Hard Knocks could keep Texans from luring practice partners

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The Texans have agreed, perhaps a bit reluctantly, to serve as the featured act on Hard Knocks. And the Texans could have a hard time finding a team to agree to practice with them this year.

The Texans and Saints had planned to work out together prior to their exhibition game in August. On Thursday, Saints coach Sean Payton said that won’t be happening.

Asked whether the decision to not practice with the Texans had anything to do with the appearance on Hard Knocks, Payton attributed the decision to the fact that the Saints will be working out with the Patriots.

“We discussed and talked about a second team, really the decision was more about getting back into a schedule here and then certainly recognizing the fact that they are going to be featured on Hard Knocks, but it was really about our team and what is best for us,” Payton told reporters on Thursday.

While Payton made it clear that the decision primarily arises from a desire to practice with only one other team, some in the media (such as John McClain of the Houston Chronicle) have interpreted Payton’s remarks as partially attributing the development to Hard Knocks.

More and more teams in recent years have devoted a portion of training camp to working out with other teams. Last year, the Texans worked out with both the Falcons and Broncos. And the practice sessions between the Falcons and Texans got more than a little chippy, possibly because the NFL Films cameras and microphones were there as part of Atlanta’s role as the Hard Knocks team.

Practice fights may make for good TV, but it doesn’t necessarily make for good football practice, especially when the goal is to emerge from practice with as many healthy players as possible.

For the Texans, it means that they’ll go from having a pair of joint practice partners in 2014 to none in 2015. And even though the NFL can now twist arms to get a team to serve as the focal point of Hard Knocks, the NFL can’t force other teams to go along for the ride.

Yet.