Inside the Texans' locker room, the NFL trade deadline isn't a major topic of conversation or a distraction.
Texans veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey said Monday that Tuesday afternoon's trade deadline isn't something he focuses on, or the majority of his teammates.
“You only can control what you can control," Kirksey said. "We’ve got enough to worry about during the season, as far as what we’re doing, what we have in front of us. So, there’s no sense of adding extra stress or adding extra worry to something that may or may not happen.
"A lot of guys really don’t talk about it. We just can control what we can control, and that’s what we have in this room right now. Whatever happens, happens. You always cross that bridge once you get there, but not too many guys talk about that.”
Because the 1-7 Texans are on a seven-game losing streak and trade rumors have surrounded a team that has already traded its leading rusher, former Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram, to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick along with paying him a $250,000 bonus to account for the Saints' tight salary cap situation, it's a natural topic surrounding the struggling AFC South franchise.
Nonetheless, Kirksey emphasized that leaving the Texans isn't necessarily an optimal move. It all depends on the situation the players is headed to. Not every situation is equal. Ingram rejoining the franchise that drafted him and reuniting with Alvin Kamara was a special circumstance.
“The grass isn’t much greener on the other side," Kirksey said. "You don’t know the outcome if you get traded to a team. You don’t particularly know the outcome in that situation. You’ve just got to enjoy where you are.
"You’ve got to take advantage of where you are, because you can go to a different team and your situation could be completely different. Your circumstances could be not what you want. So, you’ve got to enjoy where you are, and you’ve got to take care of your business where you are. You can’t worry about if a winning team wants you, or things like that. You’ve got to be where you are.”
Initially, the Ingram trade upset wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Ingram's close friend, who vented about the trade on social media. Now that the trade has been explained to Cooks, he's calmed down.
"When you lose a guy like Mark Ingram, that’s been one of those guys in this locker room that there is so much respect for," Texans coach David Culley said. "Brandin is one left. There’s more in there, but when you lose a guy like that and you’re going through what we are going through, those guys are invaluable. For him to feel the way he felt, again, when he said what he said about when Mark was traded, it was an emotional thing. Not really knowing the situation.
"Once he found out the situation, he understood completely, and I think our entire football team felt that way. Moving forward right now, you mentioned the trade deadline, I don’t even think about the trade deadline. Only time I think about it is when it’s mentioned to me.”
Culley said that the trade discussions, which are handled primarily by general manager Nick Caserio, haven't preoccupied his thoughts or much of his time.
“I am involved, but right now my most important thing is figuring out how to get that next win," Culley said. "Whenever Nick talks to people or whenever things happen, we have a conversation about it. I haven’t had any conversations with him right now.
"I haven’t felt it being a distraction. Part of that may be because my focus is always only on who we’re playing next and those players. In our meetings, everything we do, that’s all we talk about. In our dressing room, when I’m in there, that’s all I feel, is the fact that the most important thing is the opponent that’s coming up. Is it there? I’m sure it’s there.”
Despite the pain and frustration of losing, including a 38-22 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams during which they pulled their quarterback Matthew Stafford after three quarters with a 38-0 lead, Kirksey emphasized that the morale has remained solid.
“I think guys are still in it, just like when I was in Cleveland," said Kirkey, who previously played for the Browns and Green Bay Packers. "It’s the National Football League. You don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. You don’t have time to hang your head.
"At the end of the day, you’re still blessed to play this game, to be in this position to go out there and compete. We’re all competitors, so we’re going to go out on the field. Not only are you playing for your team, but you’re also playing for yourself and your pride, and your résumé. God is still in it, and then we’re playing football. This is our job.”
And Culley, facing mounting losses every week filled with penalties and other mistakes in his first season as a head coach, is staying the course.
“The message does not change," he said. "The process does not change. Is it frustrating? Yes, it’s frustrating, but the message does not change. We look at the video, we correct it, we come out the next day, we come and practice, and then we correct those things and we move forward. We forget about what happened in the past. It’s all about moving forward."
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.