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Archive for Sunday, July 14, 2002

Texans to open inaugural training camp

NFL expansion team already popular with Houston football fans

July 14, 2002

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— Charley Casserly was driving along a Houston freeway during a business trip after the departure of the Oilers after the 1996 season when a thought struck him.

"I said: 'What's wrong with this picture?'" Casserly said. "Here was the nation's fourth-largest city in the heart of football country without a pro football team."

At the time, Casserly had no way of knowing he'd some day be general manager of the NFL's newest franchise in Houston.

The Texans will take the field for real Friday when coach Dom Capers assembles the squad for their first training camp, leading up to their first preseason game Aug. 5 against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

From the beginning, owner Bob McNair has made a strong effort to make the team fan friendly. When practices begin, the Texans have set aside eight nights at their new training facility adjacent to Reliant Stadium for fans to watch practices and collect autographs.

The Texans are scheduling the workouts so fans can watch at times when the team will be outside on two manicured fields instead of inside the air conditioned bubble for morning drills.

"We always want to try to make it a pleasant experience for the fans," McNair said. "We don't want them to come out expecting to be right there on the sideline watching the team work out and then they find out that the team has gone into the bubble and they can't see them work out."

The Texans are constructing bleachers at their practice site to accommodate up to 2,000 spectators. There is no seating in the indoor practice field.

A preseason practice highlight will be a scrimmage Aug. 2 with the Dallas Cowboys at Robertson Stadium at the University of Houston. About 30,000 tickets already have been sold.

The stadium formerly was called Jeppesen Stadium and was the site of the 1962 AFL championship game between the Oilers and the Dallas Texans, which later became the Kansas City Chiefs.

Players who participated in that game will be invited to be a part of the festivities.

McNair has done much right since paying $700 million on Oct. 6, 1999, for the league's 32nd franchise.

Fans have responded, swarming to buy tickets to watch the first pro football in the city since the Oilers left for Tennessee and became the Titans.

"We have sold 57,000 season tickets," said senior vice president Jamie Rootes. "I know that exceeds the Cowboys, and the most the Oilers ever had was 45,000."

After playing their next two exhibition games at New Orleans on Aug. 10 and Kansas City on Aug. 17, the Texans will play their first game in their $365 million retractable-roof Reliant Stadium on Aug. 24 against the Miami Dolphins.

The regular season begins Sept. 8. The Texans will open against their rivals to the north, the Dallas Cowboys.

That game sold out in less than 20 minutes Saturday. Single-game tickets for Texans games went on sale at 10 a.m., and within an hour, half the inventory was sold.

Tickets for the Texans' season finale against Tennessee Titans the former Houston Oilers also sold quickly.

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