Back to the Jungle

Michael Johnson leans back on his stool in the Bengals locker room and unleashes a heavy sigh. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he says with a smirk. After a lone season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, the 6-foot-7, 280-pound, cut-from-marble defensive end is back in Cincinnati with the team that drafted him. Despite signing a five-year, $43.75 million contract with the Bucs in 2014, Tampa cut ties with Johnson following a disappointing, injury-plagued year in which the team posted a putrid 2–14 record. But it opened the door for a homecoming of sorts, with Johnson coming back to the Bengals on a four-year deal and reviving a partnership that, frankly, neither side wanted to dissolve the first time around. “We just enjoy playing together,” says Johnson of his Bengals teammates. “It’s not like that everywhere.” The sentiment extends beyond the playing field as well. “I was only gone a year, but it’s like a family reunion everywhere I go,” he says. “The feeling is mutual. This is my second home.”

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