As you may have heard, Andre Johnson did not report to the Texans' organized team activities (OTAs) when they began on Monday. A contract dispute was the issue.
It didn't feel right for a number of reasons, the biggest two being that Johnson had never skipped OTAs in his first seven seasons with the Texans, and that he never had complained about his contract – or, for that matter, about much of anything.
The Texans had almost 100 percent of the team at OTAs – everybody except for Johnson and rookie cornerback Sherrick McManis, who's still in school at Northwestern.
Johnson took classes at Miami this offseason, but that's not why he missed OTAs. His absence was highly uncharacteristic, which is perhaps why it caused such a stir among Texans fans. Johnson is a a soft-spoken superstar who leads by example, a perennial Pro Bowler who practices like he's fighting for a roster spot. It didn't feel right for that player not to be at Texans practice earlier this week.
Turns out, it didn't feel right to Johnson, either.
"I talked to people about it, my family members, and I didn't feel comfortable sitting at home, because that's not me," he said Thursday, after joining the team and completing his first practice of OTAs. "All the guys were out here working. I felt like I needed to be out here working."
During practice and afterward, Johnson was noticeably happy to be back with the team. Not surprisingly, the feeling was mutual.
"It's great to have him back," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's been the heart and soul of this football team for a long time, and I'm just glad to see him back out here."
It's not as though the Texans stopped functioning without Johnson at three voluntary non-contact practices in May, five months before the season. But it almost felt like things were back to normal with him back on the field.
Even his comments to the media had a familiar feeling – team-oriented, controversy-aversive.
"I'm here, and hopefully everything works out," he said when asked if he expects to have a new contract by training camp.
"I'm here right now, so there's nothing else to say about it," he said when asked the question a second time.
"I don't know; I'm just here to work and help this team get to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl," he said, answering a third version of the same question.
The four-time Pro Bowler also took the high road when asked if he feels like he's outperformed his current contract, an eight-year deal that he signed three years ago.
"Well, you know, everybody has certain feelings, but I'd rather not talk about it," he said, with a smile and no further elaboration.
Johnson also said that he was bothered by some of the things he saw on TV this week – things that he never said to the media himself.
If there were any questions about him trying to put together an exit strategy to leave the Texans, he attempted to quash them in one fell swoop of a sound bite.
"Like I said before, I plan on being a Texan 'til the day I retire, and my feelings haven't changed," he said. "You've never seen me going to the media and saying I wanted a new contract. You've never seen me going to the media and saying I wanted to be traded. That's just hearsay."