Former Texans star Johnson returns to Houston with Colts
HOUSTON (AP) Andre Johnson doesn’t have any bad feelings toward the Houston Texans.
However, as he prepares to return to Houston with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, he wants to make it clear that he didn’t want to leave the Texans.
The steadily low-key lilt of Johnson’s voice changed to a decidedly aggravated tone when a reporter referred to his ”decision to leave the Texans” before asking about reports that he asked for his release in Houston after 12 seasons.
”I was released from the Texans, so get that straight first before you ask me something,” Johnson said.
Johnson had a stellar career in Houston and is the team’s leading receiver with 13,597 yards. But the 34-year-old became expendable last offseason with the emergence of DeAndre Hopkins, who led the team with 1,210 yards receiving in 2014.
Johnson’s return to Houston comes after he’s had two straight games without a reception after having just one such game in his career with the Texans. He had seven receptions for 51 yards in the first two games.
Coach Bill O’Brien said he believes Johnson will go down as one of the best receivers in NFL history and raved about his contributions to the franchise, before touching on the decision to part ways with him.
”We try to make decisions in the best interest of the player and in the best interest of the team,” O’Brien said. ”And we obviously wish Andre all the luck in the world, not too much luck on Thursday night, but personally I think the world of Andre.”
Johnson isn’t sure how he’ll feel when he steps onto the field where he made so many memories. He also doesn’t know what kind of reception to expect, but hopes fans remember everything he did in Houston.
”Everybody has the right to their own opinion. I know what I did when I played there for 12 seasons. The people who were there at the games know what I did,” he said. ”If they boo me, they still deep down in their heart know what kind of guy I was, know what kind of guy I was on the field and know what kind of guy I was in the community.”
Some things to know about Thursday night’s Colts-Texans game.
THE STREAK: Few teams have dominated a division quite like the Colts, who lead the AFC South. Indianapolis has won nine AFC South titles since 2002 and its 15-game winning streak against division foes is tied for the NFL record with the 1972-73 Dolphins. The streak actually began with a Colts victory over Houston in the 2012 season finale – a game that was more notable because it marked the return of coach Chuck Pagano to the sideline after he missed 12 games while he battled leukemia.
FOSTER HEALTHY: Houston star running back Arian Foster made his 2015 debut last week after missing the first three games recovering from groin surgery. He was largely ineffective in his return, finishing with eight carries for 10 yards with a fumble that Atlanta returned for a touchdown. But the Texans say he’s healthy and are looking to get him more involved in the offense this week.
”It’s hard for anyone to expect him to come into that first game and just be totally back to normal,” O’Brien said. ”He hasn’t played in a long time (and) it’s a significant injury that he had … I think as we work him back into the offense, he’ll really help us.”
HILTON HOTEL: While Johnson has drawn much of the attention for his homecoming game, the Texans need to be more concerned with the Colts other Pro Bowl receiver. T.Y. Hilton has thrived against the Houston secondary. In six games against the Texans, Hilton has three 100-yard games, averaged more than 110 yards and a touchdown per game and 18.9 yards per catch. In his past two trips to Houston, Hilton has 16 catches for 344 yards and four TDs.
STAYING WITH MALLETT: The Texans benched Brian Hoyer in favor of Ryan Mallett after Week 1, but Mallett was back on the bench late in Houston’s blowout loss to Atlanta on Sunday. Despite his struggles, Mallett will start on Thursday night in what will be his first career start against the division. Offensive coordinator George Godsey knows Mallett has to play better, but pointed out that he isn’t the only one who needs to improve. ”We’ve got to play together better as an offensive unit,” Godsey said.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Some teams complain about short weeks. The Colts embrace them. Since the NFL Network picked up the prime-time mid-week broadcasts in 2006, Indy is a perfect 8-0 with seven wins coming on the road. Indy also beat New Orleans on another Thursday night telecast, the 2007 season opener, but it wasn’t a short week. So the Colts will put their nine-game Thursday night winning streak on the line in Houston.
AP Sports Writer Mike Marot contributed to this report.