March 18, 2003
The Latest Skinny on Steve McKinney
By Ric Sweeney
Texan center Steve McKinney’s been after me for months to do a follow-up interview to our award-winning piece from last April. But I always resisted — “Been there. Done that” I told him, if not once, a 1,000 times. Then, last week, while we were working out together at the gym, he finally broke me.
I was on my last set of bench press, spent beyond words, trying to clear 4 reps of 45… 450 pounds, when fatigue set in. Unable to control the weight, the bar settled on my sternum (actually, it began depressing my sternum), so I asked Steve if he’d mind giving me a spot. Sure, he said, if I promised to interview him afterwards. I had no choice; he had me right where he wanted me.
OK, OK… that didn’t really happen. In fact, I’ve never actually met Steve McKinney. But after he signed with the Texans last year, I did do some sleuthing that eventually put me in contact with Steve, and for some reason, he was gracious enough to forgive both my intruding on, and wasting of, his personal time, by answering a gaggle of my inane questions via email.
Nearly a year later, an obvious glutton for punishment, Steve’s back for another round of my intense, Stone Phillips-like grilling. Let the inanity and wasting of Steve’s time begin!
Ric: First things first, how’s your offseason going? Besides spending all day reading our site, how are you keeping busy? Do you stay in touch with your teammates? How’s your health? Why am I asking so many questions?
McKinney: The off-season is going great. I’ve been hanging out with the wife and kids just trying to recover from the season. Between the times I check for updates on your site, I usually get a workout in and maybe make a few prank calls to David Carr and Tony Boselli.
Ric: Overall, how do you and your teammates think the season went?
McKinney: Overall, I think we feel pretty good about the direction the team is heading. Of course, everyone wants to win every game, but in the first year of the franchise, I think we set a pretty high bar. With the moves we’ve made so far this off-season, and with 13 picks in the draft, I think we’ll be a much improved football team next year. (Please don’t boo if we’re not.)
Ric: More specifically, with regards to your “line” of work, how would you rate the offensive line’s performance last year?
McKinney: It’s hard to rate the line’s performance when you factor in the unusually high number of injuries we had and the fact that Tony Boselli never touched the field. Going into the season, I was very excited about the group I thought would be playing; however, that group was never on the field together the whole season. That being said, I think the guys that did play did a solid job. I know the numbers don’t reflect that, but we were still changing the line up 12 weeks into the season.
Ric: On a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing… let’s say, Lorenzo Lomas when it comes to annoying, how tired, fed up or plain pissed off were you guys at all the talk surrounding the “sack record?”
McKinney: On a scale of 1-10, about a 76. I got to the point where I would start making excuses before the media would even ask me about (it), because I knew what they wanted to talk about. The only thing I know is we will not be breaking our own records anytime soon
Ric: It seemed you and David Carr struggled with the snap exchange on occasion last year — what, if anything, was the cause, and do you guys feel confident you can work it out?
McKinney: Yeah, we had 9 fumbled snaps last season. That’s something that people take for granted, including the center and the quarterback. It’s something that neither of us are worried about, and I feel very confident that with the work we’ll get together this off-season, it will no longer be a problem. Thanks for noticing, by the way.
Ric: For the record, Keith was the one who noticed — he made me ask that question — MADE me. I had no choice, I’m telling ya! He threatened to make me write all the draft profiles next month. Seriously. It was Keith. Anyway…
Have you heard anything about the team possibly moving you back to guard? Readers of our site claim Charley Casserly hinted earlier this year on the radio that it could happen.
McKinney: I have expressed to Coach (Dom) Capers that I have no desire to move back to guard right now. I think center is an important position in this offense and I’m the best man for the job. If they really believed our offense would be better with me as a pulling guard, then I would gladly move back. However, I don’t think they have any plans of doing that at this time.
Ric: What’s the future like for last year’s crop of rookie offensive linemen: Chester Pitts, Fred Weary and Milford Brown?
McKinney: I think all three have a lot of ability and will probably be battling each other for the two guard spots this year.
Ric: Of course, no offseason line of questioning would be complete without asking about Tony Boselli’s status — any updates?
