By John Lopez
May 20, 2010

HOUSTON -- Exactly who do these Houston Texans think they are ... the Dallas Cowboys?

The team always overshadowed by the Lone Star State's more visible franchise has become much more noticeable. Most of the Texans' headline-grabbing has happened for all the wrong reasons, mind you, but in today's Twittering tabloid world, it has led to much more attention.

There have been issues with discontent, rogue player behavior, steroid implications, Tweet-troversies and stars reaching higher levels.

In other words, almost overnight the Texans have become a relevant NFL team by stirring the pot and creating national buzz. Can the franchise's first playoff berth be far behind?

Since the start of last season, here are some of the eye-catching headlines the Texans have made:

• Franchise cornerback Dunta Robinson tweaked general manager Rick Smith and created a national stir by writing, "Pay me, Rick" on his football shoes prior to a 2009 season-opening loss to the Jets.

Robinson made matters worse and alienated fans by saying the message was in protest of getting franchised, rather than having his contract extended. By getting franchised, Robinson earned a $10 million salary. He also ticked off fans by saying, "... this is what we're here for. It's to get paid."

At season's end, the Texans released Robinson, who ultimately was signed to a free-agent contract by the Atlanta Falcons after a mediocre year.

• The good news was quarterback Matt Schaub stayed healthy and became an elite-level quarterback who many consider more talented and polished than his cross-state colleague, Tony Romo. Schaub finished the 2009 season with 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns and earned Pro Bowl MVP honors.

• After a 20-17 home loss to the Tennessee Titans, the club made a bizarre, far-fetched excuse for rookie linebacker Brian Cushing's Twitter account, after @BrianCushing56 criticized NFL officials. The Texans said someone posing as Cushing used the Twitter account. No allegations of hacking were made. The implication was that @BrianCushing56 was NOT the real Cushing. Curiously, though, what has since been verified as Cushing's real Twitter account? You got it: @BrianCushing56.

• Cushing also won the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year honors. And he did it twice, sort of.

After the season, the league revealed that Cushing tested positive for the banned substance hCG during random drug-testing, spiraling the organization into the NFL's biggest drug scandal since Shawne Merriman tested positive in 2006. The controversy also prompted the AP to call for an unprecedented re-vote for defensive rookie of the year honors. Cushing won, again, not so much because voters said they believed his denials about taking performance-enhancing drugs, but because they didn't believe in an after-the-fact re-vote.

• In the midst of the re-vote, Cushing had a jaw-droppingly strange press conference during which he denied any improper drug use. He also said hCG was present in his system perhaps because of "tumors." And he played the entire 2009 season believing he might have tumors.

Several medical professionals have since said that testicular cancer would be the most likely way hCG levels could elevate in men, and the levels would stay elevated for subsequent tests. Cushing did not test positive for hCG in subsequent NFL drug tests. So, he either magically cured tumors and elevated hCG levels, or there were severe holes in his story.

• Finally this week, the Texans best player, All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson, skipped all organized team activities. Johnson's gripe is not exactly drawing coos of sympathy from fans, either. He wants a new contract, even though a full five years and $28.2 million in salary remain on a contract extension he signed in 2007. Johnson's public foot-stomping has put the otherwise good guy into the same company as the league's Wide Receiver Diva Fraternity. It also put the Texans in a bad spot in a number of ways. Foremost, the club has a history of refusing to negotiate with players who are not present for OTAs.

Also, the Texans have several notable contracts that, from a business perspective, are more pressing -- namely 2006 No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams' deal ending soon, and Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels' contract expiring. And, of course, the rest of the league will be watching how the Texans react. Rest assured, no one in football wants the Texans to make the unorthodox decision and set precedent on renegotiating a deal that still has five years remaining.

Things definitely are getting interesting in Houston, finally. For a team that didn't even play its first Monday Night Football game until its seventh year of existence, a controversy-filled year is not exactly a bad thing.

The Texans must be on their way to contending, right? After all, they finally are experiencing the same headaches and issues that the big boys experience. Most notably, they're stealing pixels and airtime from the rival Cowboys, who reside up Interstate 45 about 200 miles.

Oh, by the way, Houston plays Dallas in 2010. The Texans also will play three prime-time games in 2010, including a pair of Monday night games. Even HBO's Hard Knocks, which thrives on scandalous newsmakers, considered the Texans for this season's series, before settling on the Jets. Still, the Texans are likely going to be featured in HBO's Six Days To Sunday.

The Houston Texans are stirring things up so much you simply cannot ignore them. What's next, owner Bob McNair tossing a few back and showing up in a video ripping Tim Tebow and former Texans coach Dom Capers? Probably not. But never has a team from Texas not named the Dallas Cowboys kept the NFL offseason so lively.

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