Johnson plays through ankle injury to help Texans

HOUSTON When people ask how he feels, he'll say he's OK, but he's still struggling with a sprained right ankle almost two months after it was injured.

But Johnson hates excuses and the problem won't keep him from helping the Houston Texans. It can't.

The star receiver has been waiting his entire career to reach the playoffs and he'll need a big second half to get the Texans (4-4) to that goal.

"When I'm out there I'm just playing and I'm going to give it everything I've got, whether it's a hurt ankle or not," he said. "I'm going to keep battling and just doing what I've got to do to try to be as healthy as I can so I can go out and perform well on Sunday."

Johnson has 635 yards receiving with three touchdowns, missing one game because of the ankle. But it just hasn't healed as quickly and he has been forced to wear a brace. He hasn't practiced this week after an MRI on Monday revealed that there was still swelling and he was advised to take it easy.

The Texans expect him to play this week at Jacksonville. Coach Gary Kubiak raved about the toughness Johnson has shown in dealing with this injury.

"It just tells you what he's made of," Kubiak said. "He's out there playing, not at 100 percent, but he's playing. And to not only be not 100 percent and then to get double teamed, he has his work cut out for him. But he knows how important he is to the team and how important it is that he's out there. So he's giving us everything he has."

The injury has been particularly bothersome for Johnson because different things seem to irritate it.

"You never know when it will bother you," he said. "Sometimes it's a little nagging pain that you feel. I can't predict when it's going to happen. Sometimes I may go up and catch a ball and come down on it and I may not feel nothing. Sometimes I may go up and catch a ball and come down and it pains me."

He has learned to think of it as simply another obstacle he has to deal with. The few times he's tweaked it in games he'll just go to the sideline and walk around for a couple of minutes and then let the team know he's ready to return.

Though he's not 100 percent, he has still been able to be effective since the injury. That was most evident he was injured on Sept. 19. Johnson left the game against Washington in the third quarter, but returned in the fourth quarter to make a leaping touchdown catch in the end zone that tied the game that the Texans eventually won 30-27.

Dealing with the injury in that game was one thing, but still fighting with it weeks later has been trying.

"It's very frustrating because you've been dealing with it for so long," he said. "It gets frustrating at times but it's something you have to learn how to fight through. I don't feel like it's holding me back. But I do wish it was feeling a lot better."

So do the Texans, who need a win Sunday against their AFC South foe.

NOTES: SS Dominique Barber had arthroscopic surgery on his knee on Thursday and was placed on the injured reserve. The Texans claimed CB Jason Allen off waivers to take his spot on the roster. Houston also released C Brett Helms from the practice squad and signed C Cody Wallace to the practice squad.

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