Detroit Lions president Rod Wood told reporters in San Francisco that he has spoken with wide receiver Calvin Johnson “a couple times,” as well as chatting with Johnson’s agent, Bus Cook, as Johnson contemplates his decision whether to retire or return to the Lions.
Wood said the Lions would like to have him back if he wants to play and they haven’t thought about any of the contract questions that would come along with Johnson’s return. He is set to make a little over $24 million against the cap in 2016 and is contracted to play with the Lions for four more seasons.
The Lions are continuing to stick with their initial plan of giving Johnson as much time as he needs to make his decision, but Wood said at some point the franchise would go to him to figure out what was going on closer to the start of the new league year.
Wood told reporters he hopes to introduce Johnson to new general manager Bob Quinn in the next week and that he doesn’t know when Johnson’s decision will come.
“It would be difficult to replace him with one person, but we’ll have to deal with that if that’s what we’re confronted with,” Wood told reporters at the Super Bowl.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, when asked about Johnson and other players retiring early, said he didn’t know what Johnson’s specific issues were that he was weighing. ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Johnson told Lions coach Jim Caldwell after the 2015 season that the season would be his last and that he confided in Matthew Stafford and Stephen Tulloch he was considering walking away.
ESPN Insider Ed Werder reported one of the issues has to do with his long-term health.
Johnson has had finger, knee and ankle injuries the last three seasons, including a nagging ankle injury that forced him from fully participating in Detroit’s practices the second half of the season. He missed three games during 2014 with a high ankle sprain.
“I don’t know what Calvin Johnson is balancing,” Goodell said during a press conference at the Super Bowl. “He’s a great player and a great young man and whatever it is, I support him. Whatever it is, if I can do something to help him, even if it is in his next phase of life, I’d do that, too.”
Most around the league understand, though, that this is a highly personal decision for Johnson. And if he does retire, the next question will be if and when he would make the Hall of Fame. He would first be eligible for induction in 2021.
Johnson has 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in his career. He holds almost every significant Lions receiving record and the NFL single-season receiving yards mark of 1,964 yards, set in 2012.
“I feel like he’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day,” said Jacksonville running back Denard Robinson, who played at Michigan during some of Johnson’s best years in Detroit. “He’s one of the guys that it’s always good to walk away from the game on top and being the best that you could be. If you feel like it’s time for you to hang it up, then just hang it up.
“Whatever he wants to do, that’s on him. He’s been a proven player and a proven baller. That’s what he do, make big-time catches and make plays. If he wants to stop, that’s on him.”
Goodell, though, said he isn’t concerned about players retiring early becoming a long-term issue.
“I think each individual player makes his own individual decision about how long they play the game, who they play for, under what conditions they play,” Goodell said. “Those are individual decisions that we respect and they are made for different reasons. We will continue to support our players and continue to help them in those decision-making process, but I don’t see so many people walking away from the game.
“I don’t agree with that. I see great athletes playing this game and loving to play this game. I talk to players all the time and they say I hope I can play forever. They can’t. That’s not possible. But the guys who love this game, they are passionate about this game. And if you lose that passion, maybe it’s time to move on. That happens in life.”