After a peeved Chan Gailey yanked Stevie Johnson out of the Buffalo Bills' 2011 season finale for another excessive-celebration penalty, the wide receiver believed he'd just punched his ticket out of town.
"At that point, I was thinking I was done with Buffalo," Johnson told Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver. "I was like, 'They benched me? Really?' I figured I'd go back to Hunter's Point (to play for the 49ers). But the (Bills) stepped up and paid me. And it felt so good to be wanted."
The Bills obviously got over Johnson's antics, re-signing him to a five-year, $36.25 million contract ($18.05 million guaranteed) in March. Johnson had groin surgery in the offseason, but he's expected to be a full-go when training camp begins this week.
"I want to do right by them," Johnson says. "I want to prove I can celebrate without getting penalties. I work hard to get in the end zone. My attitude is, 'Why can't I have some fun when I get in there?' But I have to do it in a way that doesn't hurt the team."
A game last November against the New York Jets neatly encapsulated The Stevie Johnson Experience. The receiver took it to vaunted cornerback Darrelle Revis, finishing with eight catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. But Johnson also was hit with an excessive-celebration penalty for mocking Plaxico Burress' shooting incident, then later dropped a pass that could have sealed a Bills victory.
The ability is there. The Bills are gambling they can smooth out the edges.