Stevie Johnson offered up a Roy Munson handshake after the Buffalo Bills’ final mandatory minicamp session.
Johnson’s rigid fingers were taped at the knuckles. He declined to clasp hands.
It has been a delicate offseason for the Bills’ top wide receiver. He’s recovering from a twisted left ankle and revealed for the first time his previous back injury wasn’t merely a strain. He broke it.
Johnson acknowledged Thursday he fractured his L-5 vertebra in March while filming a workout session for BuffaloBills.com.
“It got to the point where, ‘It’s got to be something more than a strain or something’ because every time I sit down it’s hurting,” Johnson said. “Every time I stand up it’s hurting. I lay down, it’s hurting. I went through rehab and it wasn’t helping.
“So I got the MRI, and it was a slight fracture.”
Johnson said he was given a cortisone shot and an epidural as part of his recovery.
Johnson’s offseason workout approach came under fire when he told radio host Jim Rome his training consisted mostly of basketball and road work.
The Bills wanted to show fans that Johnson really does take training seriously by filming a session. Johnson said the back injury occurred while doing a power-rope exercise.
Then on the first day of voluntary workouts, Johnson twisted his ankle while making a catch during an individual drill. He spun clockwise, stepped awkwardly on a cone and hurt his left ankle.
“The back wasn’t cleared up yet. I was just dealing with it,” Johnson said. “Then I came back to see if I could get out there and wiggle with my back and ended up stepping on a cone.”
Johnson has had a list of injuries over the years, particularly with his groin, but he hasn’t missed a game since he became a regular contributor in 2010.
“I try not to miss a game,” Johnson said. “You never know how long you’ll be here.
“I don’t want to be stupid about it. There probably was one game I was stupid about playing through an injury, and that was the Houston Texans game last year. I got kneed in my thigh on a slant early in the game, and it was bad.
“But I love being out there, trying to make a difference.”
While they’re unlikely to be the words the NFL would use, Buffalo Bills pass-rusher Mario Williams summed up defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s philosophy thusly:
“He usually says ‘Kill ’em or hurt ’em.’ That’s what I always hear.”
On the final day of spring workouts and before taking a six-week break before training camp, Williams exalted the Bills’ new defensive scheme for their aggression and entertainment value.
This year’s defense certainly should be more creative than last year’s under Dave Wannstedt.
“The biggest thing from last year to this year is there’s a lot more moving parts,” Williams said. “It can be pretty complex and a lot to digest in a short period of time, but once you get the grasp of it, once you know, say, a third of it you can piece it together. As long as you know our key words and hand signals, even if you don’t have the best grasp on it, you can get the hang of it.
“I will say from going against the offense, it seems to be pretty difficult for them to pick up.”
I asked Williams if he agreed with the criticism Wannstedt’s defense was too simple.
“If I were to compare two apples, you would have to say that,” Williams said. “Not saying anything about last year’s defense because that was last year, but this year’s defense is totally different.
“I don’t even know where I’m going to be half the time. That’s definitely new. We got guys all over the place.
The Bills have passed along new NFL guidelines for items, particularly bags, that can be brought into Ralph Wilson Stadium this season.
In a news release, the Bills stated they “strongly encourage fans to not bring any type of bags,” but the NFL will allow:
• Clear-plastic, vinyl or PVC bags that don’t exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, or a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag.
• Small clutch bags, “approximately the size of a hand,” in addition to one of the clear-bag options.
• An exception will be made for medical necessities after inspection at the gate.
Prohibited items include:
• Purses larger than a clutch bag.
• Fanny packs.
• Cinch bags.
• Luggage of any kind.
• Seat cushions.
• Computer bags.
• Camera bags.
• Any bag larger than the permissible size.
“Our No. 1 goal on game days at Ralph Wilson Stadium continues to be providing our fans with the best game day experience possible,” Bills vice president of event operations and guest experience Andy Major said in the release, “and this policy addresses both public safety and stadium entry efficiency for all Bills fans.”
Bills great Thurman Thomas watched practice Thursday. ... Central Florida head coach George O’Leary, former Syracuse aide, Georgia Tech head coach and mentor to Marrone, watched practice Wednesday. So did Marrone’s father-in-law, Boots Donnelly, former Middle Tennessee coach who two weeks ago was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.