Star receiver Andre Johnson retires after 14 year-career
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Andre Johnson called Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey, asking if they could talk Monday morning. After 14 NFL seasons, the man with more catches than anyone else currently playing had made up his mind.
Time to retire.
''He said he's been contemplating it for weeks and his heart was not in it,'' Mularkey said Monday. ''This is a tough business to be in when your heart's not in it.''
The 35-year-old receiver was nowhere to be found, apparently not ready to publicly discuss his decision. He was not available on Monday and did not release a statement through his agent or the team.
None of that prevented Mularkey from trying to talk Johnson into staying. The Titans signed Johnson the day they reported for training camp to a two-year deal paying the veteran minimum this season with the chance at a bigger payday in 2017. Johnson started four of the eight games he played but hadn't caught a pass in the last three.
''I could tell he had talked about it and it was really useless for what I was saying,'' Mularkey said.
A seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Johnson spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Houston Texans who made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Miami. Tennessee had been his third team in as many seasons after Johnson spent 2015 with another AFC South team, the Indianapolis Colts.
Johnson finishes his career among the best receivers in NFL history. He ranks ninth all-time with 1,062 catches and 10th with 14,185 yards receiving and also had 70 touchdowns. Johnson led the NFL in catches in 2006 (103) and in 2008 (115). He led the league in yards receiving in 2008 (1,575) and 2009 (1,569).
Johnson and former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year, are the only NFL players to have four seasons of 100-plus receptions and 1,400-plus yards receiving.
Denver's Gary Kubiak, who coached the 6-foot-3 Johnson in Houston, said he texted back and forth with the receiver Monday. Kubiak said Johnson was a fine a football player and person that he's ever been around.
''Played really big for me, had some really big years. Very unselfish guy,'' Kubiak said. ''He was with an organization that was a startup organization, and he always kept his mouth shut and worked. And I'm really proud of him. Great person, great career and I hate to see him step away but I'm proud of him. Good man. Good for the NFL.''
For as much of an impact as Johnson had on the football field, he was so quiet in the locker room that Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph compared him to a ghost not talking to teammates. Joseph said Johnson opened a bit more in recent years.
''For him to call it quits, he had to feel in his body that that was the time,'' Joseph said. ''Great Hall of Fame career. Great player, great friend off the field, great guy, was a great teammate. It was a blessing to play with him.''
Johnson also is the leading receiver in Houston Texans' history with 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien said Johnson will go down as one of the NFL's best receivers of all-time. But the coach recalled what Johnson did off the field for children with Christmas gifts, items during Thanksgiving and clothes as having just as big an impact on Houston.
''When he spoke, everybody listened, kind of like E.F. Hutton,'' O'Brien said.
Johnson had nine catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns this season, including a game-winning score with 1:13 left in a 16-15 victory over the Detroit Lions during the second week of the season. But he hadn't caught a pass in four games this season.
The wide receiver called Mularkey on Sunday night, letting his coach know Johnson needed to speak with him Monday.
His newest teammates learned of Johnson's decision from coaches and called and Face Timed with the veteran they nicknamed Sensei after the character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They had done their best to soak up how Johnson took care of his body and worked hard from practice to the weight room to meetings.
''Hopefully one day soon, we'll get to see him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,'' Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright said.
Notes: Mularkey said the Titans won't be in a rush to fill Johnson's roster spot immediately. Tennessee has its regular workouts of available players scheduled Tuesday. Receiver Tre McBride, currently on the practice squad, is an option for promotion.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colorado, and AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
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