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Stevie Johnson returns to practice after back injury

By Tim Graham

For the first time in voluntary offseason workouts, Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson was on the field. He had been forced to watch previous practices because of a lower back injury.

"It definitely feels good to just be out there on the field, even through the little pains I have," Johnson said.

"It's getting better every week. They gave me a six- to eight-week thing to even get on the field, and it's only been about three, so I feel good."

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was delighted to see him running routes in individual drills.

"It was great to see him," Hackett said. "He looks great in a uni. It was great to see him run some routes instead of being on the side. We've just got to work him back in."

Johnson is one of only 13 Bills with at least six years of NFL experience who've reported for workouts -- defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker Manny Lawson have yet to -- but with a first-year NFL head coach, a 33-year-old offensive coordinator and a new quarterback, Johnson needs the reps.

Having a three-time 1,000-yard receiver on the practice field also helps Buffalo's young receivers witness what it takes to excel in the NFL.

"The good thing is Stevie's done a great job being out there and supporting everybody because he's obviously had to have some growing pains in the new system," Hackett said. "So he's been able to really get a lot of mental reps, and I think being out there, helping those guys has been critical for all of them.

"His presence has been out there the whole time. It's just nice to see him in a helmet."


Nathaniel Hackett | Stevie Johnson
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |