Calvin Johnson is expected to retire from the NFL before his 31st birthday, which is almost unheard of for a player of his caliber who is still capable of performing at a high level. To Jerry Rice, it could not be more foreign of a concept.
On Wednesday, Rice noted that he was still smack-dab in the middle of his prime when he was Johnson’s age.
“It’s just unfortunate to see him (walk away) because he’s around, like, 32,” Rice said, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. “I was just coming into my prime at his age.”
Rice isn’t wrong. As Meinke mentioned, Johnson has 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in his career. Rice had 610 catches for 10,273 yards and 103 touchdowns before his 31st birthday, and he went on to play another 12 seasons. Megatron has played nine total. In the 12 seasons after he turned 30, Rice had 939 catches for 12,622 yards and 94 touchdowns.
The numbers are truly staggering, but it is unfair to equate Johnson’s situation with Rice’s.
“I mean, I think the thing with him is that if he can’t be 100 percent, he doesn’t want to just be on the field,” Rice said. “There’s a lot of money he’s walking away from. He’s walking away from, like, $27 million. But he doesn’t want to be that type of player.”
Johnson is said to have played through a lot of pain last season. Not to mention, we know a lot more about the long-term health issues associated with football now than we did when Rice played. If that plays a role in Johnson’s decision, it’s hard not to respect that.
One former teammate of Johnson’s unloaded on the Lions recently for not doing enough to convince Megatron to return. If it’s truly health that Johnson is concerned about, no amount of persuasion should matter.
Calvin Johnson appears close to announcing his retirement from the NFL, and one of his former teammates is appalled that the Detroit Lions are not trying harder to convince Megatron to change his mind.
Nate Burleson, who became close with Johnson during their four seasons together in Detroit, said Monday that he can’t believe Lions general manager Bob Quinn hasn’t had a conversation with Johnson.
“That’s ridiculous,” Burleson said, per Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press. “Like you’re casually going about enticing one of the best receivers in my era to come back and then you’re casual about showing your appreciation for a guy who was literally and figuratively put the organization on his back without complaint.”
Johnson has had trouble staying healthy and is said to have played through a great deal of pain last season. That is one of the reasons he has dealt with a lot of questions about his $24 million salary cap hit for 2016. Burleson believes the Lions should be brushing that to the side for now.
“Is anybody (telling him how important he is to the franchise)?” he asked. “I know the city is. I know there’s an outpour, I know you guys are and I know teammates. We’re not the ones that are up there in the front office with the suits on. Calvin knows how we feel about them. I think there needs to be somebody that’s making decisions to actively tell him and actively tell him over and over and remind him why it’s important to come put a Detroit Lions jersey on.”
Johnson has reportedly informed his close friends and a few teammates that he is planning to retire. Jim Caldwell asked him to take some time to reconsider, and Megatron is doing that out of respect for the head coach.
There was some speculation that the Lions could try to lure Johnson back with this customized practice schedule, but Burleson is clearly convinced the team hasn’t made any offers like that. Simply put, he does not think the Lions should be using the old cliche that “football is a business.”
Calvin Johnson reportedly told his family and a close circle of friends that 2015 would be his final season in the NFL, according to a report.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Johnson delivered the same message to the Detroit Lions and head coach Jim Caldwell, and Caldwell urged him to take take his time making a decision. Johnson has agreed to mull it over, and the Lions remain hopeful that he will return in 2016.
One person who knows Johnson well reportedly told Schefter that the 30-year-old receiver is “pretty content with his decision,” meaning the source does not expect Johnson to play next season.
Johnson has battled numerous injuries in recent years, and many of them have been very painful. He is said to have only shared his thoughts on retirement with two teammates — Matthew Stafford and Stephen Tulloch — and asked them to keep it quiet. The Lions did not learn of Johnson’s plans until after he told Stafford and Tulloch. Stafford, if you remember, said recently that Johnson would not talk about retirement if he was not serious about it.
One reporter recently speculated that the Lions could lure Johnson back with a customized practice schedule (details here), but it sounds like it would take a major change of heart for Megatron to agree to that.
As Calvin Johnson continues to contemplate retirement, the Detroit Lions might be thinking of creative ways to convince the six-time Pro Bowler to return for a 10th NFL season. Would giving Johnson a customized work schedule be an option?
Terry Foster of CBS Detroit laid out an interesting scenario in which Johnson would be guaranteed two days off per week, rather than the one all other players get. While Foster says Johnson has not yet been given the proposal, we doubt it was pulled out of thin air. Here’s more:
Johnson (could play) games on Sunday and then does not report to the team until Wednesday. He could stay home or fly to Atlanta to heal and clear his head. Johnson has missed a number of practices the past several years because of hand, knee and ankle issues. However, he almost always came to the practice facility in Allen Park for treatment or to be around the team.
