Tex­ans’ John­son sees the long-term pic­ture

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By Kristie rieken dave einsel / ap

HOUS­TON — An­dre John­son some­times has to tell his team­mates how lucky they are to be on one of the NFL’s best teams.

For years, John­son lan­guished on ter­ri­ble Tex­ans teams. Now, the star re­ceiver shares sto­ries of the tough times, a re­minder to ap­pre­ci­ate this sea­son and keep work­ing for more.

John­son is the only player cur­rently with Hous­ton (11-1) re­main­ing from its fran­chise-worst 214 sea­son in 2005.

“En­joy this part of it, be­cause the times that I went through, that’s some­thing you don’t ever want to ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said he tells his team­mates of that sea­son. “There were times I didn’t want to get up and come to work. It’s hard be­cause you come in and you’re work­ing your (tail) off, and you just can’t get the job done.”

John­son has 1,114 yards re­ceiv­ing to bounce back from an in­jury-filled 2011 sea­son where he had a ca­reer-low 492 yards.

He prob­a­bly ap­preci- ates where the Tex­ans are now bet­ter than any­one. John­son joined the team af­ter be­ing drafted in the first round in 2003, and went through eight sea­sons of miss­ing the play­offs in a stretch with just one win­ning sea­son. There were times he thought about play­ing else­where, but he forced him­self to think about the big pic­ture.

“You find out a lot about your­self, if you’re go­ing to be loyal or if you’re just go­ing to run away from it,” he said. “My thing was I wanted to stay. I wanted to be a part of some­thing spe­cial. I wanted to help this or­ga­ni­za­tion to where it is right now and even help it achieve more.”

When Hous­ton fi­nally made the post­sea­son for the first time last year, the moment was bit­ter­sweet for the five-time Pro Bowler be­cause he missed a ca­reer-high nine games with var­i­ous in­juries.

“I was ex­cited, but at the same time I was down be­cause you’re just like: ‘Man, I know I could be out there help­ing the team,’” he said. “Those would be the times that I would kind of get down on my­self and try to do things and hope that I could hurry up and come back.”

John­son had a groin in­jury in train­ing camp, and that com­bined with his age (31) and the nag­ging in­juries that slowed him for a good chunk of last sea­son had some won­der­ing if he could still be an elite re­ceiver.

He had 119 yards re­ceiv­ing in Hous­ton’s opener, but didn’t crack 100 yards again un­til Week 9. It was then that John­son said he was fi­nally start­ing to feel like him­self again, and two weeks later he showed just that.

John­son grabbed 14 passes for 273 yards — both ca­reer-highs — and the win­ning touch­down in Hous­ton’s 43-37 over­time win against Jack­sonville. He fol­lowed that per­for­mance with 188 yards re­ceiv­ing a week later.

He’s been so good this sea­son that even those who have watched him for years have been left shak­ing their heads.

“Ev­ery day is a marvel,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rick Den­ni­son said when asked about John­son.

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