Texans coach Bill O'Brien hoping home opener helps city to 'get back on their feet'

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien still feels strongly about playing the team's season opener at NRG Stadium on Sept. 10, saying it will help their fans "get back on their feet quickly" as the city tries to recover from devastating flooding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

"We feel like people can get to the game, so we feel strongly about playing the game in our stadium," O'Brien said Thursday on ESPN's Mike & Mike. "Obviously that will be in conjunction with the mayor, city council and all that. But I do feel strongly about playing there.

"I think the reason why -- having been down here four years, having been in a lot of places coaching football -- football is king down here. People love their team. They love the Texans. They love their college teams. And I think that in this time, maybe for three hours on a Sunday, it gives them a chance to not think about the journey back to where they have to get to and come cheer for the Texans."

O'Brien returned to Houston with the team on Wednesday evening after a week on the road.

The NFL on Wednesday decided to cancel the Texans' final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, which originally was to be played in Houston but was relocated to Dallas. As Harvey lashed south Texas with record rainfall totals and deadly flooding, the Texans flew from New Orleans to Dallas on Sunday and practiced there until returning home Wednesday.

"We're doing lot better that we're home now. It was a long, long week for us," O'Brien said. "Our families -- the players' families, the coaches' families -- some people are in really, really bad-hit areas. It was a feeling of helplessness. Our players really want to help the city, so now we're back. ... We're going to do our part."

O'Brien said players and coaches will visit areas of the city to pass out supplies and help "people get back on their feet and put a smile on their face."

He said that while his home wasn't affected by the flooding, families of coaches and players had been relocated. And that was why it was important to get back to Houston instead of playing the final preseason game in Dallas.

"At the end of the day, it came down to these guys had been away from their families. They really had to get back to help their families," O'Brien said. "A lot of the guys' families have been relocated, coaches and players. And so it was important to try to get back as soon as possible. It became much more about family than football. ... As far as playing a game, it was time to get home and that's what we decided to do."

And after helping to "do our part," O'Brien hopes football can help the city's healing process.

"It's going to take a while to get back, but this city is tough," O'Brien said. "... These people here are great. We've got great fans here. And they're going to get back on their feet quickly.

"I can only imagine what it would be like on that day [Sept. 10 vs. the Jaguars]. So we feel strongly about playing the game. Hopefully it will give our fans a little bit of reprieve from the cleanup."

The University of Houstonfootball team has been staying and practicing in Austin since Saturday, having left Houston on Friday ahead of the storm's arrival. Cougars coach Major Applewhite said he's talked to Texas coach Tom Herman "a couple times" while practicing at the Longhorns' facility.

"The University of Texas, president [Gregory] Fenves, athletic director Mike Perrin and Tom have been outstanding in terms of opening up their arms and letting us use their facilities and really helping us out with anything we need help with," Applewhite said onMike & Mike.

Houston's season opener against UT San Antoniowas postponed and the Cougars will now open the season on Sept. 9 at Arizona.

Applewhite said the team will volunteer downtown this weekend at Red Cross shelters. He also said the team will be at two locations in Houston on Thursday distributing goods via multiple 18-wheelers.

"These are people's lives," he said. "These are families and (these) situations that come around once in a lifetime. So what we have to do is focus on people at this point. We'll get back to our game. We'll play all 12 games. But right now, it's about people, it's about our city."

Meanwhile, MLB'sAstroswill return to Houston on Thursday night after their game against theTexas Rangersin St. Petersburg, Florida. The Astros were given the day off Friday and will start a three-game series against theNew York Metswith a doubleheader on Saturday.

Manager A.J. Hinch told Mike & Mike on Thursday his team is "going to try to be therapeutic for the city."

Hinch also told reporters on Wednesday that "our intention is still going to be centered around the city and all the devastation that's going on. If we can provide any sort of relief or any sort of escape, or any part of a distraction from what's going on, I think that's going to be part of it.

"I know it will be a warm welcome. Our fans who can make it to the ballpark will come and root us on. But it will be emotional because we get to go home. You never know what home means to you until you're not allowed to go home."

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