- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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In a poll of more than 300 NFL players, Calvin Johnson was voted as the fourth-most respected player in the NFL.
It isn't surprising that he is on the list. What is surprising is that he received only 15 votes in the survey, well behind quarterback Peyton Manning, who was the front-runner.
The Lions I spoke to for the survey almost uniformly voted for Johnson, and not only because he is their teammate. Most of the players I spoke with had faced him in one form or another in their career.
And they all said they respected him before. Then they saw him up close and were even more impressed with what they saw. He doesn't talk much. He works as hard as anyone else. And he is willing to help everyone, from another star on the team to a practice squad player trying to find a way on to the 53-man roster.
That is what stood out about Johnson. That is what makes him one of the more well-respected players in the NFL. He is the best wide receiver in the game, but he practices and works as if he is trying to keep his job every year.
He doesn't coast. He just improves. Last month, in an interview with ESPN.com, he explained where he can still get better.
“There's always ways,” Johnson said. “Whether it be shortening my stride so I don't get too elongated so that makes it quicker and better for me to come out of routes. Working my hands at the line of scrimmage. Get off the press. Things like that that you can never get enough work on.”
He studies himself as much as his opponents, trying to find an edge and a way to get better.
That's why he is respected by his teammates in the locker room and by his opponents on almost every team. Rare is the person who says something negative about Johnson and even if they do -- as Dez Bryant and Matt Elam did this past season -- it is usually also in the context of praising Johnson.
When he's healthy he's the best receiver in the game and obviously one of the most respected players as well.