49ers wideout Stevie Johnson on the criticism he faced in Buffalo, going back home to the Bay area and what separates Colin Kaepernick from E.J. Manuel
The MMQB: Was it difficult to be traded by the Bills, and is it even harder to come back home to the Bay area with all the pressures of family and friends?
JOHNSON: I feel like there will always be a piece of Buffalo in me. Has it been a tough transition? Yeah, because I was there for six years. I personally felt everything that franchise went through, right up until they traded me. I do miss it a little bit. It was easier to come back here to San Francisco, because I was away for a while. It’s a good thing that I learned a lot of things throughout my career, so now I can deal with the family and everyone being around. But it’s still tough. This is where I’m from, so everybody is consistently hitting me up. It seems like you’re saying no to everything. You just can’t do everything. That’s the nature of the beast, but it doesn’t affect things when you step into the facility. I do have my wife run interference, but I try to handle things on my own, because this game isn’t forever and there will come a time when I have to deal with everyone on my own.
The MMQB: One major criticism of you in Buffalo was inconsistent route running. Was that fair?
JOHNSON: I don’t think that criticism was fair. They tell you to get to a spot and you just get there; it doesn’t matter how you get there. I believe as a receiver, watching the guys here, they do the same things I do. They use their savvy and skill to get to the spot. That makes it harder on DBs. That’s why I gave the top guys fits, because I wasn’t operating the same as everybody else. What was a problem for the Bills really shouldn’t have been. It should have been something that we capitalized on and worked harder on, myself included.
The MMQB: Now that you’ve spent some time with Colin Kaepernick, does it give you some new perspective on E.J. Manuel?
JOHNSON: It's tough, because E.J. was a rookie. When Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck came into the league two years ago, they came in blazing. They raised the bar for rookie quarterbacks, so you expect your rookie quarterback to do the same thing. It was harder for E.J. Here, Kap had a year or so of learning behind Alex Smith, and it contributed to how experienced he is on the field now. There was nobody for E.J. to sit behind, because they got rid of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He was thrown into the fire and it was tougher for him to adjust. I think E.J. will be better with the year of experience. Being from San Francisco, I’m a fan of all these guys. You would think, seeing their success, they'd be on high horses. But Colin and the rest were cool. Kap was like, Welcome, lets get it rolling. Lets try to get this Super Bowl. Honestly, I didn’t expect it because they’ve already done all this stuff without me. You still feel like a guy trying to fit in. Outside of Seattle, nobody’s been further than them. I didn’t get as far as these guys, but I’m going to help where I can.