HOUSTON (AP) — Andre Johnson got to make his NFL debut in his hometown when the Houston Texans opened the 2003 season in Miami.
Big underdogs, the Texans upset the Dolphins 21-20 that day and Johnson made six catches to begin what now seems to be a Hall of Fame career.
Houston opens with Miami again on Sunday, this time at Reliant Stadium. The Texans are the heavy favorites now and harbor Super Bowl aspirations, like the Dolphins did that year. But Johnson has seen too many bad things happen to the franchise to take anything for granted.
"You just can't get caught up in what people say," Johnson said. "When I think about this game, I think about my rookie year, when we went down there and played them and everybody was saying they were going to win the Super Bowl. We didn't have a chance. One article said it was going to be like a scrimmage game. We went out and beat them."
"You can't overlook anybody in this league," he said. "I know that and we know that as a team. We're going to go out there and play the way we know how to play. That's basically it."
Johnson is entering his 10th NFL season since Houston drafted him with the third overall pick. He's the only player on the roster who was here when Gary Kubiak became the coach in 2006, so he's been around for just about all of the Texans' darkest days.
But Johnson never lost faith, signing a contract extension before the 2010 season that could keep him here through 2016. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has nothing more to accomplish individually, and the only goal left is playing long enough to see the franchise win a championship.
"The window is not as big as it used to be," he said. "As time goes on, you definitely feel a sense of urgency, but it's nothing you really can rush. You just have to take care of the task at hand. I would love to win a Super Bowl before I hang up my cleats, but you know, it's not going to just take me. It's going to take everybody in that locker room to get it done. We all have the same goal in mind and we're going to do our best to try and accomplish it."
Johnson topped 1,500 yards receiving to lead the league in 2008 and '09. He played most of the 2010 season with a badly sprained right ankle, then missed nine games last season with hamstring injuries. He underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery in the spring and turned 31 in the summer, but he long ago tuned out talk about his durability.
"I said that coming into camp, that everybody is saying that I'm old and I probably can't play anymore and that I'm injury-prone," he said. "Things happen. That was out of my control. I can't control that. I can't control what happens. I think, as players, if we could control that, there wouldn't be any injuries. It happens and I move on from it."
He seemed to be back to his old form in his limited action in the preseason, making four catches, including a 43-yarder in which he wrestled possession away from two defenders.
"When I'm out on the field," he said, "as you see in preseason when I was able to play, I went out and made plays. People can say what they want. I really don't care."
The Texans are grooming undrafted free agent Lestar Jean and draft picks DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin as some of the franchise's receivers of the future. Johnson has been happy to mentor them during training camp, while he nursed some minor injuries.
The real games are here now, and Johnson is healthy and ready to return to what he does best.
"I think the older you get, the more ready you are to play games, just ready to hurry up and get the preseason games over with," he said. "You pretty much know what to expect. This is my 10th season, so you just want to get training camp out of the way. The real games are finally here. I'm excited about it and I'll be ready to go on Sunday."