Calvin Johnson’s beef with Lions and his $ 1.6 million claim, explained
Calvin Johnson is, without a doubt, one of the greatest Lions players of all time. In his heyday, the wide receiver was an unstoppable force in the league, destined not only for Canton, but for the highest heights in the record books – which is talked about in low tones with Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.
Then, at the age of 29, he finished. Strangely mimicking the early retirement of fellow Detroit legend Barry Sanders, Johnson decided to step away from his NFL career with his body and mind still intact. Since then, he has gone to great lengths with the organization.
Johnson did not thank the Lions at his Hall of Fame ceremony, despite Detroit being the only team he has ever played for. Most of that stems from a dispute over the $ 1.6 million that the Lions made Johnson pay back after he retired. Now he’s ready to fix the fences, but only if Detroit gives him back the money, in return for nothing in return. For some, it’s a small price to pay to bring an icon back into the fold.
What led to this point? Why is Johnson demanding payment from the team? And will Detroit be willing to donate money for nothing other than the opportunity to kiss a game-changing athlete again?
Whole beef is centered on Johnson’s health
From 2008 to 2013, Johnson was an Iron Man. A seemingly otherworldly receiver who had only missed three games, despite being the most physical receiver in the NFL. It wasn’t just Johnson’s size or speed that made him a transcendent athlete, but his willingness to do whatever was asked of him on the pitch – and that included putting his own body on the line.
For all the credit Matthew Stafford rightly gets for his time as Detroit’s QB, he was a pretty sloppy passer. Part of his big-game nature often meant receivers were left high and dry, being asked to catch tough high passes and cleared in the process. That’s part of what led to the romance of the Stafford / Johnson connection, but behind the scenes it was taking its toll.
In a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated, Johnson spoke about how damaging years of catching anything in his zip code were.
He got used to concussions. âBam, hit the ground very hard. I see stars; I can’t see well, âhe said. âBut I know in a few minutes everything will be fine. Because I have done it many times before.
According to his estimate, Johnson suffered nine concussions during his nine-year career in Detroit. The problem wasn’t necessarily the hits, although worrying it was the lack of attention he felt from the Lions. It was a responsibility for the NFL to have a star player discuss concussions in a public forum, so with public scrutiny following the suicide of Junior Seau, believed to be linked to CTE, when Johnson told media that ‘he had suffered a concussion which was was not cleared but continued to play, everyone remained on high alert.
âI knew I had been concussed because I passed out. I couldn’t see well. And they wanted me to change my story. Most of the time, he says, he’s suffered concussions because in his NFL that’s how you earn employee of the month.
Early in his career, it was here that Johnson began to be suspicious of the way his health was being treated by the Lions. Along with the concussions, there were injuries to the foot, ankle, both knees – and a mutilated finger that protruded at an angle. Johnson alleges that when he discussed resolving these issues with the Lions, their plan was still the same.
He says training staff told him to have it fixed after he retired.
“It’s not about the well-being of the players,” said Johnson, who in his career has missed only nine games. It’s just about having that product.
In order to cope with the pain and get himself somewhere to play each week, Johnson says he smoked cannabis weekly just to be ready for game day. Eventually, before his 10th season in the league, he decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. Johnson decided to quit football and finally give his body a chance to heal.
So where does the $ 1.6 million come from?
When Johnson retired in March 2016, the Lions ordered that he repay the $ 1.6 million signing bonus on the long-term extension he signed in 2012. Contractually, the Lions had the right to ask for reimbursement, but it was an extremely petty gesture. .
Technically, Detroit could have sought a $ 3.2 million settlement, but acted like they were graceful by only demanding half of Johnson. Keep in mind that this was money that couldn’t be used for any move on the roster, nor to bolster the cap – it was meant purely as a punishment for Johnson to decide to withdraw from the game.
Sure, Calvin Johnson was wealthy, but the money he made was pale compared to then-owner Martha Firestone Ford, worth an estimated $ 1.45 billion. Just wanting to put the whole chapter behind him, Johnson paid the money and vowed he would never set foot in the Lions facilities again. He felt like the time, effort and sacrifices he had made year after year to lose teams weren’t appreciated, his health wasn’t taken seriously, then when he finally made a move to take care of him on top of the organization, they went after him financially.
The Lions tried to redeem themselves … sort of
The important thing to understand here is that Johnson doesn’t need the money. This is not the purpose of this desired payment. For him, it is the principle and the symbology to make him feel welcome again.
Instead, the Lions made a sort of counter-offer, offering to pay back $ 1.6 million over three years, asking Johnson to work 28 hours a year for promotional dates. Johnson declined, saying it shows they aren’t serious about the offer – as Lions claim they aren’t allowed to make a lump sum payment under league rules, but the details of this claim are uncertain at best.
It comes down to a key issue: When a player of Johnson’s impact and importance retires, teams don’t ask for their signing bonuses back. It just isn’t done. Johnson felt like he had been singled out and punished, and now the proposal to “make amends” is tantamount to trying to make more money with Johnson.
Can this relationship be fixed?
Yeah, I mean, if Detroit really wants it. Johnson has said he is open to a meeting with the Lions so he can be a part of the team again, but this nickel and dime process the organization is involved in has interrupted talks.
A player of Johnson’s greatness is part of the legacy of the Lions. Fans deserve to appreciate his talents and to see him again on Ford Field. The only mistake bigger than greed to take your money in the first place would be to allow this ox to continue – and the ball is in the Lions court. At this moment, they continue to grope.