By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Before the Houston Texans started camp this week, they received a special message from a member of the team that couldn’t be there.
Rookie receiver John Metchie III, who announced earlier that he’d likely miss the season after being diagnosed with leukemia, addressed the Texans in a video before they started preparations for the season.
Coach Lovie Smith, who was promoted from defensive coordinator this offseason after David Culley was fired, said Friday that he normally opens camp with a speech to the team. But this year he thought it was more important for the guys to hear from Metchie first.
“We had a lot of questions about what’s going on with his health,” Smith said. “So, I let him talk to the football team to let them know what he has in store for this year and how it will affect our football team.”
Metchie said Sunday that he was recently diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. The second-round pick from Alabama said he was taking time off from football to focus on his health and recovery.
Smith didn’t provide specifics about what the 22-year-old Metchie shared with the team but said that teammates and coaches alike were moved by his words.
“All I can say about that is that we have a family member who is fighting something serious,” Smith said. “We’re going to be there every step along the way with him. Eventually he will be back with our football team. We can’t wait for that.”
Veteran receiver Brandin Cooks had already developed a relationship with Metchie since the draft, with the rookie expected to compete for playing time at the receiver spot opposite Cooks.
He said seeing how upbeat he was on the video made everyone feel better about his diagnosis.
“His spirit is so amazing, his positivity going through all this,” Cooks said. “I’m like, man a lot of respect to you. He’s just built different. No doubt in our mind that he’s going to get through this and we’re going to be with him every step of the way.”
General manager Nick Caserio said there’s no timetable for Metchie’s return. He added that Metchie has been in contact with members of the coaching staff and that they’re 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. “This isn’t about football … it’s just about him recovering and being able to lead a good life. And then we’ll see where we end up.”
The Texans discussed Metchie’s comments on Friday, the first day of camp that was open to the media. Also Friday, Smith said rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. would 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 would be ready for Houston’s season opener Sept. 11 against the Colts.
“Whenever a player is coming off of a major injury, there’s ramp up here, that’s what (camp’s) for,” Smith said. “Ease him into it. You see him, healthy, running around doing a few plays. He’s on schedule. But that’s how we will treat all of our players coming off major injuries.”
Stingley was a consensus All-America selection as a freshman in 2019 but was hampered by injury the last two seasons, including being limited to just three games last year at LSU because of the foot injury. Despite the setbacks, the Texans are confident that he’ll be able to step in early and help turn around a secondary that was among the league’s worst last season.
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