HOUSTON — Andre Johnson has been around the Houston Texans since 2003 and has close ties with the franchise. But the dramatic turnover that the organization underwent this off-season has left Johnson in unfamiliar territory.
He was in attendance during the final week of voluntary OTA's and had to watch Texans practice on the sideline with a roster in his hands.
Johnson's goal is to get acquainted with several players and coaches before the start of the 2022 campaign. But the future Hall-of-Famer already has an idea and a modest relationship with coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. And his opinion about Smith and Hamilton has Johnson feeling optimistic for the Texans' future.
"I just think Lovie is a straight-forward guy," Johnson said. "He is going to tell you what you need to know. And I think he does a great job of putting his players in the best position to be successful."
Johnson said that he and Smith began to develop a strong relationship after the Texans elevated the defensive coordinator to head coach on Feb. 7.
Smith, who went 0-4 when coaching against Johnson in his career, described the seven-time Pro Bowler as a "special player" when reminiscing on his playing days with the Texans. But Smith is appreciative to have the chance to talk football with Johnson on the daily.
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Johnson notched 236 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 catches during the four career games he played with Smith coaching on the sidelines. His best game against a Smith-led defense resulted in the Texans' 31-24 season finale win over the Chicago Bears, where Johnson recorded 148 yards on 10 receptions in 2008.
Johnson and Smith were strangers at the start of the year. But the same could not be said for Johnson and Hamilton.
Johnson played half a year under Hamilton during his lone season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. The franchise dismissed Hamilton midway through the season after he helped Indianapolis establish itself as one of the league's high-power offenses as the offensive coordinator from 2013-2015.
"Pep is a great coach and a great offensive mind," Johnson said. "He does a great job designing things up for the offense. I am very excited to see what's in store for the future of this organization."
With Smith and Hamilton at the helm in Houston, Johnson believes that the draft class of 2022 can be something special while helping the franchise change its unlucky fortunes.
The Texans drafted Johnson with their No. 3 pick of the 2003 NFL Draft from the University of Miami.
In a dozen seasons in Houston, Johnson became the franchise’s all-time leader in career receiving yards (13,597), receptions (1,012), and receiving touchdowns (64). In 2017, Johnson became the inaugural member of the Texans’ Ring of Honor.