Houston's Johnson aiming for title this season
Andre Johnson had the best year of his career last season.
But at 32, Johnson knows his window for winning a championship is closing, and he is determined to do even more this season to help the Houston Texans accomplish their goal of reaching the Super Bowl.
''I think we have a great shot at doing it, but the main thing is we have to go out and do what we have to do to accomplish that,'' Johnson said. ''Last year, I think we could have put ourselves in a better situation and we didn't take advantage of it. Hopefully, we can get in that same situation and take advantage of it.''
Johnson had 112 receptions for 1,598 yards - both career highs - last season in helping Houston make its second straight playoff appearance. It was the third 1,500-yard season of his 10-year career and a bounce-back year after he played just seven games and finished with a career-worst 492 yards receiving in 2011.
Johnson, who was drafted by Houston after its first season, is the longest tenured Texan. He suffered through the lean years and is proud that he has helped transform the Texans into a contender.
''I told myself that once I signed here I wasn't going to play for anybody else,'' he said. ''I wanted to be a part of something special. I wanted to help this organization get to the playoffs and I wanted to help them win their first playoff game. I didn't think it would take this long for this to happen, but it's a process. We have accomplished some of the goals, but hopefully we can accomplish that ultimate goal.''
Houston cut veteran receiver Kevin Walter in the offseason, leaving Johnson as Houston's only receiver with more than two years of experience. The Texans drafted DeAndre Hopkins in the first round and expect him to start opposite Johnson. They also are looking for contributions from Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey, who are entering their second seasons.
The makeup of Houston's receiving corps has Johnson adjusting to a different role in the team.
''I'm not really used to being the old guy,'' he said. ''But I'm willing to help them with anything they need to me to help them with.''
Coach Gary Kubiak said it's difficult for him to think of Johnson as old because he's still playing at such a high level. He also noted that Jerry Rice played until he was 42 and Rod Smith was 36 when he finished playing.
''I think Dre is getting better,'' Kubiak said. ''The year he had last year and this offseason has been tremendous. I think you cherish, maybe appreciate the time you're playing a little bit more the further you go along because it does go so fast. (I'm) just very proud of who he is and what he does. He's a big leader on the team.''
Johnson joked about how Hopkins desperately wants to learn from him and is constantly peppering him with questions about everything. He told a story about Hopkins seeing him in the hot tub one morning and asking him if he did that every morning. Johnson told him yes and was taken aback the next day when he was waiting in the hot tub when he arrived.
''It's just little things like that,'' Johnson said, laughing. ''He's willing to learn. He wants to learn. He wants to know what makes him better and that's a great thing. That's what I love about him. He's willing to work and he wants to know how to be great.''
Hopkins appreciates the knowledge he's gaining from Johnson, but noted that he isn't the only one who's benefiting from his experience.
''He's told me everything that a veteran should tell a rookie,'' Hopkins said. ''He's paying attention to all the guys out here and helping all of us out. He's giving all of us great things to work on and telling us what we need to do.''
Hopkins is the first receiver Houston has drafted in the first round since taking Johnson third overall in 2003. Johnson is excited to play with another top-tier receiver and is also eager to see how the addition of college buddy Ed Reed helps a defense led by last season's defensive player of the year J.J. Watt.
''Since I've been in the NFL, yeah this is the most weapons we've had,'' Johnson said. ''We have a lot of guys that can go out and make plays for us.''
Johnson is disappointed by the way Houston finished the season last year. The Texans opened 11-1 before losing three of their last four regular-season games to miss out on getting a bye week and home-field advantage in playoffs. They won their wild-card game against Cincinnati before losing to the Patriots.
''At times, maybe we could have been feeling ourselves or something,'' Johnson said of last season. ''I think the game in New England, our last playoff game; it just showed you what kind of team you have to be in order to accomplish that ultimate goal. That was definitely a humbling experience and we'll be looking forward to the challenge again.''
NOTES: Watt was limited in practice on Sunday because of a sore left elbow. He doesn't like playing with a brace on it, but said he'll begin wearing it in an attempt to limit the soreness. ''It's just precaution,'' he said. ''I just want to be smart with it. I put it through a lot of work over the last week. It's done a lot of work without the brace for the first time in a long time, so I'm bringing the brace back just as kind of a security measure, to make sure it stays secure and it stays safe.'' ... RB Arian Foster, who started camp on the physically unable to perform list with a right calf strain, was supposed to start practicing on Sunday. But he continued to sit out because of a sore back. Kubiak said his status is day to day.