Andre Johnson has big hopes as he catches on with Colts
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) Andre Johnson is starting over.
After thriving for 12 seasons in Houston, he's working with a new quarterback and learning a new playbook. And now he's ready to head home Saturday after finishing his first training camp on a college campus.
On Sunday at Philadelphia, Johnson's transformation will be complete when he dons a Colts jersey for his first game.
''I don't really bring much attention to that,'' he said. ''I just try to treat it as football - with a different team.''
To Johnson, it's just business.
The seven-time Pro Bowler joined Indianapolis as the replacement for an old college friend, Reggie Wayne.
All Johnson wanted was the right contract and a shot at winning a Super Bowl. It didn't take him long to figure out Indy was the best fit.
Despite helping Houston go from fledgling franchise to division champ in less than a decade, Johnson never reached a conference championship game and never played with a true franchise quarterback. Instead he caught passes from the likes of David Carr, Tony Banks, Sage Rosenfels, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett. Matt Schaub proved the best of the bunch.
In Indy, things are very different.
''I wanted to be at a place that had a stable quarterback,'' Johnson said after signing his three-year, $21 million deal in March. ''I feel like Andrew (Luck) is arguably the best quarterback in the game.''
Luck also wanted the 34-year-old receiver, the one he enjoyed watching as he played high school football in Houston, on his side.
General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano chased Johnson for other reasons.
With Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton and second-year receiver Donte Moncrief still developing and former CFL receiver Duron Carter and first-round draft pick Phillip Dorsett trying to find their way as NFL newcomers, the Colts thought Johnson could show the young guys what the consummate pro does.
''You watch the way he works,'' Moncrief said. ''He's big, but he knows how to get open and how to stay in the league.''
Johnson also has a resume that makes the younger guys jealous.
-He's missed 23 games during his career and just one in the past three seasons.
-He's No. 9 on the NFL's career receptions list (1,012) and could jump as high as fourth with a solid season in 2015.
-He's No. 11 on the league's career yardage list (13,597) yards and has a chance to crack the top five this season.
-Two years ago, he became the second player in NFL history with five 100-catch seasons.
Still, after all that success, Johnson has embraced his new role - lining up in the slot more than he ever did in Houston.
Plus, with Luck, Hilton and another old college friend, running back Frank Gore, all part of a potentially dynamic offense, Johnson no longer has to carry the team.
What the Colts really appreciate about the wily 6-foot-3, 229-pound veteran, though, is his ability to force mismatches, which should open things up for himself and his new teammates. He has impressed Luck, fans and, most important, the Colts coaches with his consistent workouts at Anderson University.
''He's probably going to win more of those (one-on-one) situations than he loses,'' coach Chuck Pagano said this week. ''He's a big guy, he does have a big catch radius, he can make contested plays in traffic and that's a plus for us.''
It's a facet Luck & Co. plan to take advantage of all season.
And Johnson couldn't imagine a better situation in which to chase his Super Bowl dream.
''I think we have a great team,'' Johnson said. ''It's not going to just take one side of the ball, it's going to take everybody in order for us to get this done as a team.''