BOLD TURN FOR THE TEAM

How this offseason became the most mind-blowing chapter in the Texans' complicated history

Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images.

No doubt, sometimes it's difficult to figure out what's going on in Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien's brain – clock management, a profanity-laced confrontation with a fan, giving away superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a trade that could get the Arizona Cardinals arrested for highway (I-10) robbery, it goes on.

But one thing about coach O'Brien, there's no wondering where his heart lies. He is clear about his feelings on race, social injustice and human dignity. This season, O'Brien will lay it on the line. He will take a knee in full view of the public, on the field when the national anthem plays before NFL games. He is the first and only coach among America's four major pro sports to announce his intention. Do not question his courage.

"Yeah, I'll take a knee, I'm all for it," O'Brien said. Just a reminder, the Texans have had four coaches in their history. Only one has a winning record, and he's on the record supporting Black Lives Matter.

Last week, O'Brien, along with Texans owner Cal McNair and star player J.J. Watt, attended the funeral of George Floyd, the Houston native who was killed while handcuffed in police custody in Minneapolis. O'Brien, who grew up in Massachusetts and cut his coaching teeth with the New England Patriots, added, "To see discrimination of any kind against an innocent man who was murdered out of evil and ignorance, it simply breaks my heart and makes me angry. We have to do so much better. It's 400 years of slavery. It's segregation. It's police brutality."

Houston should be proud of Texans leadership. The head coach will take a knee for the national anthem. It's not a sudden awakening for O'Brien. He has supported players taking a knee in the past. Our brilliant quarterback Deshaun Watson pressured his alma mater Clemson to remove the name of a slave owner from campus buildings. And Watt, who has led the Texans onto the field waving an American flag, clapped back against a Twitter follower who said Watt would never disrespect the flag by taking a knee. Watt said, "If you still think it's about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven't been listening."

This is a bold and positive turn for the team. Only three years ago, Texans owner Bob McNair said the NFL needed to prohibit players from kneeling during the anthem. McNair, who has since passed away, told other owners that the NFL "can't have the inmates running the prison." That is not how the expression goes. His choice of words, referring to players as "inmates" and the league as "the prison," was revealing, however. How far this team has come.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has apologized for his comment, "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the American flag." As Watt says, Brees has been listening. Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield promises that he "absolutely" will kneel for the anthem this season. He has been listening, too.

With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell now supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, what now for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first player to kneel for the anthem in 2016, and was out of the league one year later? He risked everything for what he believed, lost his job and many millions of dollars, but has never wavered from protesting police brutality against African-Americans. He will be remembered on the right side of history.

Reportedly at least one team has inquired about Kap's services. Wouldn't it be something if the New England Patriots sign the outspoken quarterback and he leads them to the Super Bowl, where the Pats face the Dallas Cowboys, owned by the suddenly silent Jerry Jones? That wouldn't be a football game, it'd be the cultural event of the century.

Kaepernick faces long odds of taking an NFL field (again), taking a knee (again) and taking his team to the Super Bowl (again). Been there, done all three. But Kaepernick hasn't thrown a pass that counted in four years. Even premiere athletes rarely come back from extended time away and achieve their former success. There have been exceptions, however:

Ted Williams volunteered for military duty during World War II and the Korean conflict and missed five years of his prime with the Red Sox. He returned to baseball and completed his legendary Hall of Fame career.

Muhammad Ali was banned from boxing for 3-1/2 years after he refused induction into the Army, but came back to re-capture the heavyweight title.

Michael Jordan helped the Chicago Bulls win three NBA titles, left to fulfill a dream of playing baseball, and returned for three more basketball championships.

Kaepernick, while banished for years, just might catch lightning in a bottle. He has exquisite skills, is a proven winner, and continued to work out while in exile. If anybody can … here's hoping.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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