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Texans set for prime time debut

| Monday, Aug. 5, 2002

CANTON, Ohio — OK, Houston Texans. Let's see if you're ready for some NFL football.

The league's newest expansion team will take another historic step tonight, when the Texans make their preseason debut against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game.

"It will be the first time anyone has seen the Texans," coach Dom Capers said. "Right now, nobody knows a thing about the Houston Texans."

We're about to learn. On prime time national TV. In broadcaster John Madden's debut with partner Al Michaels in ABC's Monday night booth. And against the Giants, a veteran team eager to put a 7-9 season behind.

It would be understandable if the Texans were feeling a little pressure.

No time for that, though.

"You never know how fast you're going to progress, but the most important thing is you continue to progress," Capers said. "These guys have been working hard, and now they've got to get ready for the Giants.

"We don't have much time to sit around and evaluate this. We have to look forward to the next game."

It's been nearly three years since the league awarded Houston an expansion franchise, and now, the Texans will get a chance to showcase what they've been up to.

Rookie quarterback David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft, is expected to play the first few series, but Capers said Houston will keep its game plan "fairly simple."

The Texans have been pleased with Carr's progress, and their young quarterback won over a few more teammates by jumping into the middle of a fight with the Dallas Cowboys in Friday's scrimmage.

"You see your center on the ground and somebody on top of him and you step in to help," Carr said. "It just shows you how far we've come as a team."

When the Texans' $60 million investment wasn't mixing it up, Carr, whose first attempt was batted down, went 2 of 4 for 36 yards. He made a nice throw over the middle for a 35-yard gain to tight end Billy Miller.

"We're trying to build on the good things and get through the mistakes," Carr said. "There were some ugly things out there in the scrimmage. We have to eliminate some of those."

Still, Capers called Carr's debut "a good start."

Houston's defense is eager to get off on the right foot, too.

"It's time to see where we are," linebacker Kevin Mitchell said. "It's time to stop talking and take this chance to see how far along we are as a defense. We've got a lot of young guys who are going to have to learn to be aggressive."

New York quarterback Kerry Collins has an idea of what the Texans might try to do.

Collins began his pro career playing for Capers with the Carolina Panthers, whose defensive coordinator at the time, Vic Fangio, also is now with Houston.

"I worked against them a lot in training camp and I played against them a couple of times since then," Collins said. "They use a 3-4 (front). It's a little different, and it changes your blocking schemes. We've had a few games with it, so it's no big deal."

Anyway, Collins and the Giants don't want to show the Texans too much.

New York and Houston will meet Nov. 24 in the regular season.

By then, everyone will know a lot more about the Texans.

  • Notes: This will be the Giants' fourth appearance in the Hall of Fame game, and first since 1985, when they beat the Houston Oilers, 21-20. New York played in the inaugural Hall of Fame game in 1962. … The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Chris Palmer, Houston's offensive coordinator. He was Cleveland's head coach in 1999, when the Browns returned to the league as an expansion team. Palmer went 5-27 in two seasons with the Browns before being fired. … Madden is replacing comedian Dennis Miller as ABC hopes to end a seven-year ratings dip for "Monday Night Football." Madden has had a busy weekend. On Friday, he was given an award for broadcasting excellence, and Saturday he presented tight end Dave Casper for induction to the Hall of Fame. Madden coached Casper with the Oakland Raiders.

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