrubs, everyone was there. When the team ran, everyone ran. When they lifted, everyone lifted. He said that there is a special intensity about the team.
We talked about several players on the Texans.
Mario Williams - He said he's never seen anyone that big move that fast. We've all heard that Mario is a beast, but to hear it from one of his teammates brought the fact home once again. He also mentioned Mario's extensive car collection. He said that he's been to Mario's home and seen a Cadillac Escalade, an F-350 Dualie, a Hummer, a Ford GT, a Maserati, a Ranger Rover, a Dodge Challenger and a Lamborghini Diablo. Mario even has a semi rig. He also has 4 ATVs and at least 6 remote control cars.
Ahman Green - We talked about his knee. He said that he's seen Ahman doing box jumps on one leg - his left leg. He was doing them to the point where Eric wanted to know what Ahman Green's vertical jump was. He's seen Kevin Jones and Willis McGahee rehab injuries, and he feels that Ahman will be able to go full speed this year.
Dunta Robinson - You'll probably never find someone more into his rehab. Before he was released, Eric went into to rehab every day for 45 minutes to an hour. He said Dunta is in rehab every day for 3-4 hours. Houston’s favorite hard-hitting cornerback is working harder than ever to get back on the field.
We talked about some of the off-field stuff that the Texans are into. He said that several Texans are also accomplished businessmen.; Powell named Ephriam Salaam, N.D. Kalu, and Amobi Okoye as some of them. One of the businesses Eric Powell has started is Powell Travel.
The really interesting thing about all this business talk is how tightly knit the Texans are. Whatever you want to get into--restaurants, real estate, stocks, pretty much anything-- there's a player who can introduce you to people and help you get started.
The Texans will probably be without Eric Powell on the field this year, but he was part of their push for the playoffs. Through his eyes, we've seen a team that's hungry and ready for a playoff run.
More to come...