Published July 31, 2013
HOUSTON – The wife of linebacker Joe Mays was understandably concerned when her husband signed with the Houston Texans less than a year after he delivered a hit on Matt Schaub that took a chunk out of the quarterback's ear.
"She was worried about how Schaub was going to react," Mays said. "She was happy, but at the same time she was hoping that I didn't get jumped in the locker room."
Turns out she had nothing to worry about. Mays practiced with the Texans for the first time Wednesday and got a warm welcome from his new team.
"We talked, man. It's over with," Mays said of Schaub. "I'm just glad to hear that everything is OK. Hopefully the fans can accept me. I know how mad they were about it, and believe me I was upset too."
Schaub brushed off any notion that he was mad at Mays about the hit.
"We're way past that," he said. "That was gone as soon as we walked off the field that day. It's just a physical, hard-nosed game and he's a physical player. It's just part of football and I don't fault him for that ... he's a good player and a good guy."
Mays was suspended for one game and fined $50,000 for the hit on a play in Houston's 31-25 victory over the Broncos on Sept. 23.
The 5-foot-11 Mays insists that he didn't intentionally try to hurt Schaub.
"It's one of those bang-bang type of plays where there is not really anything I could have done differently," he said. "With me being as short as I am, I definitely didn't think I was going to hit him in the head and I definitely didn't try to. The NFL made the right decision and luckily I'm still playing the game."
The incident was the start of a tough stretch for Mays, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with Denver before last season. He lost his starting job a couple of weeks after the hit and broke his left leg in late October and missed the rest of the season.
He reported to Broncos camp healthy, but Denver had depth at linebacker and released him last week to save on paying his hefty salary this season.
The 28-year-old is looking forward to Houston giving him a chance to compete for a starting job, but said he'll do whatever he can to help the team.
"I have an opportunity to definitely fight," he said. "That's one of the reasons why I chose here, because I can compete, come in and try to start. I definitely don't mind playing special teams because that's how I made it in the league is playing special teams. Now, I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get on the defense."
Mays spent the last three seasons in Denver after playing his first two years in Philadelphia. His best season came in 2011 when he started 12 games and had a career-high 75 tackles. He adds experience to a group of linebackers led by Brian Cushing but filled with rookies and players with two or less years in the league.
"The bottom line is we've got a need for some experience right now with what's going on with our linebacker situation," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Him getting let go in Denver, I think he was looking for the best opportunity and I think he looked at us and sees an opportunity to help our football team."
Cushing is looking forward to having another veteran linebacker to help him work with the younger guys in the unit.
"I think he's a tremendous football player and he adds a lot to the team," Cushing said. "Anytime you add a play maker like that it only makes you better."