Calvin Johnson didn’t like how the Lions treated him when he retired

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One of the greatest players in Lions franchise history doesn’t feel great about the franchise now.

Calvin Johnson, the wide receiver who retired a year ago, said today that he’s not thinking about having his number retired and isn’t thinking much about the Lions at all these days.

“I don’t even like to talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press. “If they see me around here, we’ll see. But hey, I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out. That’s all. I mean, it’s all good. I’m not tripping. I don’t feel any kind of way, just hey, that’s what they did. Hey, it is what is.”

Asked to elaborate on how he was mistreated, Johnson declined.

“I mean, it’s simple,” he said. “It’s simple. It’s easy when you think about it.”

Johnson may be referring to the Lions’ decision to force Johnson to re-pay part of his signing bonus when he retired with a year left on his contract. When a player retires with time left on his contract, teams are allowed to require him to pay back a prorated portion of his signing bonus. But teams sometimes waive that right as a gesture of goodwill toward a valued member of the franchise. Johnson may have felt slighted when the Lions told him he had to pay up.

108 responses to “Calvin Johnson didn’t like how the Lions treated him when he retired

  1. Usually these sad post retirement relationship stories are published in the Milwaukee Sentinel.

  2. Mega talent who almost eclipsed 2000 yards receiving in a single season, being mistreated by the classless organization he played for. He does not even care about retiring his # there, that should tell you all you need to know!! No surprise the Lions have never won a Super Bowl..Oh wait never been to one. Hey Detroit at least you might HOST one soon!! Only franchise to complete the dream 0 – 16.

  3. He caught them off-guard with his unexpected decision to hang up his cleats. He forced the Lions to make adjustments they were not prepared to make. He had an obligation to keep the team informed well in advance, but didn’t do so. Sure, he’s a great player and all, but respect goes both ways. You _ _ _ _ with me, we’ll _ _ _ _ with you. It’s a business and it’s a two-way street. Nobody is feeling sorry for the Lions and I’m not feeling sorry for him.

  4. Can definitely see his side, but economics vary across the country. Things aren’t especially rosy in Detroit.

    Megatron DID make more $ than any other WR in NFL history during his career.

  5. Sounds like he wanted them to celebrate the fact he was retiring like some franchises do when a great is retiring, which is ridiculous because he was relatively unexpected until the year in which he actually retired. The Lions I’m sure we’re upset that their best player is deciding to retire 4-5 years ahead of when they planned.

  6. Barry Sanders, then Calvin Johnson. Seems like all-time great players would rather walk away from the game than continue to live in Detroit and play for the Lions. Can’t say that I blame them.

  7. GenXJ says:
    May 20, 2017 5:15 PM
    Usually these sad post retirement relationship stories are published in the Milwaukee Sentinel.
    ///////////////////////////////////

    You sound like a typical Viking troll that likes to get drunk and pick fights for no reason.

    Look no further than the Star Tribune and Rhett Ellison for ex-player superlatives.

    Heck, you can read the Trib article today about Zimmer if you are curious how bad things are in Minnesota.

  8. He made over 113 million from the Lions. If that isn’t being treated well enough he should go cry privately.

    SMH

  9. The Lions certainly didn’t need that extra money to put toward adding on to their trophy case.

  10. I loved watching him play even against the team I root for and in fact, the Packers should contact him and see if the can talk him back into playing – he could get the Lions back that way :~)

  11. linvillegorge says:
    May 20, 2017 5:35 PM

    Barry Sanders, then Calvin Johnson. Seems like all-time great players would rather walk away from the game than continue to live in Detroit and play for the Lions. Can’t say that I blame them.
    ————————————————————-
    Unfortunately, you are 100% correct. It really is a sad commentary on the Lions franchise.

  12. “It is what it is”. The most misused and overused phrase in sports. If “it is what it is”, then why contradict yourself? Either they slighted you or they didn’t…. so which is it?? Instead of saying”it is what it is”, Calvin should be saying “things aren’t always what they seem.”

  13. I’m a Packers guy. CJ always scared the living daylights out of me, and probably most Packer fans everytime we played them. That man literally sacrificed his body every gameday. For the Lions to ask for money back is just plain shameful.
    I don’t blame him for feeling disrespected. I’m sure most Lions fans respected his contributions each game. Apparently not from the front office.

  14. money paid out affects the salary cap—-which can be more important than the actual dollars given (if he really wanted the money then he should not have retired)

  15. thegreatgabbert says:
    May 20, 2017 5:31 PM
    “10 years I worked for that company, 10 years! All I’ve got to show for it is a lousy $130 million! I’m bitter.”.
    ——————–
    ^This. So much this…

  16. stellarperformance says:
    May 20, 2017 5:20 PM
    He caught them off-guard with his unexpected decision to hang up his cleats.
    *****************************************
    That’s not entirely true. It was rumored about halfway through the season he had been talking about it being his last year. The GM knew it was a possibility.

  17. Yes, he’s already on record saying he would’ve probably played another year if he thought the team had a chance at the playoffs…oh wait, they did. Oops.

    CJ was a great player but was unable to lift up those around him or the team, consistently at least.

    It wasn’t his fault and I’m not blaming him for the team’s failures (that dubious distinction falls on Millen and Mayhew both of whom sucked) but he simply lacked the leadership qualities and kill or be killed mentality that the best player on an NFL football team usually possesses.

    I wish him all the best!

  18. It is the kind of stuff bad culture teams do. I remember back in the day the stories of the Cardinals taking money out of players checks for the Fed Ex for sending hem their checks. Technically, it’s fine but would you want to work for an organization that nickeled and dimed you like that? Same thing here. This is one of your greatest players, and you’re acting like he was an assembly line worker at Ford who had been working there 5 years or something.

