Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bills wide receiver stays mum on mom's death, plays in win

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson could have flown home -- and no one would have blamed him.

Johnson's mother died unexpectedly Saturday at her northern California home. Rhonda Lewis was 48.

Johnson and the Bills had already arrived in Jacksonville when he heard the devastating news. He sat down with coach Doug Marrone, who gave him the option of leaving or staying for Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

Johnson decided to stay with his teammates, and he opted not to tell any of them.

"Whatever I can do to help out the team," Johnson told a small group of reporters in the hallway after the game. "I think I should give it my all no matter what. It was tough but we got the win and I'm happy about that, and I'm sure she's happy about that."

Johnson finished with one catch for four yards in Buffalo's 27-20 victory.

But he garnered praise from Marrone and his teammates for how he handled a difficult situation.

"It says a lot about Stevie that he decided to play," rookie quarterback EJ Manuel said. "We all look up to Stevie, especially us rookies on offence. He makes a lot of huge plays for us. He's a difference-maker on offence. It was a matter of him not wanting to be a distraction to the team or for anybody to feel bad for him. He just wanted us to go out there and get a win."

The Bills (5-9) scored twice in the final 2:14 in the first half to open up a 20-10 lead. And they answered on both sides of the ball when Jacksonville had chances down the stretch.

"It's a tough situation," Marrone said. "It's a very personal issue. We discussed it. It was in his corner to say what he would like to do and then I have to make a decision whether I'm comfortable with that and he's able to perform, which I thought he did."

Johnson leads the Bills with 52 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 C6

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