Bills WR Stevie Johnson (currently an unrestricted free agent) is a controversial figure to say the least. He’s undeniably talented and productive – the first Bill ever to record back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Yet, he’s also infuriating. Whether it’s dropping passes at the worst possible time or getting penalized/fined for over-the-top touchdown celebrations, Johnson’s given Bills fans their share of headaches. Most notably, his antics in the 2011 season finale against the Patriots (revealing the “Happy New Year” T-shirt after scoring a touchdown) earned him a seat on the bench for the rest of the game from coach Chan Gailey.
But today in an interview with 1140 Sportsradio in Sacramento, Johnson claims the days of touchdown celebrations are behind him:
“Honestly there are things that I will change and things that will stay the same,” said Johnson. ”My fight and the way I go about the game that’s going to stay the same. When I put those pads on and I get on the field I want to win and try to dominate. As far as the extra antics, with over-celebrating I feel like I did that to try to get on in the league and make a name for myself and let people know about Stevie Johnson.”
Johnson went on to say that he now he feels he has enough attention and is now solely focused on winning:
“I feel like I have the attention now so now it’s time to take the next step. That’s trying to be a Pro Bowl receiver and trying to get a team to the playoffs. I’ve been playing this game just to try to make my name relevant coming from being a seventh-round pick, working from scout team to being a starting receiver. Now I feel I’ve got that spot as number one, number two receiver and now I’m trying to take that next step in going to an elite receiver.”
Johnson continued on to say that he needs to mature into the leader of the Bills’ WR corps:
“When I came in we had Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Justin Jenkins, we had more veteran guys,” he said. ”Now things are changing and now I’m the veteran receiver among the first-year and second-year guys and my whole mentality has to change. That’s something I’m going to be working on this upcoming season. My receivers coach was already instilling that in me knowing I’m going to be the veteran receiver and I have to take charge of the receivers and be more vocal with the entire team. I’m ready to work on that in terms of being an overall leader for the team and for my receivers. Just the mental part. The physical aspect is going to be the same where it’s going to be competition and I want to win.”
Of course, these are all just words…but I believe him.
Johnson’s no dummy. People are going to jump all over that “I did (the celebrations) to try to get on in the league and make a name for myself and let people know about Stevie Johnson” line and blast Stevie for being selfish and me-first and whatever. But honestly, can you blame Johnson? Like it or not, this is a business. The more name recognition you have, the more money you make. A few thousand dollars worth of fines could mean extra millions down the road in endorsements/contracts/whatever. And in his first few years in the league, toiling as a scout-team player on one of the league’s lowest-profile teams, Johnson was no doubt driven to become a star. When he finally got a chance to make a name for himself, you can hardly blame him for wanting to take advantage of the opportunity. Granted, the penalties were unacceptable, but Johnson knows that and wasn’t trying to draw the penalties.
Once Johnson gets his big contract this offseas0n – and he will – he’ll have no need to draw attention to himself anymore. He’s a star, and he knows it. Now the only way to become a bigger star is to win games. And you can bet he’ll be killing himself to get better to accomplish that goal.