Players report to the practice facility for treatment, massages and practice on Monday and are given Tuesday off. Johnson would miss just one day and could work out with the team Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
While one day a week off doesn’t sound like much, that could set a dangerous precedent. There are plenty of veterans around the league who get an extra day a week off from practice for “maintenance” reasons, but how would the rest of the Lions’ players react to a player getting that kind of special treatment in writing?
Foster speculates that Johnson’s teammates would be OK with the arrangement because they respect him so much. Plus, Megatron is said to be thinking about retiring because he has been in so much pain during the season. He has rarely missed games, which means teammates have likely seen him gutting it out and playing through a lot.
Of course, Johnson is also set to count $24 million against the cap next season. Something would have to be done with that number, even if the Lions can convince him to return with a special set of responsibilities.
Is Johnson serious about possibly calling it quits? Just ask this member of the Lions organization. Will a handful of guaranteed practice days off during the season be enough to persuade him? We’re not sure, but our instincts tell us it won’t get to that point one way or another.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson surprised many football fans last week when he revealed in a statement that he is contemplating retirement, and his quarterback insists the six-time Pro Bowler would not say something like that unless he meant it.
In an interview with “The Mitch Albom Show” on WJR-AM 760 this week, Matthew Stafford was asked about Johnson potentially calling it a career at age 30.
“I think, anytime Calvin says something, it’s not for show, it’s something serious,” Stafford said, per Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press. “I think you guys have covered him long enough to know that he’s a pretty measured person, and everything that he says to the public is a thought-out thing. So in that regard, I’m sure it’s thought-out.”
Johnson has not been healthy enough to play at as high a level as he did three years ago, but he is still one of the best receivers in the game. His 1,214 yards receiving ranked in the top 10 of all NFL receivers and his nine touchdowns were tied for 14th.
Stafford did not want to add further speculation, but he made it clear that Megatron isn’t the type of person who says something for attention.
“I think, really, everything he wanted to say — and I don’t want to elaborate on anything — was what he put out in that statement, that he’s considering all his options at this point, honestly,” Stafford said. “I’m not in the business of speaking for anything.”
Since it has been widely assumed that Johnson had several more years of good football left (and he still may), he has drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders. Sanders, arguably the greatest offensive player in Lions history, retired shortly after his 31st birthday after finishing fourth in the NFL with 1,491 yards rushing in 1998.
Complicating matters further is Johnson’s contract. The Lions might not want to pay Johnson his base salary of nearly $16 million and take on his cap hit of $24 million next season, especially when you consider how banged up he was down the stretch. If the comments he recently made are any indication, Johnson doesn’t want to leave. But as we heard back in November, a divorce might make sense whether Megatron retires or not.
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson said in a statement that he is evaluating his options, and he may not return for a tenth NFL season.
The 30-year-old has dealt with numerous injuries and wear and tear, and it’s beginning to take its toll. Now, he confirmed on Tuesday that he is contemplating his future.
“Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future,” Johnson said in a statement, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future.”
97.1 WXYT host and Detroit columnist Terry Foster had written earlier on Tuesday that Johnson has at least given thought to walking away, while a former teammate anonymously told Birkett that Johnson has asked what retirement is like.
“There has been some conversations about it, not asking me how it is,” the ex-teammate said. “But I think the guy’s beat up. I think he’s been through enough. And I think it’s just his time. He’s made the money, got the records, but whatever. I don’t know for sure if he’s going to do it. I don’t know if he’s going to get that itch to keep going. I really don’t know.”
There has been thought that the Lions would cut Johnson for cap reasons after the season, though Megatron has said he’d like to finish his career in Detroit. Of course, longtime Lions fans know this feeling: Barry Sanders walked away abruptly at the age of 31 in 1999.
The Detroit Lions probably can’t keep Calvin Johnson on their roster at his current projected salary cap figure for 2016, but the All-Pro hopes they are able to accomodate him in some way.
Johnson, whose cap hit for next season is scheduled to be $24 million, was asked this week if he wants to finish his career with the Lions.
“That’d be lovely,” he said, per Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News.
Johnson, 30, has had an up-and-down season, though he is all but certain to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the sixth consecutive year. Some of his inconsistent play is due to overall offensive struggles from the Lions, but it’s also possible that the 30-year-old is starting to slow down a bit.
For now, Megatron isn’t thinking about the potential of having to leave Detroit.
“I’ll think about it more when the time comes,” he said. “If that time comes, whatever happens, happens, but not now. We still have our same coaches, and we’re going to continue moving forward. And all I can worry about right now is the game plan that we have (for New Orleans).”
Johnson is signed through 2019, so the Lions could try to shuffle some money around. No wide receiver in football is worth a cap hit of $24 million — especially one who is clearly not the best at his position anymore.
Reports like this one indicate that there may be no easy solution. Even if Detroit tries to trade Megatron, he would have to agree to take significantly less money elsewhere. The situation is bound to get a bit sticky this winter.