Products of the Lions mismanagement
The Detroit Lions boast some of the great names in NFL history. Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Dutch Clark, Joe Schmidt, Lem Barney, and Charlie Sanders to name a few.
Yet three of the greatest players to don the Honolulu Blue and Silver, Barry Sanders from back in the 90s, and both Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford in more recent memory are all products of how the Lions have been managed.
When Barry Sanders announced his retirement on July 27, 1999, just before the start of training camp, the Motor City was in bedlam. Sanders was unquestionably one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, if not perhaps the best.
Barry was the Lions’ silent hero. He let his play do all the talking. When he retired it broke the hearts of football fans in Detroit and across the country.
Then the Lions stepped in and demanded that Sanders pay back $5.5 million of his bonus from the contract he had signed only two years earlier. When Barry refused, the Lions sued him.
While the case was in arbitration, Sanders’ agent Lamont Smith told the Lions that Barry would pay back the $5.5 million if they would release him in turn. The appeal was refused and despite Barry’s request to be traded, he was told that his only options were to stay retired or play for Detroit.
The rest is history.
Today there is the Calvin Johnson situation. A story that plays out very much the same. Calvin wanted to play for a contender but was denied the opportunity to play anywhere but in Detroit.
Johnson also had the Lions chasing his bonus money since he wasn’t fulfilling his contract on the playing field. A move that was legally within the rights of the franchise to do, but only hurt them in the eyes of their players and fans as once again this inept franchise became estranged from one of the best players in team history.
Eventually, the Lions and Barry were able to mend their relationship. Hopefully the same will happen with Calvin.