Reflecting on arguably the most frustrating season of his career, Texans veteran cornerback Bradley Roby gained a valuable perspective.
Roby served five games out of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, ending his season. Roby and former Texans wide receiver Will Fuller and former Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye all tested positive for a banned substance given to them by a Houston area medical professional, according to league sources. Roby said at the time in a statement that he didn't know the supplement he took contained the banned substance.
Signed to a three-year, $36 million contract before last season, Roby lost $1.511 million in pay for the remainder of the season as the discipline from the league cost him five game checks and a weekly $31,250 per-game active roster bonus. Suspended for the first game of this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars against his former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Roby loses $590,074 in total pay this season from his $8.941 million base salary.
“It was an unfortunate situation, but I have a strong faith in God, and I always feel like every step of the way he's always put me in a position to where everything's going to work out on its own,” Roby said. “ Last year was a lot of things going on. It was a lot of things negative in the building. So, I think it just pulled me away and gave me a big-picture view. I got to see how I did things wrong. I got to see how a lot of things work, and it just made me mature even more.”
Roby was also disciplined by the team and didn’t get to play against the Jaguars in a road win last season following a heated argument with then-secondary coach D’Anton Lynn over scheme and philosophy disputes. Roby declined to elaborate on the negative environment he referenced.
“I don't want to speak on last year because that was last year,” Roby said. “No one is here from last year. So I don't want to delve on that too much. Everything I said is what happened. It's unfortunate, you know, and it is what it is.
"I just matured in certain ways. It's just about playing your role, not trying to do too much. Let everyone do their job. You can't do your job and someone else's job. You're supposed to do your job, and I think I kind of got carried away with trying to do too much last year. Now I'm just focused on me and my group of guys, and that's all I want to focus on.”
Now, the Texans’ top cornerback is looking ahead and looking forward to playing in games again. He’ll miss the opener against Meyer, but Roby still can play a total of 16 games.
“I haven’t played 16 (games) in the two years since I’ve been here, so that’s the goal,” Roby said with a smile. “They added an extra game, so I’m still playing 16. It’ll be tough. It’s unfortunate. We’re playing against Urban Meyer, so I’ll miss being able to talk trash to him a little bit, but I’ll see him again later in the year.”
The Texans play the Jaguars on Dec. 19 in Jacksonville against Meyer, whom Roby has maintained a strong relationship with. Meyer left the broadcast studio at FOX to resume his coaching career after excelling at Ohio State, Florida and Utah.
“I’m proud of him,” Roby said. “He’s a winner. He’s won everywhere he went, and I don’t think he’s going to change for anyone. That’s what I love about him.
“I’m not a fortune teller. I know it’s going to be interesting. He’s a new coach. We’ve got a new coach (David Culley), so it’s going to be fun. I think I’ll be watching at the house, and I’ll be rooting for us, of course.”
Roby wants to be an agent of change as the Texans have significantly overhauled their team and the defense. He’s now playing for cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
“It’s a fresh start, man,” Roby said. “The guys we brought back are all positive, good guys, and we can start from there. We can start a base and a culture from there, because that comes from the players. It’s set by the coach, but the players have to carry it out and enforce it. We’re going to buy in and I think you’ve got to start from somewhere. I think it’s a good start.
The Texans will have to adapt to playing without Roby in the opener. They’ll lean on new starting corner Terrance Mitchell and nickel Desmond King in addition to Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves is a likely candidate to start outside with Roby out for the Jacksonville game.
“Next man in,” King said. “That’s why we have that depth on our defense. That’s why we brought more players in. Next man up, and then once Bradley is ready, Bradley is going to come back and (pick up) where he left off.”
Roby intercepted one pass last season and was usually assigned to opponents’ top receivers. He defended seven passes.
Two seasons ago, Roby was limited to 10 starts last season because of a Grade 1 strained hamstring that sidelined him for six games. He Roby still finished with 38 tackles and two interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble. He picked off former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in a December victory.
“Bradley has been a quality player in this league,” Culley said. “He's doing everything that we want him to do. That group that he's with right now is a group that has a lot of depth. And I'll tell you, it's good to see that back there. Although he won't be ready to play that first game because of the suspension, we got guys that right now step right in there, and we just keep moving.”
The Texans, under Culley and new general manager Nick Caserio, have instituted a lot of changes as they attempt to instill a winning culture.
“It’s a very unique situation,” Roby said. “It’s creating a competitive environment. If you’re competing against the guy across from you and the people in your room, the best comes out of you. I think that’s going to bring the best out of us.”
Roby sounds offended by gloomy projections about the Texans’ record. The Texans went 4-12 last season and Caserio brought in 50 new players.
“I like the direction,” Roby said. “It’s positive. I feel like we’re all on the same page. Right now, people aren’t saying positive things, but the season hasn’t happened yet. No one’s lined up yet. Everyone’s All-American. We’ve got to go out there and do our thing. I’m positive for the season, and I can’t wait.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128