HOUSTON (AP) — Before the Houston Texans started camp this week, they got a special message from a team member who couldn’t attend.
Rookie wide receiver John Metchi III, who previously announced he would likely miss the season after being diagnosed with leukemiaaddressed the Texans in a preseason video.
Coach Lovie Smith, who was promoted from defensive coordinator this offseason following the firing of David Culley, said Friday that he usually opens camp with a speech to the team. But this year, he felt it was more important for the boys to hear from Matchy first.
“We had a lot of questions about what was going on with his health,” Smith said. “So I let him talk to the football team to let them know what he’s looking forward to this year and how it’s going to affect our football team.”
Matchey said Sunday that he was recently diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. The second-round pick out of Alabama said he is taking time off from football to focus on his health and recovery.
Smith didn’t give specifics about what the 22-year-old Metchi shared with the team, but said teammates and coaches were moved by his words.
“All I can say about it is that we have a family member who is struggling with something serious,” Smith said. “We will be with him every step of the way. He will eventually return to our football team. We can’t wait for that.”
Veteran receiver Brandin Cooks has already developed a relationship with Metchi since the draft, and the rookie was expected to compete for playing time at receiver opposite Cooks.
He said seeing how upbeat he was in the video made everyone feel better about his diagnosis.
“His spirit is so amazing, his positivity through it all,” Cooks said. “I do, man, I respect you a lot. It’s just built differently. We have no doubt that he will survive this and we will be with him every step of the way.”
General manager Nick Caserio said there is no timetable for Matchey’s return. He added that Metchi has been in contact with members of the coaching staff and that they are trying to keep him engaged with the team during this difficult time.
“But the most important thing is his health and well-being,” Caserio said. – It’s not about football… it’s just about him recovering and managing to lead a good life. And then we’ll see where we finish.”
The Texans discussed Matchy’s comments on Friday, the first day of camp that was open to the media. Also Friday, Smith said rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will be limited early in camp as he continues his recovery from September surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot.
But he added that the third overall pick in the draft will be ready for Houston’s season opener on Sept. 11 against the Colts.
“Anytime a player comes off a major injury, there’s a ramp, that’s what (the camp) is for,” Smith said. “Make it easy on him. You see him, when he’s healthy, run around and make some plays. He is on schedule. But this is how we will treat all our players who have suffered serious injuries.”
Stingley was a consensus All-American selection as a freshman in 2019, but has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons, including being limited to just three games last year at LSU with a foot injury. Despite the setback, the Texans are confident he can step in early and help turn around a secondary that was one of the worst in the league last season.
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