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Texans discuss challenges of replacing one of the most important players in franchise history

FILE PHOTO: TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 21: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks on as Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate a play during the first half on December 21, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 21: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks on as Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate a play during the first half on December 21, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) (2019 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – The Houston Texans continue training camp work this week.

During interviews with the media, two Texans discussed Thursday the task of replacing one of the most important players in franchise history, DeAndre Hopkins.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks will directly take over Hopkins’ role in the offense while running back David Johnson was the player traded for Hopkins. Both have high expectations.

Past concussions

While Cooks has been extremely productive in his NFL career, he is now on his fourth team in five years.

He has had at least five documented concussions in his six-year NFL career. Despite that, Cooks hasn’t missed many NFL games, missing only two in 2019 in the past five years.

Cooks said he’s not worried about his concussions.

“For me, I’m not worried at all,” he said. “If there was any hesitation or worry, I wouldn’t be here right now. At the end of the day, things happen in this game that you wish don’t happen. But when you start to learn through this process and you really start to get an understanding of what this is. There is just so much out there that people just don’t understand that goes into it. Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, it’s just impact.’ But without going into specifics, I’m comfortable and I feel great. I look forward to continuing to just do what I have to do and go out there and give it my all.”

The pressure of the trade

Johnson, the Texans new running back, has been placed under an unreasonable amount of scrutiny. His big $11.1 million contract is one of the biggest cap hits on the team while playing his position has seen a decline in value since passing has been up in the NFL.

Many Texans fans felt the trade for a player like Hopkins was insufficient, coupled with Johnson’s struggles the past three years. He was injured in 2017, had a down season in 2018, and was benched in 2019. The resulting attitude toward the running back has been cold at best.

Johnson said he feels, but enjoys the pressure.

“(I feel it) a little bit, but honestly, I think I’ve always had pressure since 2016,” said Johnson. “I like the pressure. It makes me want to be better. It makes me want to compete more and do everything I can to prove the doubters [wrong] or want to make (Bill) O’Brien look good and want to make this organization look good. I’m excited about this season and I can’t wait for it to officially get going.”

Injury prevention during a strange offseason

Injury prevention is a key factor in the NFL every year, but especially now without a typical offseason with rookie camp, OTAs and the normal lead up to camp. As fans have seen in other sports, the long layoff coupled with the short ramp-up has led to injuries (see: Astros pitching staff).

The Texans look to avoid that, according to head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien.

“We’re definitely into the ramp-up period here... (and) our strength and conditioning staff plays a big role, our training staff,” he said. “In getting these guys to the point where they can get out there and play football, all these guys are the veterans. They’ve worked hard. You can tell they’ve worked hard. Some of them weren’t able to do the football drills that we do or some of them didn’t have the resources that we have here. We’re definitely being patient, and we’ve put a lot of work and resources into different ways to monitor where they’re at. We’ve worked hard with our sports performance staff to come up with plans relative to how many minutes of high intense practice, medium intense practice and low intense practice. We’ve worked hard on that and we have a good plan for it and hopefully, that will help us in the health department.”