HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – As defying the odds go, Alan Ball has been a rather lucky man.
The veteran defensive back is a former seventh-round pick, who has spent six years in the NFL. Players with a lot more pedigree and promise have had much shorter careers.
“It’s a part of working hard and coming to work every day and knowing what you’ve got to do when you get there,” Ball said, “and trying to figure out how you can help the team in doing that when you get your chance.”
After five up and down seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Ball found a way to extend his career over the weekend by grabbing a lifeline with the Texans and in a defense he once thrived in. The unrestricted free agent is now reunited with his former head coach Wade Phillips, who of course now is entering his second season as the Texans defensive coordinator.
Ball, a versatile defensive back who will work in at cornerback initially, knows Phillips and his system well. After having no one to translate in players terms Phillips’ attacking 3-4 scheme last season, the Texans now have two players on the roster in inside linebacker Bradie James and Ball who know this defense inside-out.
“It helps a lot. I come in a get right to going,” Ball said of the familiarity with the defense after joining his new teammates for the first time during OTAs on Monday. “It makes it a whole different game when you have to learn a playbook and go at the same time, so it helps that I’m kind of refreshing instead of learning.”
In addition to bringing in Ball over the weekend, the Texans also signed fifth-year running back Justin Forsett to presumably replace Derrick Ward as the team’s third tailback behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Forsett, who was also a seventh-round pick, comes over after spending the past few years as backup running back and kickoff return specialist for the Seattle Seahawks.
Certainly, the Texans have some younger and cheaper talent on the roster, but Ball and Forsett add insurance to a team whose goal is the Super Bowl this upcoming season.
“Very happy to get them,” Kubiak said. “Justin will give us some depth, and he’s been a very good special teams player; and then Alan, he knows the system, so he has a chance to come in and compete real fast.”
With Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson solidified as the starting cornerbacks, Ball comes in to fill the role of the proven veteran who will compete with youngsters Brice McCain, Sherrick McManis and Brandon Harris.
Two years ago, Ball started all 16 games at free safety when the Cowboys had the worst secondary in the NFL. A shift back to his more natural cornerback last season under the Cowboys new coaching staff was mostly disappointing with Ball starting just two games.
In some ways this represents a new start in a familiar spot for a player trying to prove he can still play in this league.
“Any time you get into something new, it’s definitely a pleasure,” Ball said. “They’re going to let me work at corner. I’m comfortable at corner. I definitely feel comfortable and I’m excited.”
Ball definitely seemed enthused to be out on the field Monday. It was as if he had been out on the field with his new teammates the previous two weeks instead of joining them for the first time.
“This is a defense where you can get after it,” said Ball, who recorded 101 tackles, three interceptions and 14 pass breakups during his career with the Cowboys. “Wade’s going to do his job making the right calls. We’ve got to do a good job being in the right place and that’s what I like about the defense. It helps you play fast and any time you can do that it helps you make plays.”