The NBA playoffs have not yet been resolved but football is already popping into the pro sports picture as most National Football League teams—including the Houston Texans—began their annual organized team activities (OTA’s) Monday at Houston Methodist Training Center.  

According to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, the nine-week off-

season training program began April 21 and will conclude with three weeks of OTA’s.

Head Coach Bill O’Brien and his staff will now get to coach the players in

seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills. Players can’t hit, but this part of the off-season program will give the coaches and personnel department a good idea of where they stand going into training camp at West Virginia in six weeks.

Last year the Texans had 20 players put on injured reserve, including 13 starters.

In an effort to reduce these serious injuries, the team hired Luke Richesson as the new senior director of sports performance and his staff.

Richesson had the weight room and cafeteria remodeled and brought a new philosophy to the organization they hope will contribute to fewer injuries than the Texans suffered last year, according to the Chronicle article.

“Four months after Richesson was hired, players have bought into his teaching methods and the way he is trying the culture when it comes to strength, conditioning, diet and rehabilitation, among other things,” the article points out.

The players spent four hours a day at the facility. Coaches could work with the players on the field without team drills. It was mostly about conditioning with Richesson and the mental part of the game, including fundamentals.

During this stage of the program, players must spend six hours a day at the facility. The 10 OTA’s are spread over three weeks. This is when the coaches watch the players as they go through their drills and will get a better idea of where they are physically and mentally.

The final part of the program is the minicamp, the only mandatory portion of the off-season program. Players take physicals when they report and spend 10 hours a day at the facility.

Two players not participating in the OTA’s or minicamp are second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson and three-time MVP J.J. Watt, both who spent most of last season on injured reserve last season.

Watson is expected to return to action by the regular-season opener in September. He’s ahead of schedule which gives the Texans optimism.

“I have great confidence in Deshaun Watson and his work ethic,” O’Brien told the USA Today Sports Weekly. “I feel lucky to have the opportunity to coach him. I love the kid.”

When healthy, Watt ranks among the most dominant defensive players in the game. However, injuries have derailed his career the past two years. He missed all but three games in 2016 with a back injury and suffered a left tibial fracture five games into last season.

The Texans have been very patient with Watt’s rehabilitation because he might not return to full strength until training camp. Unfortunately, Houston’s defense struggled without him the past two seasons and the hope is that Watt can regain his all-pro form.

The Texans picked up two veteran defensive additions through free agency this spring in cornerback Aaron Colvin and safety Tyrann (Honey Badger) Mathieu. However, they lost safety Marcus Gilchrist and quarterback Tom Savage to free agency.

KWICKIES…While rehabilitating, Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt was busy taking care of the Hurricane Harvey flood victims in the Houston area, raising more than $37 million for their relief and this week is paying for the 10 funerals of the students and teachers who were gunned down last week at nearby Santa Fe High School. Watt is adding to his image as an All-American boy.

The Dallas Cowboys will have a tough time replacing their stellar pass-catching duo of tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Witten got an offer he couldn’t refuse when ESPN asked him to work Monday Night Football while Bryant was waived for being unproductive the past two seasons.

Like I said last week, I was looking for a horse the could beat Justify in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. When word came that it had been raining there for the past three days, I was convinced no horse could beat him on a sloppy track. I really like runner-up Bravaso and think he could beat Justify on a fast track. I had him in my exacta, which made the trip to Vinton worthwhile.

My grandson Logan Smith needed only five pitches Sunday to pick up a save as Army downed Navy 8-5 at Annapolis. The West Point Black Knights were comfortably ahead 8-2 when Navy erupted for three runs in the ninth inning and had two runners on with the tying run coming to bat. Logan had his work cut out because the batter at the plate hit three homers when the two teams met at Fenway Park and then West Point two weeks ago. Logan was mobbed by his teammates after coaxing a lazy fly out to center field.

After more than two years, former Texas Aggie Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has finally found a pro football team that’s willing to put up with his off-field antics when he signed last weekend with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. The quarterback’s last game came at the end of the 2015 season.

Former LSU and American Football League star Billy Cannon passed away last weekend at the age of 80. I remember as a freshman at McNeese State on Halloween night in 1959 when undefeated and defending national champion LSU hosted unbeaten Ole Miss and were trailing 3-0 late in the game. Ole Miss had to punt and Cannon returned it 89 yards which proved to be the winning touchdown after breaking seven tackles. Old-timers around the bayous still talk about one of the most memorable and greatest plays in college football history.

The Houston Astros are still getting magnificent pitching from their starting five who are only one of two teams in major league history that is recording strikeouts at a record pace. The only other team to have more strikeouts at this time of the season was the 1968 Cleveland Indians.

Little Cypress-Mauriceville freshman Jack Burke recently concluded a fantastic season by finishing 11th in the recent Class 4A State Golf Championships last week. Burke, who won seven high school tournaments this season, had rounds of 77 and 81 to lead all freshmen in the state.

JUST BETWEEN US…I remember back when I played my golf at DERA watching a youngster pulling an undersized golf cart with short golf clubs trudging up the 18th fairway early in the morning. That was the twosome of Jim Arnaud playing with his grandson Michael. This continued throughout Michael’s youth until he played for the West Orange-Stark Mustangs. It wasn’t too much longer when Michael decided to try pro golf, which turned out to be quite a grind. He qualified for 48 tournaments and earned around $138,000. While playing last weekend in the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro Am in Greer, South Carolina, Arnaud fired a course record 60 and then won the event by five shots and broke the event’s record by two strokes. Besides winning a huge trophy, the 36-year-old Arnaud collected the winner’s check for $125,000.