HOUSTON -- Texans star receiver Andre Johnson will miss his sixth straight game as he continues a longer-than-expected recovery from a right hamstring injury.
Johnson ran on a separate field Friday as the Texans (6-3) prepared for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay (4-4). Coach Gary Kubiak has been saying for two weeks that Johnson is "very close" to returning, but not quite fully healed.
After Sunday, Houston has its bye before playing at Jacksonville on Nov. 27. Kubiak is optimistic Johnson will be ready by then.
"We should come out of the bye knowing that he's ready to go, and be a part of our team as we go into those last six weeks," Kubiak said. "He's doing really good, but the smart thing to do is give him this extra time to rest and continue to have some guys step up and take his place."
Johnson said Friday that holding him out for one more game was "probably the best decision." He sat out practice all this week, and planned to put himself through a hard workout again Monday.
"I still could go out and play football," Johnson said. "We just felt the best thing was just to wait and go through the off week."
The five-time Pro Bowl selection was hurt in the second quarter of Houston's 17-10 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 2. Johnson said he had a "setback" in a workout early last week that forced him to miss last weekend's 30-12 victory over Cleveland.
Johnson says he's progressed beyond the point where he's worried about aggravating the injury.
"I'm feeling good now, I'm excited about where I'm at," he said. "Before, when I was running, I always felt that pulling feeling. I haven't been feeling it. But the crazy thing is, you get so used to feeling something when you're running, you get to feeling certain things and you're kind of waiting for it to happen again.
"That's the point where I'm at right now," he said. "I think I'll be over that. I went and ran again (Friday) and I didn't feel anything."
The Texans have won three in a row since losing the first two games after Johnson was hurt. Houston has turned to running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate to carry much of the offensive load, and tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen and wideouts Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter have played well in Johnson's absence.
"I know a lot of people didn't think we would be in the position we're in when I went down, because of things that have happened in the past," Johnson said. "We have a good team, a lot of weapons and a lot of guys who can make plays.
"Me now, I have to play catch-up," he said. "I have to come back and pick up the pace and get to the level where they're playing."
Johnson is the only Texan who played for the team before Kubiak arrived in 2006. Houston is still seeking its first playoff berth, and Johnson is happy that the team has continued to win this year without him.
"It's something that I've been waiting for for nine seasons," Johnson said. "It's finally here. We have a great opportunity. All we can do is take advantage of it."