DeAndre Hopkins says holdout wasn't message to Texans

HOUSTON -- Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins says he "wasn't trying to send a message" with his brief holdout before reporting to his first practice of training camp on Monday.

In his first public comments since the holdout, Hopkins repeatedly pushed questions regarding his contract status toward his agent and the Houston front office, led by general manager Rick Smith.

"They handle that," Hopkins said of his representatives and the Texans, when asked if he had been told from either side that he would not be receiving a new contract this season. "All I do is go out here and play football. I let them do the negotiating."

Hopkins, who is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, did not report to the first practice of Houston's training camp on Sunday. That absence earned him a $40,000 fine. By the afternoon, Hopkins said in a statement to ESPN that he would be returning to the team, adding that he was "disappointed" that the Texans had elected not to enter into contract negotiations.

"I wasn't trying to send a message or anything like that," Hopkins said after Monday morning's practice. "I was doing what I felt like was best for me and my family."

By reporting to practice before Wednesday, Hopkins will now be eligible to collect his $445,004 roster bonus on Thursday.

Despite efforts to downplay Hopkins' contract status and focus on football, the spectacle of his situation was evident throughout Monday's practice. After his media session concluded, Hopkins went to sign autographs for fans in attendance at NRG Park -- and a chant of "Pay the Man!" broke out.

Hopkins, who had 111 catches, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago while working with four different quarterbacks, seemed to quickly find a groove with new starter Brock Osweiler. The pair hooked up for multiple "touchdowns" in seven-on-seven drills at Monday's practice.

"It feels great [to be back]," Hopkins said. "I play football, that is what I love doing. I love my teammates, coaches and this organization.

"I just have to keep working," he said, alluding to questions regarding his contract. "Everything will work itself out. All I've got to do is come out here and prove what I'm worth. I'm not rushing it. It'll come one day."

Because the Texans picked up the fifth-year option on Hopkins' contract in May, he effectively has two seasons remaining on his current deal. Smith said Sunday that the team's position was "firm" that it would not negotiate with Hopkins this season, adding Monday that he was "excited and happy" to see Hopkins report to camp.

Head coach Bill O'Brien had largely stayed out of the fray, commenting Sunday that he was solely focused on the coaching the guys who were present. On Monday, however, O'Brien noted that the team's offense looked significantly improved with Hopkins in the mix.

"I thought we were a lot better today and a lot more crisp," O'Brien said.

"Anytime you have that presence, that is really good for your team," he said, referring to a question about Hopkins' return.

Owner Bob McNair said Monday that he was pleased with Hopkins' return, adding that the contract would be dealt with at an appropriate time.

"I'm happy that he's back," McNair said in a statement. "I think it's in his best interest for him to be here. We'll deal with his contract at the proper time. We take care of our players, and we'll take care of him."

Hopkins was a first-round pick by Houston in 2013. The Texans extended their first-round picks in 2011 and 2012, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, as they entered their fourth seasons.

But Smith said Sunday that the team had decided it was "not the right time" for a revised contract with Hopkins. In the meantime, Hopkins says his focus is exclusively on football and building chemistry with Osweiler and the rest of Houston's revamped offense.

"From where we started at to where we are now, we've come a long way," Hopkins said.