Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson had groin surgery at the end of April. On Tuesday, he practiced with the team for the first time since the surgery and had positive news for Bills fans.
"I feel like I am there," said Johnson about being 100-percent healthy. "I feel like I am about high 90s. I cannot say 100 percent because I am not feeling all the way, but I am feeling about 90 percent. I am good."
Several fans have questioned why the team's leading receiver would wait so long to have surgery, particularly after the injury hobbled him for the vast majority of the 2011 regular season. Johnson said the injury occurred last summer, and they were hoping it would heal.
"It only plagued me for the training camp because that is when it started," said Johnson. "It popped in training camp, and for a week I was just feeling like ‘dang, is this serious? I have never felt anything like this before.’ I end up going into the season, and I was already two or three weeks in to the groin injury. During the season, I was really [plagued by the groin], I was just getting work done. Right now I think all it is going to take is about a week, and then I’ll be back to what I usually do."
Johnson caught 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011 despite playing with the groin injury the entire season. Johnson noted after practice yesterday that when he made cuts last season, he'd often feel a sharp pain - and not bracing for that pain will take some getting used to now that he's healthy again.
"Cutting in and coming to the right, it felt like it was heavy," Johnson told reporters. "It is just a mental thing. I did not feel any sharp pain like I did all last year. I feel like I am good so tomorrow, hopefully, I will be able to go out there and just focus on plays, who is lined up across from me, the defense and all that other stuff. Today was more of, if I cut right here will it pop, or what is going to happen next? If I get a few more plays I will be good."
Johnson took just ten snaps during the team portion of practice, and didn't have a ball thrown his way. Ryan Fitzpatrick was asked about Johnson's return, and after making a quick joke, gave a pretty general answer about his top target.
"I did not get to see a ton of him. I’m trying not to stare down my receivers," said Fitzpatrick. "He did not have a ton of balls thrown his way today. Some of that is just the way they are playing coverage. I talked to him during and after practice to ask him stuff. I think it is good for him to get out there just to get his confidence back in his groin and get his legs under him. I thought he did fine and we had a lot of discussion out there."
While Johnson is taking part in minicamp this week, his goal was to be 100% by training camp, which opens July 26. This was an important part of the progression in the receiver's eyes.
"That is why I wanted to come out for this mini-camp," said Johnson of being ready for training camp. "I can get acquainted to running routes and try to get over the mental aspect of being out there, cutting on my left leg and trying to trust it. I think this is big. I do not want to go into training camp thinking how I am thinking now out there. I think this is a big step."