HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It seems like a lifetime ago when Mike Sims-Walker was an up-and-coming young receiver with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009.
Expectations were high once he caught 63 passes for 869 yards and seven touchdowns in his third season as pro that year. But as is the case with so many youngsters bubbling with potential in the NFL, Sims-Walker wilted under all those expectations, spiraling to a steady decline that saw him hit rock bottom after being cut from two teams before last season ended.
His fall has perhaps been broken by the Texans, a team desperate for some veteran help at receiver with only two receivers currently on the roster with catches in an NFL game. And one of those proven receivers, star Andre Johnson missed all 10 OTA practices with a minor knee injury that could be more serious than the team is saying.
That’s where Sims-Walker could benefit immensely if he still has anything in the tank at all. He was a thrown a lifeline when he was given a surprise free-agent workout by the Texans on Tuesday that will last the duration of the three-day minicamp.
This is Sims-Walker chance to show how much he has left in order to be invited back for fall camp later next month.
“I’ve got a lot, man, I’m 27. I’m not old at all,” Sims-Walker said Tuesday when asked how much he had left in the tank. “I’ve got a lot left, man. I feel good. My body feels great and I’m just ready to go.”
He definitely showed some flashes during Tuesday’s workout with backups John Beck and Case Keenum throwing him passes. But he also displayed signs of a player who has been out of the game for a while.
Sims-Walker left Jacksonville last offseason and joined the St. Louis Rams. That lasted four uneventful games before he was released. Sims-Walker rejoined the Jaguars, before ironically injuring his knee here against the Texans in just his second game back. He went to the injured reserve before being cut Dec. 4 with 12 catches for 150 yards in six combined games last season.
He has been preparing his body for another shot and waiting by the phone ever since.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Sims-Walker said. “I haven’t played football since we played here (with) Jacksonville in October. I’m just trying to knock this rust off. It’s easy to go out here and train by yourself but you’ve got two or three guys in front of you and there’s different movements and different cuts, so I’m just trying to get adjusted.”
If he can it would be huge for the Texans, who really need a No.2 receiver to complement Johnson. But they would settle for a No. 3 to drop in the slot in three wide sets with Kevin Walter and Johnson.
The dilemma the Texans have had these past few weeks is trying to decide if rookies DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin or any of the other unproven receivers could possibly step up the way Jacoby Jones couldn’t. The consensus seems to be that in time Posey and Martin could be stars, but right a now a team with Super Bowl hopes needs a receiver with a track record.
Sims-Walker has a track record. The only problem is it has been rather spotty the past couple of years.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak saw at least enough Tuesday to give him hope that Sims-Walker could be the veteran receiver help his team needs.
“He looked pretty good,” Kubiak said. “Obviously, jumping out here for the first time in this heat that we’re having, it’s pretty tough, but I thought he did some good things. We’ll go back and take a look and watch all the periods and see how he did.”
The thing about it is Sims-Walker doesn’t have much time to prove himself. With Tuesday gone, he is down to Wednesday and Thursdays workout to get the coaching excited enough to bring him back for fall camp.
“It’s tough, but I’m a vet,” said Sims-Walker, who last decent season was in 2010 when he caught 43 balls for 562 yards and seven touchdowns. “I’ve been in the league probably (five) years already, so I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I just go out here, try to soak up all I can.”
Then he is left to hope that is enough to land another NFL shot in probably the most wide open receiver situation out there right now.
“It’s a big opportunity,” he said. “A lot of young guys. A couple big vets in Andre and Kevin Walter. Just trying to help any way I can. Whatever role they give me, I’m just going to take it on.”