McKinney: Ahh…. another one of my favorite questions. Here is the company line: Tony is progressing nicely. The training staff feels confident that if he keeps improving, he will be able to perform next season. Ha, Ha. Seriously though, I’ve seen Tony in the weight room everyday and can tell you he is making strides. I see his strength improving every week, and I really believe he’ll be ready to go next year.
Ric: Lastly, with regards to the OL, what do Zach Wiegert and Greg Randall bring to the table?
McKinney: Zach is a proven veteran. He has played at a high level for 8 years and I welcome him to the group. Greg is a big man who is going into his 4th NFL season and he’ll bring much needed experience to the line in probably a back-up tackle role. He also has the ability to start if the situation arose.
Ric: Moving on to other positions — we know one thing about David Carr: he’s a tough SOB. Actually, we know that and also that he’s maybe one of the five luckiest men alive: good looking, huge talent, extremely wealthy, attractive wife… where was I? Oh, yeah — how would you rate his rookie year, and did he really earn the team’s undying respect for enduring all the hits he took?
McKinney: He certainly earned my respect. Every time he takes a hit, I feel it. I really enjoy playing with David. He is one of those guys who’s always relaxed and confident. He never gets nervous or uptight. That attitude is contagious and I know this offense will thrive with him running it.
Ric: Let’s get into some specifics from last year. What did you guys know that the rest of the free world didn’t on September 8, 2002? And is it wrong of me to share with you that I had “19-10” tattooed on my inner thigh?
McKinney: We knew we were ready to play. We had prepared for that game since last March. Winning was awesome, and by awesome I mean totally sweet!
I was thinking about getting houstonprofootball.com tattooed on my forehead. How cool would that be?
Ric: Speaking of the Dallas game — this question has been killing me all year: Do you have ANY idea what Gary Walker is shouting to Jerry Jones is this picture?
My guess has always been something along the lines of, “Hey, Leatherface, get your Troy Aikman-loving, toupee-wearing, plastic surgery-having ass off our field, bitch!” How close am I?
McKinney: I imagine it was somewhere along those lines.
Ric: By the by, in the 1-in-1,000,000,000th chance that Gary Walker is reading this right now — please feel free to confirm with us what, exactly, you’re yelling. Moving on…
On the pivotal punt return that eventually set up Kris Brown’s game-winning field goal against Jacksonville — did you know ahead of time that Jabar Gaffney was going to lateral back to Aaron Glenn, and if so, why didn’t you stop them! That was just insane! It was like watching a basketball game, and seeing a guy heave an off-balance shot from half-court with two guys on him; you scream at the television — “No! No! No!” until it goes in, and then you’re like, “Yes! What a great shot!”
McKinney: I had no idea; in fact. I saw Jabar out there and (I) remember thinking. “What’s going on?” I thought Jermaine was hurt, or something. When the play unfolded, I was freaking out. I was just like a fan in the stands, just watching and screaming.
Ric: Excuse me while I put on my Stone Phillips face — what happened against Cincinnati?
McKinney: Dom felt like we needed a break so we let the JV team suit up for that game. Plus, we felt sorry for them not having won a game yet.
Ric: How weird was the win over Pittsburgh? I still can’t believe it went down the way it did.
McKinney: That game was crazy. We only had three offensive plays in the first quarter. Needless to say, we were never able to get in a rhythm offensively. Fortunately, the defense put on a display the likes of which may never be seen again. I apologize for how cheesy that last statement sounded. I think Chris Wragge is rubbing off on me.
Ric: Lastly, did you lose my phone number, or something, ’cause I thought you, Bob, Charley and I were all supposed to hang out last year. What gives?
McKinney: I guess you didn’t get our message. We waited for you for, like, three hours. Maybe we can do it again sometime.
Ric: Great! When? Hello? Steve?
And thus ends another toe-to-toe with the great Steve McKinney. Once again, the cap is doffed in appreciation of his generosity. As was the case last time, he whipped his answers out quickly and without complaint. Great talent, sure; but a great guy, too — hope to hear from him again next year.
Though busy, Ric Sweeney promises to try and accommodate other Texan players who would like to be interviewed. Seriously.