NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Andre Johnson keeps himself loose and warm on the Tennessee Titans’ sideline, walking around and exercising by lifting his knees up towards his chest.
He wants to be ready to go when needed.
Biding his time is something different for the man with the most catches and yards receiving of any current NFL wide receiver, and Johnson is doing his best to fit in with his third team in as many years. Johnson showed why the Titans signed him at the start of training camp when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Detroit last week.
“It’s a new role for me,” Johnson said of being a backup. “In the beginning, it could be really frustrating because it’s something you’re not used to. But when you’re able to go out and make a play like that to help your team win a game, it makes it all worth it.”
Johnson’s 14th NFL season didn’t start until the Titans signed him to a two-year deal on the day they reported for training camp. The seven-time Pro Bowler had been looking for a team after a lone season in Indianapolis, which followed his first 12 seasons with the Houston Texans who drafted him third overall out of Miami in 2003.
Johnson came to Tennessee having started 181 of the 185 games he played in the NFL.
Tennessee doesn’t need Johnson to start. The Titans signed Rishard Matthews away from the Dolphins and have rookie Tajae Sharpe, a fifth-round draft pick, are in those roles.
They want Johnson catching passes to extend drives and win games, just as he did against Detroit. Johnson caught the second pass thrown to him on fourth-and-5 over two defenders for the game-winning with 1:13 left. After the game, Johnson and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie shared a brief moment .
“He’s one of the reasons why I came here, and he just gave me a hug and told me that’s what you’re here for,” Johnson said.
The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Johnson still offers a big target for a quarterback and great hands. He used his body to finish off the TD reception with a linebacker already clawing at the ball. Then again, Johnson now has 1,057 receptions for 14,139 yards — both within the NFL’s top 10 all-time — with that the 69th touchdown of his career.
Oakland quarterback Derek Carr has known Johnson since he was 12 and calls the receiver a good friend.
“I think he is a Hall of Famer,” Carr said Wednesday. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s one of the best receivers to ever play this game.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has only started 14 games so far in his NFL career, and he certainly understands what he has in Johnson.
“Andre, his play his entire career gives any quarterback a whole lot of confidence,” Mariota said. “So for me, it doesn’t matter who’s out there. I trust every one of those guys. They put in a lot of hard work throughout the week. But Andre’s level of play, it’s easy to throw the ball.”
Johnson celebrated by tossing the ball from his first TD catch with Tennessee into the stands. He said the catch ranks up near the top in his career, though the reaction by some of his new co-workers took him by surprise.
“After the game because I had so many of the people that work here and some of my teammates, and they were like, ‘We’re glad you’re not doing it to us anymore,'” Johnson said. “It was kind of funny just hearing that. But at the end of the day, I’m a Titan and I’m here to try to go out and make plays that to help win games. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Notes: Titans coach Mike Mularkey announced right guard Chance Warmack chose to have surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right hand and will go on injured reserve. Either Brian Schwenke or Josh Kline will replace him. … LB Derrick Morgan (left hamstring) and WR Kendall Wright (left hamstring) took part in individual drills. TE Delanie Walker (hamstring), CB Brice McCain (knee) and CB Valentino Blake (bruised chest) did not practice.
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