Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions do not get along. And if the Lions want Johnson anywhere near the team in the future, they’ll have to shell out some cash.
“They already know what they got to do,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press this weekend at his annual football camp in the city. “The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”
For a bit of context — when Johnson retired abruptly after the 2015 season at the age of 30, the Lions asked him to repay a portion on his $16 million signing bonus he received on his last contract. The exact amount Johnson repaid is unclear, but it’s reported to have been at least $1 million.
The Lions went through a similar dispute with Barry Sanders when the Hall of Fame running back stepped away from the game in 1999. That relationship was mended in time, and Sanders is now a paid ambassador for the team.
Lions president Rod Wood said last month it’s a priority for the franchise to repair its relationship with Johnson.
“That’s on the agenda this year, reaching out to him,” Wood told the Detroit Free Press. “We have Barry (Sanders) coming in this week for a couple events and I want to kind of try and find a way to do something similar to what we’ve been doing with Barry if Calvin would be interested. So that’s on my agenda to get to him and talk about it.”
According to Johnson, that conversation has yet to happen.
“I ain’t talked to Rod. I don’t even want to talk about that,” Johnson said. “I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. Had the rookies, [Marvin Jones] came out, they did a great job with the kids. I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kind of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that.”
Johnson, a six-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection, finished his career with 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns — all Lions franchise records.