Texans mini-camp ended on June 14. Training camp starts on July 27. The six weeks in between are a break for most players, a time for vacation and relaxation.
Not for Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.
The Texans' Pro Bowl quarterback and wide receiver are hard at work rehabbing from injuries in the hopes of being ready for the start of camp. Schaub is coming off a season-ending Lisfranc injury suffered in Week 10 of last season. Johnson, who missed nine games with hamstring injuries in 2011, is recovering from arthroscopic left knee surgery that he had two weeks before the start of organized team activities (OTAs).
"While everybody's on what our so-called vacation or our break is, Matt and Andre both know that they need to come into training camp being in tip-top shape," Texans head athletic trainer/director of sports medicine Geoff Kaplan said on Thursday. "Both those guys have had some injuries the last few years. Both those guys know how important they are to the success of the 2012 Houston Texans, and they both take their responsibilities very seriously. So they are not out on vacation right now while a lot of other people are. They're in here working out all the time, trying to get into the best physical shape they can to help us next year."
Schaub has been leading throwing sessions at the University of Houston with several of his teammates, including Johnson, as of this week.
"Rehab's great," Schaub said. "I'm 100 percent now. I'm ready to go. It's not so much about rehab, just working out and staying in shape and getting ready for training camp at this point. But everything feels good and is ready to go."
The one remaining checkpoint in Schaub's recovery is a visit to Charlotte, N.C., in less than two weeks to get final medical clearance from Dr. Robert Anderson, the foot specialist who operated on Schaub's right foot in November.
"You just have to get cleared by your surgeon for full participation, so I'm going to go over there and meet with him and get my clearance, and then we'll be full-speed ahead," he said.
Kaplan and his training staff have overseen Schaub's rehab at Reliant Stadium over the last seven months. Schaub routinely arrives at Reliant Stadium around 6 a.m. every day to begin his treatment.
"Matt looks great," Kaplan said. "Matt is the consummate professional. He's always the first guy in the training room every morning. He puts in a full day's work, and he works extremely hard. We are all looking forward to Matt having the best season of his career in 2012, and we're all working extremely hard to help him reach his goals, and his goals are to lead the Houston Texans to the Super Bowl. I think we all expect Matt to be out there the first day of training camp without any issues."
Kaplan, who is entering his fourth season with the Texans and 20th in the NFL, called a Lisfranc injury "an extremely hard injury to come back from," equating it to the ACL of the foot. But he said Schaub's recovery is aided by virtue of the fact that he's a quarterback.
"The biggest challenges are being able to plant, cut and push off," Kaplan said. "And because of Matt's position, he doesn't do an awful lot of things off his toe coming out of a backpedal, sticking his foot in the ground and planting and cutting like a running back, a wide receiver, or a defensive back would. So actually, the position that Matt plays lends itself for a little bit of an easier recovery without a lot of continued soreness once he returns to full-go."
Johnson is on the comeback trail from a much less serious injury, but his surgery was much more recent than Schaub's. The five-time Pro Bowler said on the first day of OTAs there was "no doubt" in his mind he would be ready for the start of training camp.
"Andre's doing great," Kaplan said. "He's also in here every day. Him and Matt work together every day. They are working out, running routes and doing the things that they need to do to get their timing together. Even though they weren't able to work together during OTAs, Matt and Andre have spent the last few weeks working every day together so that their timing is ready to go at the start of training camp."
Schaub and Johnson played in only three full games together in 2011. Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in Week 4 and didn't return until Week 12, one game after Schaub was lost for the season at Tampa Bay. Both players watched from the sideline for much of the Texans' inaugural playoff season.
Schaub said he and his No. 1 target are "ready to get after it" in 2012.
"We talk about it a lot," he said. "Whenever we're out there (working out), we're done and we're just sipping on some Gatorade, we're talking about how excited we are for the season and for camp. We look at each other, and I'm counting the days down. I've been counting 'em down now for over a month. And I know he is, too. He told me (Wednesday), he's like, 'This is probably the most excited I've been for a training camp.' It's not normal for players to be that excited for training camp, because you know what it's going to be like out there in the Texas heat.
"But we're excited. We're excited for what we can do and what our team has developed into. It's exciting, and we're looking forward to it."