It's no mystery that former Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson is not a huge fan of his former team.
It has been well-documented that the Lions made Johnson, the greatest receiver in franchise history, repay “One point six million” of his signing bonus when he retired before his contract was up.
But in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg, Johnson says he could care less about the money.
“I don’t care. I really don’t,” he says. “If they do [pay back the bonus], great, I put some more money in my pocket. But either way, I’m not trippin’.”
The Big Interview with Calvin Johnson.
One of the great receivers of his time opens up to @Rosenberg_Mike about the Lions’ incompetence, the concussions, the cannabis and the decision to walk away with unfulfilled dreams https://t.co/MMcPmqfXW3 pic.twitter.com/YvYmdhogUC
— The MMQB (@theMMQB) September 20, 2019
In the interview, Calvin did not hold back about some of the things he dealt with while playing for the Lions and how he won't be doing anything Lions-related unless they pay him back. (He must care a little.
He sees clearly and speaks plainly. He “won’t step foot in anything Lions-related” unless he gets his money back, but he isn’t bitter.
Johnson claims he suffered at least nine concussions while playing for the Lions, including one against the Minnesota Vikings in which the Lions asked him to change his story.
He is sure he suffered at least nine concussions in the NFL, one for every season—a “super conservative” estimate, he says—but that’s not why he retired in his prime, at 30. If the team had been better he probably would have kept playing, but he is glad he left. He smoked pot after every game, to heal, but that’s not why he’s getting into the cannabis business.
“Bam, hit the ground real hard. I’m seeing stars; I can’t see straight,” he says. “But I know in a couple minutes I’m gonna be fine. Because I’ve done that plenty of times before.” In 2012 he told reporters he suffered one against the Vikings. The Lions said (and maintain) that he passed their concussion protocol, and Johnson later apologized: “I misused the terms nerve damage and concussion.” But he says now, “I knew I was concussed because I blacked out. I wasn’t seeing straight. And they wanted me to change my story.” Mostly, he says, he played through concussions because in his NFL that’s how you earn Employee of the Month.
Calvin also talked about how after breaking Jerry Rice's receiving record in 2012, he had multiple injuries and the Lions' training staff told him deal with the injuries after he retired.
Johnson was a highly paid member of a clown show, and he is nobody’s clown. He became the ideal NFL player in the least ideal NFL environment. But he paid for it. The year he broke Rice’s record, he injured a foot, an ankle and both knees. One finger was bent at a 90-degree angle. He says the training staff told him to get it fixed after he retired.
“It’s not about the welfare of the players,” says Johnson, who in his career missed just nine games. It’s “just about having that product.”
While playing for the Lions, did Johnson questions that the organization was committed to winning? Nope.
“Of course. I can say that. And I say it more confidently after I left and saw the way other teams operate,” Johnson said.