HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON)
The dark cloud that was set to hang over the Houston Texans as training camp began mysteriously vanished on Friday. Andre Johnson’s appearance at NRG stadium on the eve of the first training camp practice for the Texans answered the long standing question since his comments back in May.
Would Andre Johnson be a member of the Houston Texans in 2014?
We wondered if a trade was a possibility. It wasn’t. Even if he demanded a trade it would have come after most teams had exhausted what remained of their cap space on their draft picks and free agents. Destinations would be limited and if Johnson desired a contender, a contract re-structuring would have been a necessity.
A select few even wondered if Johnson retiring was a possibility. It wasn’t. Johnson was never going to walk away from $10 million. Pro football players rarely walk away from money on the table that they are almost assured to earn. He still wanted to play, but just wasn’t sure if he wanted to play in Houston if the remaining years of his career were going to be with another rebuilding squad.
There were even some lunatics that wondered if there was a possibility that Johnson would get cut. It wasn’t. While being cut in 2015 remains a possibility, with no other receiver available to take his place, there’s no way the Texans ware trading or cutting the face of the franchise when it would make little to no financial sense.
We can all speculate as to what changed Johnson’s mind. John McLain of the Houston Chronicle reported this that Johnson met and spoke on the phone with owner Bob McNair. McNair made no guarantees for 2015, but what he told Johnson had to be enough to end whatever resentment he had towards the organization to keep him from mini-camp and OTAs.
It’s rare that NFL teams can enter training camp without the proverbial “distraction”. Even as this pre-season begins you can list off several teams, including contenders, that have notable distractions for 2014.
The Browns have the Johnny Football saga and quarterback controversy. Division rival Indianapolis has the situation with owner Jim Irsay. The Cowboys have several from the annual hot seat of Jason Garrett, to their salary cap hell, to the health of Tony Romo. Even the defending champion Seahawks have the holdout of Marshawn Lynch.
The Texans are coming off arguably the most disappointing season in franchise history, a change in head coaches, and an excruciatingly long and arduous process in determining both their quarterback and top overall draft selection. Not to mention the fact that their future hall of fame wide-out questioned his desire to remain with the organization. The Texans SHOULD have been entering camp with all kinds of distractions. After Johnson’s appearance on Friday any and all distractions, for the time being, are non-existent.
Johnson’s enthusiasm, the standing ovation from his teammates, his endorsement of Bill O’Brien changed the course for the first season of the new regime. There is now cautious optimism at NRG stadium.
I’m not going to make some bold prediction in this column where I say the Texans make the playoffs. I don’t know if that is a possibility, just yet. What I do know is that there are plenty of teams in the NFL that would actually like to be in Houston’s situation.
The Texans have a new regime that has inserted a level of confidence in the organization. Training camp position battles are heating up, and competition in-house fosters the desire to improve every day. Sprinkle in a motivated hall-of-fame wide receiver whose ready to erase last season and move forward.
The Texans may not be an elite team in 2014, but they go into the season without the one distraction hanging over their heads. With that, they can focus on just winning football games.