Mason looking for fresh start with Texans
Somewhere, Derrick Mason has an Oilers' helmet, a reminder of just how long he's lasted in the NFL.
The 37-year-old Mason practiced with the Texans on Thursday for the first time since he was traded to Houston from the Jets.
It's an all-too-fitting place for Mason to make a fresh start after a brief and rocky stint in New York. He was a fourth-round pick by the Tennessee Oilers in 1997, just as the franchise was leaving Houston.
Back then, Mason had the same No. 82 he wears now, and he briefly worked with the team in Houston before it moved to Nashville for good.
''I kind of came full-circle, so it's a good thing,'' Mason said. ''Everything happens for a reason. You try to find some good in a situation that could've possibly been bad. You make the best out of it and you move on.''
Mason played eight seasons with Tennessee, where his family still lives. He spent six seasons in Baltimore, before signing with the Jets, where he was reunited with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.
He caught only 13 passes in five games for the Jets, and was benched in favor of rookie Jeremy Kerley in New York's 30-21 loss at New England on Sunday. Mason had envisioned helping New York make a Super Bowl run, but the Jets said he underperformed and jumped at the chance to deal him away when the Texans inquired about him.
Houston went looking for another receiver after Andre Johnson injured his right hamstring against Pittsburgh two weeks ago. Texans coach Gary Kubiak hopes Mason can learn fast and be ready to play by Sunday, when Houston (3-2) visits Baltimore (3-1).
''I'm comfortable with him playing,'' Kubiak said. ''I think he'll be fine, and I think our guys will help him, too.''
And Mason is eager to show the Texans what he can still do.
He had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Baltimore before his total dropped to 802 in 2010. He said that dip had more to do with the Ravens' acquisition of Anquan Boldin and the emergence of Ray Rice than with his own abilities.
''Someone's always doubting whether I can go out there and play at a high level or not,'' Mason said. ''People look at the age and not the productivity. If you drop 100 or 200 yards, all of a sudden, `Oh, the guy's going downhill.' It wasn't my fault that I dropped 200 yards. It was just that we had more weapons in Baltimore.
''You just catch the ball when it comes to you, and I've been able to do that,'' he said. ''What I'm able to do on the field hasn't diminished.''
Mason is already familiar with some of the terminology Houston incorporates in its offense because he played for the late Mike Heimerdinger in Tennessee. Heimerdinger, who died of cancer on Sept. 30, was the receivers coach in Denver from 1995-99, when Kubiak was the offensive coordinator.
''To come back full circle and be in the offense again is a good thing,'' Mason said. ''It'll still take a little time, because I've been through 3-4 other systems. But for the first day or two, I've scored pretty high, if you're on a grading system.''
Jacoby Jones moved into Johnson's starting role for Sunday's 25-20 loss to Oakland. Jones caught only one pass for nine yards, and was the target when Michael Huff intercepted Matt Schaub in the end zone on the final play.
Instead of feeling slighted, Jones sees the acquisition of Mason as an opportunity to learn from another one of the league's top receivers. Mason ranks 12th in NFL history with 937 receptions and leads all active receivers with 12,006 yards.
''Any time you got a guy who's got great experience like that, he can help us out no matter what,'' Jones said.
Mason said he's ready to take on whatever role Kubiak sees for him.
''I'm just here to have fun and enjoy it, and whenever my number is called, just make the play,'' he said. ''If it's inside or outside, it doesn't matter to me. As I continue to pick up on the playbook, I know that my role will expand some. And then once (Johnson) comes back, we'll see where it goes from there.''
Notes: Kubiak is encouraged by Johnson's progress a week after he underwent a minor procedure to heal his hamstring injury. ''I'm very pleased with what I'm watching over there,'' Kubiak said. ''It's put a smile on a lot of people's faces the last couple days. Obviously, he still has time to go. But with what's going on, you just feel so positive about what's got a chance to happen down the road.''