- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
- 0 Shares
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Steve Johnson didn't just say he regretted the touchdown dance that somehow included a pantomime of Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress' self-inflicted gunshot and a plane crashing to the turf of MetLife Stadium in Buffalo's 28-24 loss to New York on Sunday, he sought out Burress to personally apologize.
Burress said the Bills wide receiver left a voice message on his phone and sent him a text message to apologize.
"I don't think he took into consideration that happened to me when he did it," Burress said Monday on ESPN 1050 Radio's "The Michael Kay Show." "And I think a day later he's realized what he did and how he made himself look and embarrassed his team, organization, his players, his coaches, but those are the things you learn and being immature at times."
Burress had no idea Johnson had made fun of the event that sent him to prison for 20 months -- the Jets receiver shot himself in the leg in a nightclub in 2008 while with the Giants -- until he was asked about it on camera. Burress took the high road after the game, though he did allude to three incomplete passes sent Johnson's way on the final drive of the game.
Johnson's inability to catch the ball late in the game, including a wide open pass up the middle of the field that went right through his hands, might have had a few Buffalo fans thinking they deserved a text message apology as well.
"He shot himself at the end of the game -- he didn't win it," Jets defensive lineman Sione Pouha said. "I don't know which shot was worse."
Johnson suggested Monday that his days of colorful -- and sometimes questionable -- touchdown celebrations could be over. After saying he "probably" won't continue celebrating after scoring, Johnson then added that his extended post-TD demonstration on Sunday would be his last.
Though unfazed by the criticism -- former NFL player-turned-TV-analyst Rodney Harrison called the receiver's antics "dumb" and "immature" -- directed at him, Johnson said he's taken to heart a conversation he had with Bills coach Chan Gailey.
"He was telling me I have to be smarter. I've got to be more aware of the situations and rules," Johnson said. "I'll listen to every word that he says. That's my coach."
Gailey was still bothered on Monday by Johnson mocking Burress, but said he'll leave it to the NFL on whether further discipline is warranted.
"If I benched everybody for every dumb mistake that was made, there wouldn't be any coaches or players out there because we've all made dumb mistakes," Gailey said. "Everybody gets happy about scoring. I don't want him to not like it. But at the same time, you've got to be under control."
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said that he was the one who Johnson actually got by to make the catch that scored. If anyone deserved to be lampooned, Revis said it was him.
"(The celebration) had nothing to do with the situation," Revis said. "If anything, he scored on me, come at me if anything. That was just wrong to me. It wasn't smart on his part, doing the gun thing, and shooting himself. To me that was disrespectful to Plaxico in a way."
A few Jets players took offense to the dance, including the airplane flying and then crashing to the ground. That was the move that earned the penalty, but Pouha, a team captain, inferred something more.
"Us being from New York ... that airplane thing, in my opinion, was kind of a dagger a little bit, concerning the circumstances we just remembered -- Sept. 11," Pouha said. "We all stand for pride in this region and that's a sacred moment. For a lot of people, it's a sobering moment."
Burress said he had some empathy for Johnson, having made a few well-publicized mistakes in his own life.
"He's young and he made a mistake," Burress said. "I don't look at him as any less than he was before and I don't want everyone to say he's a bad guy because he made a mistake. I've made a few in my life. And I talked to him and I have a lot of respect for him as a player, and I think he's going to rebound from that."
Jets coach Rex Ryan hadn't seen the touchdown celebration when he held his postgame press conference Sunday, and was just glad to be on the receiving end of the ensuing 15-yard penalty. After watching the replay, however, Ryan was glad to see how Burress responded.
"I'm glad that the young man reached out to Plax, and he should've," Ryan said. "I thought it was ridiculous."
Burress did joke that he wouldn't have been so gracious a few years ago, when he was a little younger and more impulsive. Before he gained a little maturity through experience, Burress said he would've heard about the move and joked, "I probably would've met him outside before he got on his bus."
This isn't the first time Johnson's drawn attention -- and a flag -- after a score.
Last year, he shelled out a combined $15,000 after twice being fined by the NFL. That included a $10,000 fine and a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration for falling back to the ground after pretending to shoot off a rifle -- mimicking what the Patriots' Minutemen do following a New England score -- in a 38-30 loss at New England.
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick came to Johnson's defense Monday.
"I think Stevie is the one that probably took the penalty the hardest," Fitzpatrick said. "For us, we have his back 100 percent. It's not an issue. And I know he's going to be out there giving his all next Sunday."
Jane McManus covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
14hEric D. Williams