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Hoyer, Mallett officially begin QB competition

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HOUSTON — There were cameras everywhere and everything was a circus. But nothing changed between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett as the Houston Texans opened training camp and kicked off the team’s first-ever preseason true quarterback competition.

Like the beginning of OTAs and minicamp, Hoyer started with the first team and Mallett ran the second. Like all the non-contact workouts that preceded Saturday’s public practice session, head coach Bill O’Brien said there was nothing to read into who played with whom and how the Texans’ top two quarterbacks were handled.

“Everybody gets reps with everybody else. We don’t look at it as a first team and a second team and a third team and all that,” O’Brien said at the team’s practice facility, with the coach shaded beneath a tent, an HBO “Hard Knocks” camera zooming in and an overhanging microphone capturing every word.

Then came the real questions.

After offseason workouts and a six-week layoff, does O’Brien have a better feel for when he’ll announce his Week 1 starter?

“No,” he said.

Does Hoyer have an edge after Day One? Mallett?

“No,” O’Brien said.

Hoyer was more efficient and smoother Saturday. He also missed throws that NFL starters make and rarely wowed watchers. Mallett had three consecutive incompletions near the goal line and was noticeably off target at times. He also threw a touchdown bomb to Nate Washington that elicited one of the biggest cheers of the day from a constantly cheering crowd.

“Both guys had some good plays and both guys had some plays they’d probably want to have back,” O’Brien said.

While O’Brien was tight-lipped, linebacker Brian Cushing returned with a smile. No player was more excited to be sweating at camp than Cushing, the inside linebacker who suffered through a two-year ordeal after undergoing two surgeries on the same knee.

“I’m out here to return to form,” Cushing said. “This is the best I’ve felt in a while.”

In the offseason, Cushing worked out with a demon-like intensity. But he got to spend more time as a father and husband instead of undergoing dawn-to-dusk rehabilitation at NRG Stadium.

At last year’s training camp, Cushing was rehabbing. He wasn’t cleared for practice until the third preseason game.

“This (practice) was nothing compared to (last two camps), injury-wise,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything this time last year. I could hardly run.”

Cushing disclosed during the offseason program that the operations on his knee forced him to learn to walk again. Now he’s running full speed and hoping to play well enough to convince the coaches he can be the every-down player he was before the first surgery in 2012.

“I don’t have to overcome anything or rehab,” he said. “I can just go full force right into practice and work on football.”


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