HOUSTON (AP) — Andre Johnson had some issues with the Houston Texans.
In the end, they weren’t serious enough to keep the star receiver off the field.
Johnson was all smiles when he reported to camp on time Friday. He’s looking to move past an offseason where he skipped workouts and a mandatory minicamp after wondering in May whether Houston was “still the place for me.”
“I love playing this game of football,” Johnson said Friday. “I’m going to play football and … I don’t plan on walking away from this.”
He wouldn’t divulge what exactly was said or done to get him to return to the team. But said he’s excited to be back with his teammates and that it’s his plan to finish his career with the Texans.
His teammates shared his enthusiasm and said he received a standing ovation and was greeted with a slow clap when he entered a meeting on Friday morning.
“He’s a huge part of our team,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “He’s been my teammate my whole time here and is a guy that I really look up to as a professional and it was good to have him in the building.”
The 33-year-old Johnson, whose 1,407 yards receiving in 2013 ranked second in the AFC, rejoins a team that is looking to bounce back from a disastrous 2-14 season. He’s the longest-tenured Texan after joining the franchise in its second season. In that time he’s played on just three teams with winning records, fueling his frustration.
“I’ve been here 12 years. There’s been a lot of things that happened,” he said. “I’ve never really voiced my opinion on them. I think at times there comes a time when you don’t agree with something, things need to be said. That’s pretty much what it was.”
He said his unhappiness stemmed from playing here so long and feeling that his opinions were not being heard.
“It gets frustrating,” he said. “After what happened last year, we went 2-14 and things like that, it wasn’t only frustrating for me, I understand it was frustrating for everybody.”
He knows some fans were angry at him for skipping Houston’s offseason work, but said the people he came into contact with were overwhelmingly supportive.
“It was never nothing negative,” he said. “I think if anybody had something negative, it was behind my back. It was nothing said to my face. It was a lot of positive things. People telling me that they’re praying for me. Things like that. They understand the way I felt.”
Johnson has been the one constant on this young franchise through three different coaching regimes, several quarterback changes and countless player moves. Houston’s first two No. 1 overall draft picks David Carr and Mario Williams have come and gone, but Johnson has remained. He’s the only player on the team to have endured both of the team’s 2-14 seasons after also playing on the 2005 squad that posted the franchise-worst mark.
After spending his career here, he knew this was where he needed to be despite his reservations about enduring what some view as another rebuilding season.
“This is my home now,” he said. “I’ve been here for so long. I was in Miami my whole life and now I’ve been here for going on 12 years. This is my home away from home. I think I’ve I built a great foundation here and built a great relationship with the fans.”
Johnson has always been known as a hard worker and said he’ll do whatever it takes to learn coach Bill O’Brien’s new offense. He knows it will be a challenge after missing so much time, but he’s looking forward to it.
He’ll have a new quarterback this season after the Texans signed veteran free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason after Matt Schaub was traded to Oakland.
Fitzpatrick is eager to work with Johnson.
“He’s a guy that’s well-respected, not just here but around the league,” Fitzpatrick said. “Anytime you have somebody like that on your team it’s a great thing and he’ll be a great player like he always has (been) and a great leader for us this year.”
Several other Texans met with reporters after Johnson did on Friday, but this year’s top overall draft pick outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was not among them. His status for the first day of camp is still unclear as he recovers from surgery to repair a sports hernia.