ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The debate continues over whether Stevie Johnson is a true No. 1-caliber receiver, and the Buffalo Bills' sixth-year veteran has been taken to task for his occasional immature antics, but no one can question his heart, especially not after what happened in Jacksonville on Sunday.
Johnson learned after the team arrived from Buffalo that his 48-year-old mother, Rhonda Lewis, passed away in her sleep. After meeting with coach Doug Marrone, Johnson decided to stay with the team and play against the Jaguars. He made only one catch for four yards, and admitted that he wasn't always focused, but he deserves credit for giving the effort under trying circumstances.
"When I found out, I was already here," said Johnson following Buffalo's 27-20 victory over Jacksonville. "I talked to Coach and Coach gave me the option (to play or not). I went all week with the boys, and whatever I can do to help out the team, I think I should give it my all no matter what. It was tough, we got the win, and I'm sure she's happy about that. I was in and out (focus), but I knew what the main goal was and it wasn't taking away from the team and thinking about my mother, it was trying to get the victory."
Johnson did not share the news with his teammates, outside of cornerback Ron Brooks, who was with him when he got the call. The players found out in the post-game locker room.
"It says a lot about Stevie," said quarterback EJ Manuel. "He's a guy we all look up to, he's the cool guy for us, he makes a lot of plays for us, he's a difference-maker in our offense. To find that out, I didn't know, and I'm sorry to hear that. I think it was him not wanting to be a distraction to the team or have anybody feel bad for him, he just wanted us to get this win."
Marrone said Monday that it is too early to know whether Johnson will practice or play this week against the Miami Dolphins.
"Obviously we know that Stevie is going through a personal tragedy. He's been great as far as his communication. I think when it effects whether it's practice or the team we'll go ahead and report it, but right now I really don't have anything to report on it," Marrone said.