Texans DT Mathews hero of practice after fielding punt

HOUSTON – It’s not often a 6-3, 300 pound defensive tackle gets to play the hero in a game, much less a practice, but Tuesday, Ricardo Mathews did just that after successfully fielding a punt at the end of the morning session.

Mathews, who said he has never fielding a punt before, borrowed receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ gloves to help him get a better grip in the humid morning air. He did bobble the football off of punter Shane Lechler’s foot for a moment before securing it for the catch, and was promptly ambushed by his teammates in excitement.

"I wasn’t going to miss," Mathews said about what the guys would have done if he dropped the ball.

Head coach Bill O’Brien, who cooked up the scheme with the help of some veterans, even added some pressure to pressure to the situation by tell Mathews if he missed, the Texans would not only have to go through the afternoon walkthrough, but stay later as well.

"If he dropped it, I said we’d be here until midnight," O’Brien joked. "That’s why I kept saying, ‘There’s a lot riding on this, Rico.’"

In a training camp where intensity is stressed on the practice fields, O’Brien thought it would be important to give the team the opportunity to earn the evening off from workouts, paired with the off day Wednesday, to recover.

"One of the things out here, you know, I do believe that we have a long way to go in some areas. We have a lot of things to clean up. But I also believe that these guys are working hard," O’Brien said. "It’s hot out there for these guys and the guys that are out there are giving us everything they have. That is a good thing. Tomorrow is their day off. It’s good every now and then to give them a little break. Then they come back, in my opinion, fresh."

Follow Shawn Ramsey on Twitter: @ShawnPRamsey