Calvin Johnson: Hard to grip ball

Updated: November 8, 2012, 9:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Calvin Johnson said Thursday that he suffered nerve damage from hits suffered in the Detroit Lions' loss to the Minnesota Vikings in September, which has made it hard for him to grip the ball.

The Detroit Free Press highlighted two particular hits Johnson suffered in the Week 4 game, one by safety Harrison Smith to Johnson's upper chest that prevented a touchdown, and a helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Chad Greenway. Greenway was fined $21,000 for that hit, which Johnson said Thursday gave him a concussion.

"Actually had some nerve damage," Johnson said. "Taking those hits, man, they're real violent. They definitely have a lot of lingering impact. ... Stuff shooting down your arms and stuff like that."

Lions coach Jim Schwartz, however, disputed Johnson's claim that he was concussed on the hit, the Free Press reported.

The Lions had a bye following that game, but the newspaper reported that Johnson had at least three drops in the three games after the bye.

Johnson pointed to the nerve damage as one of the reasons for those drops. When asked if the hits made him reluctant to go over the middle to catch passes, Johnson told the newspaper that the nerve damage "was kind of messing up my grip a little bit."

He described the pain from the injury as "just stuff shooting down your arm," the newspaper reported.

Johnson didn't practice last week due to knee pain but still managed to catch seven passes for 129 yards in Sunday's victory at Jacksonville.

He hasn't practiced this week, either.

"It's coming along. Definitely feels better than it was at this point last week," Johnson said. "I've just been doing a lot of stuff in weight room, just to strengthen the muscle around it."

Johnson said he's feeling better, however, as the Lions prepare to face the Vikings on Sunday for the second time this season.

"It's definitely coming back, feeling a lot better, but it's the middle of the season," he told the Free Press.

The 27-year-old Johnson has just one touchdown reception this season, a year after finishing second in the NFL with 16 touchdown catches. He ranks third in the NFL this season with 767 receiving yards, however. He led the NFL last season with 1,681 yards.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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