HOUSTON (AP) The Texans have a starting quarterback. Now they need star wide receiver Andre Johnson back in the fold.
New coach Bill O’Brien named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter, an announcement overshadowed somewhat by Johnson’s absence Tuesday on the first day of a mandatory three-day mini-camp.
Johnson hasn’t participated in any of the team’s voluntary offseason workouts and said last month that he wouldn’t attend these workouts, either. On Tuesday, he missed the opening day of workouts that are the last before training camp in late July.
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Fitzpatrick signed with the team in the offseason a day before Matt Schaub was traded to the Raiders and O’Brien made him compete with the three other quarterbacks on the roster for the starting job.
”He definitely earned it,” O’Brien said. ”He earned it with his preparation. He earned it with his accuracy. He earned it with his command at the line of scrimmage.”
A former starter for the Buffalo Bills, the nine-year veteran started nine games last season for Tennessee after Jake Locker was injured. Fitzpatrick threw for 2,454 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
”This is where I wanted to be,” Fitzpatrick said. ”I wanted another shot at it. I wanted another chance to be the guy.”
O’Brien said this decision doesn’t mean that things can’t change as the year progresses.
”Everybody on our team every single day has to go out there and earn their spot on the team, earn their starting spot,” O’Brien said. ”So quarterback is no different. We have confidence in his ability to lead our football team. He’s done a really good job in the offseason of picking up our system and he’s executed it well.”
Case Keenum, who took over as starter when Schaub was benched last season, T.J. Yates and rookie Tom Savage are vying to be the backup to Fitzpatrick.
”With all three of those guys we need just a little bit more consistency,” O’Brien said. ”It has nothing to do with effort or work ethic. Those guys have all worked extremely hard. They’ve all done what we’ve asked them to do.”
Johnson has said he has not asked for a trade but last month wondered if Houston was ”still the place for me.” The 32-year-old receiver is Houston’s longest-tenured player after joining the franchise in its second season.
O’Brien said that he has spoken to and text messaged with Johnson, but wouldn’t reveal any details. He said he isn’t concerned that Johnson has missed the implementation of his new offense.
”I believe based on the different systems that he’s been in that he’d be able to pick up on our system,” O’Brien said. ”He’s a bright guy, a very bright guy and a guy that’s done a lot in this league. So I think he’d be able to figure it out.”
O’Brien also doesn’t think that Johnson’s absence is taking away from the rest of the team’s work.
”It’s really about the guys that are here and they’re working extremely hard,” O’Brien said. ”They don’t seem to be too distracted.”
With Johnson out, Houston’s young group of receivers is led by last year’s first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins and includes third-year players DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin.
”We’ve thrown a lot at them,” O’Brien said. ”It’s not easy to play receiver in this system and those guys seem to be getting better every day.”
Houston had preseason Super Bowl aspirations last year, but wound up with an NFL-worst 2-14 record. Rather than choosing a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, they chose defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, who is recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia and also not at the mini-camp.