When Derrick Mason finally made it to his new locker Wednesday at Reliant Stadium, there was no big fancy basket with all kinds of goodies welcoming him to the Texans.
What he found was a No. 82 jersey hanging alone and sitting on top of a small stack of papers on the surface below was a DVD of the Baltimore Ravens defense, a couple business cards for cab and limousine services and a book of suggested local restaurants.
The message was clear: There isn’t any time for subtleties. It’s time to go to work.
The Texans, in desperate need of wideout help with Andre Johnson out at least one more week, acquired the 15-year veteran receiver in a trade with the New York Jets on Tuesday night. Mason arrived in time Wednesday to take a physical and meet with the coaching staff.
He takes the field for practice for the first time Thursday with an eye towards playing Sunday when the Texans travel to meet the Ravens.
“A breath of fresh air,” Mason described his joining the Texans after a tumultuous two-month stint in the Big Apple. “Just coming to a situation where they want you and they believe in what you can do, and you can just go out there and play and have fun. That’s all.”
The last two sentences should give you a hint as to why Mason ended up on the trading block so quickly. But the reason he landed in Houston is really less convoluted.
The Texans need help at wideout, fast. Jacoby Jones may be talented, but we saw during Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Raiders that he is not ready to where No.80s socks much less fill his shoes.
Conventional wisdom says the Mason isn’t the answer either. But Mason’s arrival really isn’t about filling a void left by Johnson, who should be ready to return from minor hamstring surgery next week when the Texans take on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. This is about the Texans continued quest to complimentary speedy receiver to play opposite Johnson and along with Kevin Walter.
“It will be very exciting to get an opportunity to line up against probably, a lot of people would argue, but probably the best wide receiver in the game,” said Mason, who is the NFL’s active-leading receiver with 12,006 yards and ranks 12th on the all-time list with 937 catches. “I think (he’s) the total package, so it would be very exciting to line up with him as well as (WR Kevin) Walter and the other wideouts, and then Matt Schaub at quarterback. You can’t beat it.”
Adding Mason to the mix five years ago could have been coup. It’s probably more wait-and-see now.
That’s not to say at 37 years old Mason doesn’t have anything left. There is no arguing he has been awfully productive during a stellar career with eight, 1,000-yar receiving seasons and 66 touchdown receptions. But we just don’t know what’s left. Even Gary Kubiak isn’t 100 percent certain but he has seen enough of how Mason went about his business in 14 years between the Ravens and Titans to at least want to take a look and kick the tires.
“I have to see,” Kubiak said Wednesday when asked what he expects from Mason.
“I know he’s played for a few friends of mine, so I know what he knows. Terminology-wise, I got to see how quick I can get him ready to help us in this game. As of now, I haven’t visited with him, so it’s hard to say.”
Mason showed some flashes in five games with the Jets, but with a promising rookie waiting in the wings Mason’s 13-receptions just weren’t enough justifying keeping him as starter as the No.3 receiver.
What could be a little troubling is if reports out of New York are true that Mason still sees himself as a primary target and when he figured out he was clearly the third option behind Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress he became a bit of a malcontent. Obviously Mason thought things would be different this summer when as a free agent he chose to go to the Jets rather than return to either the Ravens or Titans.
The lines here are more clearly drawn. Schaub relies primarily on Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels, but there are plenty of balls to go around.
Mason seemed fine with that and said his plan is, “You just go out there and you play and you have fun and you do your assignment.”
The Texans represent a fresh start for Mason. From the Texans standpoint, Mason is another piece to an evolving puzzle.
“He’s been a heck of a player for a long time in this league,” said Schaub. “He’s a great receiver, so we’re glad to have him on board. We’ve got to catch him up on things and see what he can do to help us.”