Johnson optimistic Kubiak will return
As veteran left guard Wade Smith pulled into the parking lot at Reliant Stadium on Monday morning, he spotted Gary Kubiak’s black pickup truck and for a split second thought the head coach was back to work.
But Smith quickly realized that wasn’t the case.
Kubiak’s truck – a mainstay at the stadium – remained in the lot from Sunday night, when during halftime of the Texans’ game against the Colts, the 52-year-old head coach was taken by ambulance to a local hospital after collapsing near the sideline.
“But yeah,” Smith said, “it was kind of weird, him not being here today.”
As the Texans gathered on Monday morning, Kubiak’s truck was in the parking lot but the coach himself was still in the hospital, where he will remain until at least Tuesday under the care of medical personnel.
In the interim on Monday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips ran the light practice and led the team meeting. Phillips took over head coaching duties for the second half of the loss to the Colts on Sunday night. The team has not made a decision about an interim coach going forward and it’s still unclear if Kubiak will be able to coach next Sunday in Arizona.
Andre Johnson said he feels like Kubiak will be back this week, citing the coach’s passion for the game. He said if Kubiak can be out there, he will be, but Johnson added it’s not more important than Kubiak’s health.
“For me, if I had to tell him, I'd tell him to worry about his health first,” Johnson said. “I think that's the biggest thing. This is just a game. Your health is more important. He has family, kids, cousins, aunties, uncles. You have people that mean a lot to you, more than just this football game. This football game is going to be here. It's not going anywhere. So I would tell him to worry about his health.”
J.J. Watt, like his teammates, had not yet spoken with Kubiak as of around 3:30 p.m. He said he thought Monday was the first time he has been at a Texans' practice without Kubiak.
Several Texans said it was bizarre not seeing Kubiak at the facility.
“Yeah, because you’re used to seeing his face, you’re used to hearing his voice,” linebacker Joe Mays said. “It was kind of crazy but at the same time, we know he’s going through a difficult situation and we’re just hoping for the best for him. All we can do is continue to work and continue to work and prepare.”
Despite not knowing the full condition of Kubiak, the Texans will have to prepare to play the Cardinals next Sunday. The players said Monday was just like any other Monday in terms of their preparation. The team sits at 2-6 and desperately needs a win.
Antonio Smith said the team needs to channel its focus to start winning, despite the absence of Kubiak.
“No, we can’t let it affect our focus,” Smith said. “And if we do, we’re doing our coach, who is our family, a discredit. And that’s something that he wouldn’t want us to do.”
And the Texans were back to work on Monday pushing toward another football game in their 16-game schedule but they admitted it was different without without their leader. His black pickup was still in the parking lot, but eerily, Kubiak, who has been the head coach for over seven years, wasn’t with the Texans on Monday.
“His truck’s always the first one here and the last to leave,” Watt said. “The guy lives for it. The guys lives and breathes this game. He puts it all out there for us and we hope to get him back out there soon.”