HOUSTON (AP) — Many of the Houston Texans’ players welcomed the bye-week break. Andre Johnson was not one of them.
Houston’s Pro Bowl receiver missed the last seven games with a sprained knee. Now that he’s finally healthy enough to return, he’ll have to wait another week.
“I can’t wait for the bye to be over with so I can get back on the field and play a game,” Johnson said.
Johnson is understandably antsy. Before this season, he had missed just three games in his previous four years. As eager as he is to play, he knows the rest of his team could use the break. The Texans practiced Tuesday and don’t have to be back until Monday.
“Some of the other guys need rest. They’ve played nine games. I’ve only played two,” Johnson said. “I think we need it. It just gives guys a chance to let their bodies rest and get healed up and get ready for these last seven games. These seven games are big for us.”
The Texans started the season strong, winning their first two games behind big performances by Johnson. Injuries and turnovers have since taken their toll, and they lost three of their last four to drop to 4-5.
Houston’s passing game has been solid without Johnson as receivers Kevin Walter and Andre’ Davis filled in. Now that the Texans have shown they have more than one receiver who can make plays, Johnson is excited about the possibilities. Houston will also welcome back Matt Schaub, who missed the last game with a concussion, against the Saints.
“I went down and those guys showed what they can do,” Johnson said. “I think by me coming back, it’s going to help us out a lot and it’s going to help me out a lot having those guys out on the field with me.”
Coach Gary Kubiak noticed a buzz around his team last week when Johnson returned to practice. He expects that to carry over when Johnson plays against New Orleans next Sunday.
While the Texans rejoice in the return of their best offensive player, they’re trying to figure out how to replace one of their best defenders.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson will miss the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his knee and injuring his hamstring in Sunday’s win over Oakland. The injury leaves the Texans with just three healthy cornerbacks and may force Kubiak to move starting free safety Von Hutchins to the position.
Robinson’s loss leaves a hole in a secondary that has been consistently beaten when teams threw away from him. The fourth-year player had been singled out often by coaches and players for his ferocious tackling and great attitude this season.
“We’re going to miss him,” Kubiak said. “His group will miss him more than anybody because he’s the leader of that group. Our football team will miss his toughness, the way he plays the game, the way he goes about it week in and week out.”
His injury will give rookie Fred Bennett a chance to move into a full-time starting role, and the Texans hope Robinson’s protege can carry the load. The fourth-round pick got his first start against Oakland and grabbed his first interception.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Bennett said. “I’ve learned a lot about the game. Dunta took me under his wing and I’ve learned so much. I’m real comfortable out there. I’ve got a lot of confidence in my abilities.”
Kubiak hopes the break will help Ahman Green’s troublesome bruised left knee heal.
“It gives us some more time from a rehab standpoint and it’ll definitely be a help,” he said. “Now, are we going to battle that the rest of the year? I think we will.”
They’re sending the running back to Alabama this week to get a second opinion because it continues to bother him.
“We’re going to find out what’s really going on, why is it swelling all the time and giving me pain and discomfort?” Green said.
Houston’s $23 million offseason acquisition has missed three games and played only sparingly in two others because of swelling in the knee. The Texans’ running game has struggled with Green managing just 260 yards.
With Green’s health uncertain, the Texans may have to rely on Ron Dayne to carry the running game down the stretch. Last season, the 1999 Heisman Trophy Winner had 429 yards rushing with five touchdowns in December.
He had 122 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders for his first 100-yard game since he had 153 against the Colts on Christmas Eve. The Texans’ other back is Adimchinobi Echemandu.
“If something’s wrong with Ahman, then those two will have to do it,” Kubiak said. “If Ahman is ready to go, then I think Ahman and Ronnie are a good complement to each other because they’re totally different runners. So regardless of how it pans out, it’s going to take two of them every week.”
The Texans will look to limit their mistakes in the last seven games. Houston had 14 turnovers in its three-game losing streak, before committing just one in last week’s win over Oakland.
“I just want to see us continue to clean up our football,” Kubiak said. “I’d like to see us get more consistent, not hurt ourselves, which means protecting the football and then we’ll see what happens.”