Here are excerpts of T.J. Yates’ press conference with the Atlanta media in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. The Texans’ rookie quarterback graduated from Pope High School in Marietta. Yates will start after injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.
Q. This has been a whirlwind last week for you, but have you had a minute to reflect and appreciate how far you have come?
A. Yes. I kind of sat down and talked to my family and a couple of my friends on the phone and just had a second to relax and look at everything that has happened – from the draft, going through training camp and the season it’s all been a wild ride to get to this point. It’s definitely unfortunate circumstances the way [Matt] Schaub and [Matt] Leinart both went down. You never want that to happen. But it has happened and I’ve been preparing the whole season like I was going to be playing out there just for the fact that something like this could happen and it did. It’s really paying off.
Q. How much did going to Houston right after the draft and during the lockout to work with Schaub help?
A. It helped a ton. At that point, it was me, Matt and Dan Orlovsky. We were at Rice [University] three or four times a week. The best thing about Schaub was he never hesitated to stay extra, come on an off day when it was just me and him throwing routes. He was always teaching. No matter what we were doing, he was always teaching me something the whole time we were there. Even during training camp and throughout the season he never hesitated to teach me something or let me pick his brain about anything he’s thinking or anything that he does. That’s help tremendously in me learning this offense this fast.
Q. Is it true that when you went into the game Sunday [against Jacksonville after Leinart got hurt] was ‘What’s up guys?’
A. Yes. I got in there and they were in the middle of a drive and they didn’t realize. They thought it was a timeout because Leinart wasn’t down on the field. He got up, got in the huddle, called a play and ended up calling timeout when he got to the line of scrimmage. So none of the guys really knew what was going on. I had to rush out there, throw my earpiece off, get my helmet and run out there. When I got in the huddle, the guys were like ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’
Q. Were you able to maintain that calm?
A. I got rushed into a two-minute drill for my first NFL time so there wasn’t much calm going on. As the game went on, I got more comfortable. The guys could tell. It’s the way I’ve been playing my whole life. I don’t get too up and down. Whenever I do, I tend to play poorly. I try as best as I can, no matter what I’m doing, to be calm and keep it loose.
Q. Did the game slow down in the limited time you spent Sunday on the field?
A. A little bit. When I first went out there it was going 100 miles per hour because we were in a two-minute drill and I got rushed right into that. As the game went on you kind of start slowing down, running more run plays and going at a normal pace. One thing that has really helped me make the transition onto the field, every day on scout team for the past 10 weeks, I was going against the No. 1 defense in the league. Being able to get reps with them at their full speed every day just makes the transition that much easier.
Q. What has been the hardest part?
A. None of it has been too tough. One thing I have to get done on the field is timing with the receivers I haven’t been throwing with all season long. Being the third-string guy, you don’t get many throws with those first-string guys. Getting the timing down is one thing I need we are going to need to work on this week. I felt very good today. We had a good practice, threw the ball well. It will get better as the week goes on.
Q. What was training camp like just trying to make the roster?
A. It was interesting because Leinart was a free agent so those first three or four days it was only me and Schaub. Those first couple of days went by really fast because I was taking all the snaps with the [second and third teams]. Talk about having your eyes wide open flying right into training camp. From what [quarterbacks coach Gregg Knapp and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison] tell me no rookie gets that amount of reps in a training camp. Under the circumstances, I got tossed in there right in the fire. It definitely opened my eyes and got me acclimated right away.
Q. Do you pay much attention that the Texans are bringing in other quarterbacks?
A. Not at all. The way it’s been going here with different quarterbacks going down we have to have a full stable of quarterbacks just in case.
Q. What do you think of the Falcons so far as you’ve watched them on film?
A. They are very good against the run, I think top five in the league against the run. Their defense is very strong. They are a big zone team and we are going to have to run the ball effectively against them and be able to pass the ball down the field in order to move the chains. They are very good in the red zone. We are going to have to take a long, hard look at that and make sure we take advantage of our opportunities down there.
Q. Did Jake Delhomme practice today?
A. Yes. Jake is awesome. The first five minutes I was in the film room with Jake he was already telling me about stuff he knows from playing the Falcons when he was in the division with Carolina for so many years.
Q. Is it too much about business going forward or can you afford to look at this as a golden opportunity for your career, maybe with the Texans or somewhere else?
A. It is a very big opportunity. It’s hard not to look at it in that way because I never expected to be playing this early in my career, especially under the unfortunate circumstances. Two guys ahead of me going down, you never want to see that happen. You have to take every opportunity you get and run with it. I’m trying not to look too much outside the box this week. I’m trying to take it meeting by meeting, practice by practice and game by game – just trying to get better every day because I haven’t had the reps during the season. I’m just trying to get better every day.
Q. This whole thing is pretty cool though, right?
A. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I try not to think too much about it. I’m trying to stay as focused as possible. I’m trying to keep my head out of all the other stuff. It can do nothing but affect my play on the field. Tunnel vision.
Q. You always want to play at home, but is there part of you that wishes this game was in Atlanta?
A. That would be pretty cool if it was but I’m excited to get back here and play in front of the home fans. Other than preseason, I’ve never stepped on the field here in a real live environment of a home game. I’m excited to play in front of the home fans.
Q. You grew up the first part of your life in Indiana but were you much of a Falcons fan when your family moved here?
A. We were big Falcons fans. Everybody was. That’s when I was in middle school and every single kid I knew had a Michael Vick jersey. That all changed when I got drafted here.