EDEN PRAIRIE, MN (1500espn.com) - The best play of Tyrell Johnson's forgettable season might have been his last.
Playing on the kickoff-coverage unit in Sunday's win over Buffalo, Johnson slammed into Bills tight end Jonathan Stupar so hard that Stupar flew back into returner Leodis McKelvin, who dropped a fumble Frank Walker recovered to set up a touchdown.
Several teammates came off the sideline to congratulate Johnson, but he hobbled slowly past them, favoring his left leg. His foot had gotten caught in the ground and then bent awkwardly from the outside in, leaving him with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
"It is frustrating," Johnson said on Thursday. "I told Jamarca (Sanford), I said, 'I couldn't even get up to celebrate.'"
That Johnson has had so little to celebrate this season made it a particularly disappointing moment.
The former second-round pick went to training camp believing he would make huge strides in his third season -- he even mentioned the Pro Bowl -- and ended up losing his starting job to Husain Abdullah. He since has made two fill-in starts, recorded only three tackles (plus two on special teams) and been deactivated five times.
"I feel like everything I worked for kind of went down the drain this year," Johnson said. "That's life, though. You've just got to keep on keeping on, and after awhile, if you believe enough, you work enough, you'll get exactly what's coming to you."
Johnson wouldn't rule out playing again this season -- "It's a day-to-day thing," he said -- but wouldn't say he'll definitely be back either. He's entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract, which included a $1.469 million signing bonus.
Many within the Vikings organization remain high on Johnson, who was graded as a first-round pick coming out of Arkansas State. But coaches felt more comfortable with Abdullah and Madieu Williams coming out of camp and have stuck with them even when they've struggled.
Asked whether he believes he'll have a chance to start again for the Vikings, Johnson said only that he looks forward to competing.
"I've always said whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Johnson said. "You can't control what somebody else thinks about you. All you can do is go out there and continue to be yourself. I've always been a firm believer that you've got to be you. You've got to go out there and do the best that you can do each day in life, and whoever doesn't like you -- I mean, that's really just their problem. It's nothing personal. It's just more of you can only do what you can do. And if that's not good enough, it's just not."