Offensive linemen are often some of the most fun, funny and smart players in an NFL locker room.
Reporters -- and fans -- tend to rely on at least one as a key team spokesman who can address issues that extend well beyond pass protection or room for the running backs.
But some lines are intentionally quiet, believing that any voice that emerges as louder than the others in a group of five can dent the cohesion necessary for five guys -- maybe not literally, but certainly in a symbolic way.
Eric Winston’s tenure with the Houston Texans dated back to 2006, and he never shied away from a microphone or a tape recorder. The team cut him at the start of the offseason in a cost-cutting move, and he’s now with Kansas City.
The line’s personality changed a little with the move.
Center Chris Myers signed a four-year, $25 million contract to stay in Houston including $14 million guaranteed. While left tackle Duane Brown landed a monster deal during training camp and rates as one of the best in the league at his position, it’s Myers who was the group’s quiet leader even with Winston around.
And it’s Myers who will be looked to more to explain things going forward.
“That’s not really Myers’ personality,” Rashad Butler, who lost the right tackle job to Derek Newton in camp, told me during the offseason. “Now since Eric’s gone, and this is not a knock against Eric, I just think we don’t have that type of guy on the offensive line now. Eric was that guy, he loved that, he loved to talk, to debate and things of that nature, not in a bad way. I don’t really see us having any guy now on the offensive line that has that personality that Eric had.”
I feel like I’ve gotten a better sense of Myers over the last couple years. He’s smart, gritty and intensely focused. Those are qualities you want in any player and certainly in a center. Chatting with the likes of me is part of his job and he’ll do it, but it certainly wouldn’t make the list of his favorite duties.
In July, he said he treated training camp like it was his first and his last. He learned the offense all over again and took detailed notes during install as a rookie would while also being paranoid that he was a veteran whose job was on the line and it could be his last time.
“I’ve never been a big media guy,” he said. “If there are things going wrong in the season, I view it as there is nothing to talk about. Spend your time getting better as an offensive line. You’re a unit, there shouldn’t be one or two guys out there kind of doing the whole media thing.
“I’m a firm believer in that, but I do understand the business side of it and the media side of it. Somebody has to speak. I don’t like it, I’m not a huge fan of it. I will do it for the time being. The offensive line just needs to go out there and work. Whatever perceptions positive or negative come out of it, that we don’t talk, we don’t care.”
I respect that stance and explanation.
But I think team accountability is reflected, at least to a degree, in public accountability.
If a guy is reluctant to talk during the week, that's one thing. A player’s willingness to talk after a game is what people should be most concerned with, as fans are eager to know what happened and why. There are big egos in the business, no matter how one unit on one team may try to suppress that. And part of what wins the continued respect of teammates is the way a guy might step out to accept blame for errors or spread credit for success.
“I’ll talk after a game,” Myers said, before shifting to the bigger picture. “Last season and the season before when Arian Foster was blowing up, everyone wanted to talk about the offensive line. So there was a lot more media attention on the offensive line and I’m not a big fan of that.
"Obviously the attention’s great. But with us having to talk and do interviews and personal type of things, appear on the coverage of programs and those type of things, obviously I’m not a huge fan of that. I think we should just get the whole accolades as an offensive line. But me, Duane and Wade Smith being vets, we do understand the process.”
Last year's line made the Texans go, and nothing schematically has changed so that should be the case again, even with new starters Antoine Caldwell and Newton on the right side. Hopefully for Houston, Myers and crew will be in position to decline interview requests often.
It'll mean they're playing great.