DeAndre Hopkins in an Arizona Cardinals uniform will be a tough site for Texans fans, and for the first time, he is opening up about the situations and relationships that sent him packing.
Hopkins spoke with Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated in a lengthy article. Here are 7 major takeaways:
1. Hopkins and Bill O’Brien had ‘no relationship’
Towards the beginning of the piece, Bishop gets to the part Texans fans want most. How did Hopkins find out he was traded, and what was his reaction?
Hopkins took the call from O’Brien while working out with Julio Jones in Los Angeles. The initial reaction? “We both smiled,” Hopkins says.
The coach adopted a businesslike approach for the brief exchange, his tone and message exactly what the receiver had expected, given the tenor of their interactions over the past six seasons.
“There was no relationship,” Hopkins says. “Make sure you put that in there. There’s not a lot to speak about.”
2. Deshaun Watson didn’t know Hopkins was being traded
This has been discussed at length. Did O’Brien at least consult with the franchise quarterback on whether or not to trade his No. 1 receiver and best friend? According to the Sports Illustrated article: no:
"Watson, meanwhile, had just finished his own workout with his private quarterbacks coach, Quincy Avery, who saw dozens of messages about the trade when he picked up his phone. Avery told Watson, who thought he was joking. The quarterback ran to grab his own device and sat down immediately, trying to make sense of the news; even he was shocked. “Wow,” Watson said, over and over, before posting a Drake lyric on Twitter, the one that resonated across the NFL: ‘iconic duos rip and split at the seams.’”
3. Hopkins secretly battled injuries and he says that created the narrative around him not practicing
It was pointed out time and time again by media members: O’Brien hates that Hopkins misses practices. Hopkins says there’s a good explanation for that.
In his entire career with the Texans, Hopkins only missed one game. But according to this article, he could have justified sitting out way more, but he chose to play through injuries and instead sit out practices.
"Hopkins says that (the narrative of not practicing) stems mostly from 2018, when he tore ligaments in his left ankle, requiring tightrope surgery; suffered other maladies (like turf toe); and was iffy to play most of the season, missing practices but no games. Notably, the Texans won nine straight in his best pro campaign, making it hard to argue his absences hurt his team. ‘No evidence,’ Hopkins says. ‘Go back and check the practice film.’”
4. He can’t stand the rumors that he hung out with the wrong crowd
“Hopkins laughs and says his best friend and housemate is his cousin, D.J. Greenlee, a marketer for a sports agency in California. He spends time with fashion and furniture designers, architects, developers, family and fellow athletes. Business leaders send him books to read.”
5. He took a subtle shot at O’Brien
In a call with season ticket holders, O’Brien borrowed a sentence from his mentor Bill Belichick, saying he’s interested in the best interest of the team. O’Brien then spelled out team, something Belichick has done at the podium in press conferences. Hopkins said the following to Bishop:
“'I’m a stress-free person,' he says. ‘I live in the present. I only care about this T-E-A-M.’”
6. Money was a part of the dynamic of the trade
“Houston framed the move as an unfortunate economic reality. Hopkins had signed a five-year extension in 2017 that guaranteed him $49 million, more than any receiver in the league. But that deal quickly became outdated, and in the three years that remained, none of the money—$12.5 million next season, $13.5 million in ’21 and $13.9 million in ’22—was guaranteed. Hopkins wanted another extension, at or above Jones’s salary with the Falcons (an average of $22 million), especially considering what the Cowboys just paid Amari Cooper ($20 million, on average, for an inferior talent).”
7. He will always root for Deshaun Watson
“Hopkins can’t help but think what he might have accomplished with Watson had they played their entire careers together, two kids from Clemson with strong ties to single mothers who had battled the worst that life could heave at them, now scrapping with Mahomes for AFC supremacy as a new NFL era dawned. Hopkins will still root for Watson. ‘Deshaun is going to be amazing without me,’ he says.”