A wedge was driven in the relationship between the Detroit Lions and Calvin Johnson virtually the moment he retired, but the Hall of Famer has suggested a reconciliation could be coming.
In 2016 Calvin Johnson became the second slam-dunk Detroit Lions Hall of Famer to retire earlier than expected, with Barry Sanders of course being the first. On the back end of his retirement, the Lions successfully recouped $1.6 million in signing bonus money from Johnson.
For a mega-money enterprise like an NFL team, to say nothing of what Johnson did on the field to earn that bonus money, $1.6 million is a drop in the bucket. But the previous regime in Detroit thought nothing of trying to get that back, with no thought about severing the relationship with a former player and sure-fire eventual Hall of Famer.
“Megatron” was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. His No. 81 has not yet been retired by the Lions, with that severed relationship between player and team primarily to blame. The Lions once proposed a repayment plan where Johnson would make a series of public appearances on the team’s behalf, which Johnson rightly called a joke.
Johnson did make an appearance at Ford Field during the 2021 season, to receive his Hall of Fame ring and be inducted into the Pride of Lions.
Calvin Johnson hints at a reconciliation with the Detroit Lions
In an interview published by the New York Post Thursday morning, Johnson talked about his relationship with the Lions in optimistic terms.
"We’re trending up. We’re trying to come together and make something happen,” Johnson, a 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, said. “Obviously I’d love to be around the team and do more things there and help the guys out. It’s good that we’re moving in the right direction.”Asked specifically about the money, he declined to elaborate: “Like I said, we’re in the process."
When in Detroit for the Rocket Mortgage Classic PGA Tour tournament last summer, Johnson said he wants to mentor Jameson Williams. So that would seem to be something on his radar in terms of being around the team more going forward.
Things have been trending more positively lately, but to have Johnson talk about his relationship with the Lions in any sort of positive terms is certainly a good thing. Time will tell if it goes anywhere meaningful from here.