Manning ready for task of improving secondary

Danieal Manning grew up in Corsicana and starred at Abilene

Christian before spending his first five NFL seasons with the

Chicago Bears.

Now the safety is back in the state he loves, hoping to help the

Houston Texans turn around the league’s worst pass defense.

”It’s a dream come true,” he said of playing for the Texans.

”I was planning for this for a long time. I couldn’t ask for

anything more.”

Still, he knows that getting the secondary on track in Houston

won’t be easy. The Texans allowed more than 267 yards passing a

game last season which was key in the team finishing a

disappointing 6-10 and failing to make the playoffs yet again.

He thinks one ingredient to success could simply be bringing a

winning attitude to this team that has finished above .500 just

once in its first nine seasons.

”I just want to help the guys around here believe that we can

be playing for a championship,” he said. ”That’s the one thing –

we’ve got to get the mentality changed around here. They’ve got the

talent all around, from offense, defense, coaches – there’s just

nothing else you can ask for. Guys just got to continue to


Manning started each game last season for the Bears and finished

with 72 tackles and an interception. In 2009 he had 92 tackles, a

sack, safety, interception and two forced fumbles.

But his statistics don’t tell the entire story of why the Texans

are so high on him.

”I like his passion for the game,” coach Gary Kubiak said.

”When we studied him playing, he really loves to play. He’s a

fiery guy and has been successful.”

He’s excited to play with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, another

new Texan, whom Houston hopes can pair with Manning to make the

secondary a strength of this team. Manning believes the experience

that he and Joseph bring to the group will help the younger players

develop this season.

The pair has some catching up to do after spending the first few

days watching from the sideline while waiting for the new, 10-year

collective bargaining agreement to be ratified. They were happy to

finally be allowed to practice with their new team for the first

time on Thursday afternoon after the CBA was ratified, even if it

was only in shorts without helmets.

”It felt good,” Manning said after Thursday afternoon’s

practice. ”I’m glad to be out there officially and running around,

sweating up and communicating.”

First-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is looking

forward to taking advantage of Manning’s versatility this


”He’s a good player,” Phillips said. ”The more good players

you have the better you can do – actually the more things you can

do, too. He gives you the ability to play man to man with a free

safety which a lot of free safeties can’t.”

Manning is aware of the reputation Houston’s secondary earned

last season with its terrible performance and wants to help change

the way people view the group.

”These guys have to wear that chip on their shoulders, so I’m

going to take it with me also,” he said. ”I’m going to develop

the same type of attitude that these guys have that we want to go

around the league and prove guys wrong.”

The Texans also hope Manning can contribute on special teams. A

dangerous kick returner, Manning averaged 24.7 yards a return last

season with a long return of 62 yards.

The signings of Manning and Joseph were a factor in Houston

having to restructure the contracts of linebacker DeMeco Ryans,

receiver Andre Johnson and defensive end Antonio Smith to get below

the $120.4 million amount set forth in the new CBA this week. Ryans

said it was important to do for the good of the entire team.

”Whatever I can do to help the team – on the field, off the

field – it doesn’t matter,” he said. ”We’re all working toward a

goal and that’s winning and if it takes moving something around, it

isn’t a big deal to me.”