Meeting a legend

Texans receiver Andre Johnson was four years old when Oakland receiver Jerry Rice took his first steps in a professional uniform.

Johnson had no idea he would grow up to be an NFL receiver. He had no idea that the rookie on the TV screen would be one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Nineteen years later, their paths are finally about to cross. The Raiders visit Reliant Stadium Sunday in the first meeting between the two teams.

Rice has started 273 games over 19 seasons, catching 1,523 passes for 22,515 yards and 194 touchdowns. He averages almost 15 yards per catch.

Johnson, the Texans first-round draft pick in 2003 doesn't have quite the numbers. Of course he's also a different type of receiver. He's bigger than Rice and muscles his way for extra yardage.

That and he's just a kid compared to Rice.

Rice does it with his mind. He's known for studying every inch of his opponent before the game even begins.

Johnson is developing a similar reputation, combining with running back Domanick Davis to be the first rookie tandem in history to each produce more than 900 yards in a season.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," Johnson said of meeting the veteran, who was one of many receivers he idolized growing up. "You know he's the greatest receiver to play the game so it will be a great honor to meet him. He's a great player. You never think you're going to be on the same field playing a game with him so it's going to be a great feeling."

Johnson caught 66 passes for 976 yards and four touchdowns his rookie season. Those are better numbers than Rice had in 1985 (49 catches, 927 yards and three touchdowns).

However it remains to be seen if Johnson can keep up Rice's consistency. The Raider receiver had 11-stragiht years with 1,000 or more receiving yards.

"To play the game that long you have to really take care of your body and things like that," Johnson said. "He's worked hard to stay in the league 19 years. You definitely have to work harder than he worked because now there are bigger players, stronger players and faster players."

But Johnson is taking it a game at a time, and the Raiders won't make it easy for him to show off in front of Rice.

Charles Woodson and Phillip Buchanon are two of the quickest, most athletic cornerbacks in the league. Woodson was a Heisman Trophy winner.

The new coaching staff in Oakland appears to have breathed new life into the four-time Pro Bowler. He had just one sack and three interceptions last season, but has started 2004 with two sacks, 15 tackles and a pass defensed.

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