Falcons QB Yates set to reunite with Texans

HOUSTON -- Maybe T.J. Yates won't get a chance to challenge Garrett Graham at the TPC golf course inside the Woodlands Country Club, but at least the Atlanta Falcons quarterback will get a chance to enjoy a few memories with the tight end Graham and some of his other former Houston teammates.

Yates, of course, was traded from the Texans to his hometown Atlanta Falcons this offseason in exchange for linebacker Akeem Dent. With the teams scheduled to have two joint practices in Houston Wednesday morning and Thursday morning in preparation for Saturday night's preseason game, Yates will be in familiar surroundings.

"Man, I've got a ton of friends on the Texans," Yates said. "Most of my draft class that I came in with -- J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed, a couple of the offensive linemen. I spent three years there and made a lot of memories, a lot of friends. It will be special to go back. It will be fun.

"It's going to be weird being on the other side. But, I'm excited to go back."

Yates, a former fifth-round draft pick out of North Carolina, has the distinction of winning the first playoff game in Texans' franchise history when, as a rookie, he helped them to a 31-10 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2011 postseason.

"That was something special not only for me, but the entire organization and the city of Houston," Yates said. "It was kind of just taking a step as a program. That was a big deal for everybody. That's something that I'll obviously remember forever."

Yates doesn't have any ill feelings about the trade.

"It was something that my agent and (Texans general manager) Rick Smith had been talking about for a while," Yates said. "They were kind of throwing around the idea. It got me in a better situation than I was there. And I thank both organizations for executing the trade.

"I couldn't have landed in a better situation for my family, myself: being back at home and being with an organization like it is here and learning from one of the better quarterbacks in this league. And a great coaching staff. I couldn't be happier."

Yates knows firsthand how much of a challenge it will be for the offensive line and rookie right tackle Jake Matthews to practice and play a game against a player the caliber of Watt.

"My advice? Be ready, because he's one of the best in the league," Yates said of friend Watt. "Hopefully (Matthews) won't have to face him head on. Usually a guy like J.J., you're trying to put at least four hands on him at all times. That will be a good test for Jake and all of our offensive linemen. They've got one of the stronger front sevens in the league."

Yates is familiar with the other big challenge the Falcons will face in Houston.

"It's also going to be a good test for us to go down there and practice in the heat," he said. "Think about the hottest practice you've ever had and add something to it. It's a different world out there. You practice in the morning to try and beat the heat, but it's 100-percent humidity at 8 o'clock in the morning. It's just a different world. You've just got to get over the initial shock of how hot it is."

Yates, by the way, is locked in a battle with Sean Renfree for the backup role behind Matt Ryan. Coach Mike Smith said not to read too much into how reps are distributed this week, but Smith wants to establish a No. 2 guy by the third preseason game against Tennessee.

Against Miami last week, Yates completed 7 of 16 passes for 127 yards while working with a group of inexperienced receivers.

"I thought I did good," Yates said. "I was a little off with some of the receivers. That just takes time, getting with those guys, and practicing over and over with them. You have to learn how they run routes. Every receiver is different. Some routes are steps. Some are shorter and some are longer.

"It's more of just getting on the same page with the receivers, more operation at the line of scrimmage, and just getting used to this offense and getting used to the coaches calling the play into me and me relaying it to those guys. That's what the preseason's for. That's what training camp is for."