I had a lengthy conversation with former Detroit Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson at his College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony back in December. It’s interesting that he’s back in the news because when I spoke with him, he didn’t express any great affection for the Lions and definitely knocked their hustle.
You could tell that it still wasn’t all good between Megatron and the Lions and it has everything to do with Detroit making him pay back at least $1 million of the $16 million signing bonuses he was given a few years prior to his abrupt and unexpected retirement in 2015.
Estranged Calvin Johnson wants Lions to pay up: ‘You don’t do that’ https://t.co/Z7H6U2eTAI
He took it as a sign of disrespect. It’s the same thing they did to the other greatest player in franchise history Barry Sanders when he wanted to get out of the game early and beat CTE and other brain debilitating injuries.
Sanders called it quits before the 1999 season and was also forced to repay the franchise a seven-figure slice of his most recent signing bonus. Sanders had static with the squad for years but now works as a paid ambassador for the team.
His rift with the team long in the past, Barry Sanders is enjoying his new role as an ambassador for the Lions. More from @LarryLage: https://t.co/MKR6H0fqRP https://t.co/A2IdBH0cQ5
According to SI.com, “When talking with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press Saturday at his annual high school camp he runs, Johnson explained how the Lions returning the money would fix their broken bond.
“They already know what they got to do,” Johnson told the Free Press. “The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”
Megatron was a Top 3 all-time receiver when he played. If they lost too often, it surely wasn’t his fault. Once Detroit asked for the cash back, the relationship was fractured from there.
When I last spoke with Megatron, he was enjoying retirement. Immersing himself in family and his social commitments.
Conversation with Calvin Johnson at his College Football Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony In December. https://t.co/5tcsWyIzvR
He knocks Detroit Lions culture and the overall way that NFL teams deal with players.
Conversation with Calvin Johnson at his CFB Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in December. https://t.co/9FHRAgYN69
Reports say Lions president Rod Wood previously said rebuilding a relationship with Johnson was “a very high priority,” adding that he would like to have Johnson functioning in a role with the franchise similar to Sanders’.
Johnson told the Free Press that he’s not really trying to converse until they come off of that cheddar. That $1 million is Detroit’s buy-in fee for him to return to the Lions family. He’ll probably donate it to one of his charities.
“I ain’t talked to Rod,” Johnson told the Free Press. “I don’t even want to talk about that. I have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. Had the rookies, [wide receiver Marvin Jones] came out, they did a great job with the kids. I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kinds of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that.”
He said it back and December and still maintains publicly that he has absolutely no regrets about retiring. He blasted Detroit’s personnel moves, its losing record, and culture, showing a complete lack of faith in ownership.
Conversation with Calvin Johnson at his College Football Hall Of Fame Induction back in December. https://t.co/mOcff9OaMx
It remains a sad ending to one of the NFL’s most prolific careers. One of the bright spot in decades of disaster for the Lions. Despite the franchise’s pettiness, Megatron continues to show his solid character in his efforts to improve community conditions and help young, disenfranchised kids get real opportunities to succeed.
Just for the Lions to be affiliated with a man of such integrity is worth the $1 million. They need to pay up. For Johnson, it’s all about the principle of it. That’s one of the characteristics that make him unique and respected to this day.