The Detroit Lions have had one of the best wide receiver duos in the league the last couple of years. With rumors of Calvin Johnson calling it quits, it would leave the 5 foot 10 Golden Tate as the big man on campus. While promoting Pizza Hut’s “golden pizza”(see what they did there?) at the Super Bowl this week, Tate shed some light on what exactly Johnson is dealing with and how it would affect the receiving core going forward.
Let’s make one thing clear, Tate is very confident in his abilities. When asked if he can handle being the No. 1 receiver, he replied: “absolutely.” In his own mind, he already was the top receiver on the team. And to be fair, he has led the team in receptions both his years in Detroit.
“That’s how I prepare. I prepare as if I’m the No. 1. I didn’t come to Detroit thinking I was No. 2. We understand the situation I came into, but I think, as a competitor, you’ve got to prepare like you’re the No. 1 because you never know what’s going to happen with injuries, different changes in the locker room.”
Back in 2014, there were three games in which Calvin missed, and Tate took full advantage of his golden opportunity. In the weeks Johnson was sidelined, Tate was able to accumulate 24 receptions, 349 yard and two huge touchdowns that gave way to epic comebacks against Atlanta and New Orleans. Tate put up careers highs of 99 catches and 1,331 yards that year.
Do not confuse Tate’s mettle with wishing Calvin would retire. There is no replacing Johnson in Tate’s opinion.
“He’s a special player. We all know that,” Tate said. “And he’s going to be very, very tough to replace. In my mind, whoever you bring in is not going to be Calvin Johnson. Calvin Johnson in my opinion, after playing with him for two years and seeing what he’s done, is arguably the greatest player to play the game. In my opinion. So that’s going to be hard to replace.”
In the end, Tate understands that football is game and players want to have a long and healthy life. “His(Calvin) body just isn’t holding up,” Tate said. If Johnson’s quality of life is decreasing due to a sport he has already made millions on, maybe it is the right time. The players also have to look out for their best interests.
“I have a lot of confidence that he’s going to make the best decision for himself but, at the end of the day, I think we all need to understand that there’s more (to) life (than) football. We have an opportunity to play football for 10, 15 years if we’re lucky. But that leaves us around 35, 38 years old. You also got to think about your wife, your kids. Do you want to be 45, 50 years old where you can’t even get off the porch, or do you want to live the rest of your life being able to walk where you want to walk and things of that sort? And with all the concussion going on, you’ve got to protect yourself. He’s given a lot to this game, and we’re truly blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to watch him and us guys be a part of that. It’s special.”
Whether you like it or not, there is a good chance that Tate will be the first option in the offense next year, and he is positive he can handle the job.
“I have a lot of confidence that I can do it and I hope that everyone else does as well.”