HOUSTON (AP) - As the Houston Texans prepare for the start of training camp on Saturday, their biggest question mark involves a player who probably won’t be there when they take the field.
Disgruntled receiver Andre Johnson skipped offseason workouts and mandatory minicamp after wondering in May if Houston was “still the place for me.”
A holdout by the face of the franchise and the team’s longest-tenured player could cast a pall on the beginning of coach Bill O’Brien’s first season.
O’Brien has tried to downplay the situation so far, but that tact will be much more difficult if Johnson’s holdout stretches much longer.
Johnson joined the franchise in its second season and has said that playing on just three teams with winning records in 11 seasons “can become very frustrating.”
The Texans were among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl entering last season after reaching the playoffs the previous two years.
But things quickly fell apart due in large part to poor play by quarterback Matt Schaub, coach Gary Kubiak was fired in December and they finished 2-14 to tie the worst record in franchise history.
The 33-year-old Johnson, whose 1,407 yards receiving in 2013 ranked second in the AFC, is unhappy at the prospect of enduring another rebuilding project after seeing the moves the Texans made in the offseason.
If they can’t get him back on the field it will leave a big hole in O’Brien’s new offense and put much more pressure on last year’s first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins.
Here are some things to know about the Texans as camp begins.
CLOWNEY’S HEALTH: Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, may not be ready to practice on the first day of training camp after having sports hernia surgery in June.
O’Brien said that he expected Clowney to be ready for training camp when he disclosed the procedure on June 13. But the former South Carolina standout told reporters recently that he isn’t sure if he’ll be cleared to practice by Day 1. Training camp will be important for the former defensive end who is making the transition to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s system.
O’BRIEN’S TEAM: O’Brien returns to the NFL for his first head coaching job in the league after spending the past two seasons coaching Penn State. He took over the Nittany Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and led the team to winning records in both 2012 and 2013 before being hired in Houston. He comes to the Texans with a reputation as a quarterback guru after spending three seasons working as Tom Brady’s position coach with the Patriots.
FITZPATRICK TAKES OVER: Houston traded Schaub to Oakland in the offseason and signed veteran free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was selected as the starter during minicamp by O’Brien. Fitzpatrick started nine games for the Titans last season after Jake Locker was injured, but there are questions about whether he’s the answer to Houston’s quarterback woes.
“He does a good job of controlling the offense and … getting together with other groups and trying to let them see everything through the quarterback’s eyes,” quarterbacks coach George Godsey said. “I think he’s done a good job of trying to keep that steady.”