Vernon Hargreaves is adapting to a much different culture under new Texans coach David Culley.
Where fiery former Texans coach Bill O’Brien was known for his hard-nosed style and a legendary temper that earned him the nickname "Teapot" during his days with the New England Patriots, Culley is building a reputation as an understanding players’ coach who’s demanding without being overbearing.
Hargreaves’ experience so far is that the Texans have no intentions of running a military-style environment
“They’re understanding,” Hargreaves saidThursday morningafter practice. “They came in and didn’t try to make it a dictatorship. They’re new, and a lot of times it does go that way, but they let us do our thing and let us have fun and hang out, so we appreciate that as a team.”
Under new general manager Nick Caserio, the Texans have 53 new players. That requires a lot from returning players like Hargreaves as far as getting to know his new teammates.
“It’s like going to a new school,” Hargreaves said. “Bunch of new players, got to learn everybody's name, but it's fun out here. A bunch of guys who have been here, done that before. We're keeping it rolling. We're all just trying to come together and get ready for the first game.
“They've definitely brought in guys who have done this at a high level before, guys that stayed out of trouble. Good guys to have in the locker room, I definitely feel that. I definitely see that. It will all come together when the season starts, and we'll see how that goes.”
Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract that includes a $1 million base salary with $300,000 of it guaranteed, a $200,000 signing bonus, $300,000 in total roster bonuses for games active and a $500,000 playtime incentive, Hargreaves started every game last season for the Texans.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft pick allowed 73 receptions on 107 targets for 907 yards, six touchdowns and an opposing passer rating of 109.1 He recorded 72 tackles, one interception and one tackle for a loss while playing for the NFL's 30th-ranked defense that ranked last in the NFL in interceptions.
With Bradley Roby suspended for the first game of the season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy, Hargreaves is expected to start opposite Terrance Mitchell in the Texans’ season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I'm ready for anything,” Hargreaves said. “I've been a starter the whole time I've been in the league, so I'm ready for whatever comes my way.”
Claimed off waivers in 2019 by the Texans from the Buccaneers, Hargreaves became a full-time starter when projected first-string corner Gareon Conley's problematic ankle injury prevented him from playing last season as he underwent a second surgical procedure.
A former college All-American and All-Southeastern Conference selection, Hargreaves has 258 career tackles in the NFL along with three interceptions, one touchdown, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 28 passes defensed.
Hargreaves said he’s improved as a player in every way, especially his understanding of the game.
“It's the mental aspect,” he said. “Learning how to play football, learn the position, learning how to play corner. It's more than going out and covering people. Understand what's about to come. Understand who you're covering. That's where I've grown the most.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.