  19. stucats says:

    i would quit too if i lived in the arm-pit of America, why do you think good ol’ Barry Sanders packed it in?
    ===================================

    Aside from Dallas, almost all big citys with teams are armpits.

  20. It’s pretty rare to leave a job and for either side to not hold a grudge of some sort…in any profession. This is pretty normal if you ask me. Sure cj made a ton of money, but he made them even more money. Kind of cancels out.

  21. abninf says:
    May 20, 2017 6:42 PM

    Aside from Dallas, almost all big citys with teams are armpits.
    ————————————————————–
    Let me guess: You’re from Dallas? You couldn’t pay me to live there, but I’d happily move to Seattle, SF, LA, Boston, NY, Miami, etc, etc.

  22. You all can say what you want. But in my opinion, Calvin Johnson was not nearly as great at wide receiver as Barry Sanders was at running back. Great player, no doubt, but not in the top 4-5 at his position all time. As far as the Lions wanting their $ back, I say they’re entitled to it. The folks who say that’s wrong are probably not people who run businesses, but people who work for them. Just sayin’

  23. A lot of us non-CEO types who toil in business and industry are rewarded for decades of service with a layoff and paltry severance pay.

  24. Clearly shows how misguided fans are… If he mad 113 million over his career ? How much did the organization make over those years? I would have felt insulted too.

  25. @ walker1191

    Couldn’t agree more. Dallas is where they shoot great presidents and have morons for owners.

  26. He had another year in him to earn the money. They might have given him a nice parting sum, but probably didn’t want to set a precedent with the whole amount because more players will be retiring in the future before their contracts end.

  27. Am I wrong or wasn’t it reported they were considering cutting him anyway because of his cap number? I feel like there was a situation where he could have forced them to cut him and then they could not recover the bonus. Maybe he was too nice about it; he could have forced the issue and just not played without officially retiring.

  28. Megatron was amazing!! Feared him every time we played him. Lions should have immediately put him in the ring and retired his number. He was as good as Larry Fitzgerald….both no issues off the field.
    Lions are a pathetic organization. I didn’t blame him for jamming.
    I respected the fact he didn’t try to force a trade…but as a fan of the game he should have.

  29. His cap hit was killing the Lions and his skills had diminished due to the pounding he had taken catching jump balls. He physically could not do it an more and the Lions could not pay a $25M cap hit. It was a mutual agreement , I do not know why he is crying after making $120 M. Reports indicated that he was a saver….not a spender.

  30. If it’s a money thing that he’s upset about, then he picked a bad time to retire, because not a single person who was responsible for bringing him to town is still with the organization.

    New regime, new rules.

  31. He forced the Lions to make adjustments they were not prepared to make

    Guys don’t get notice when they’re cut.

    Guess it can work both ways.

    A career wasted on a loser team.

  32. I worked at the same power plant plant for 39 1/2 years — all of it shift work, including weekends and holidays. It had been sold by the company I worked for for 28 years and I finished the last 11 1/2 with the new company.
    The new company bankrupted the plant and were trying to lay everybody off. I retired and that night at midnight the union went on strike. When all was said and done, the company walked away from it and laid off all the 100+ employees. I was one of the lucky ones, because I was old enough to retire.
    I said goodbye on my last day there, wished my co-workers good luck, drove to the gate and gave the security guard my hard hat, keys, and gate pass. He said, ” what do you want me to do with these?” I told him he could do whatever he wanted, because I was retired as soon as I drove through the gate. That was in 2012 and I haven’t been there since.
    That was what I got after 39 1/2 years. No retirement dinner, no thanks from the big bosses, nothing. Just my pension, and they tried to screw me out of a part of that.
    So pardon me if I don’t feel too sorry for Calvin Johnson.

  33. TheWizard says:
    May 20, 2017 9:20 PM

    A career wasted on a loser team.
    ————————————————————–
    It’s just as simple as that.

  34. I don’t think it’s as petty as what the writer is speculating.

    If you really think about it the impression I get at least is that the team tried to blackmail him into not retiring when he informed them of his decision by saying “if you retire we’ll make you pay back this money”. Maybe I’m the only one to remember how desperate the Lions got to try to get him to change his mind including Barry Sanders trying to talk him out of it. From that standpoint he has every right to feel the way he does since they showed they could care less about him and the time he put in. It’s not Johnsons fault they were a terrible team. Let’s not forget the Bengals tried to do the same thing to Carson Palmer.

  35. Try working in the real world, Calvin, where you get paid dirt, get treated like dirt, and are instantly forgotten about when you leave.

    Also, did I mention that your last 10 years are spent working for a 26 year old MBA who knows nothing? Go tell your troubles to someone who cares if you can find anybody.

  36. C. Johnson was the only after Barry Sanders that will be remembered from the Detroit Lions organization. It is amazing the he did as well as he did considering that their opponents always structured their defense to stop him, often double and tripling the coverage in him, since there as no one else to worry about. And he still made the catches! It’s sad that their organization was in such dire financial disrepair that they saw fit to demand he return part of a signing bonus that they had given him 10 years previously. I am sure he gave them way more quality play than they ever imagined he would. Look to tomorrow CJ and don’t look back.

  37. nyneal,
    Thank you for your dedication in serving as a real American worker for almost 4 decades. Don’t blame you for walking away even though you were willing to work further. Business is business. Some jobs separate the majority of the people as “equipment” & the other few as “the team.” All is lost when experience goes out the window.

  38. All of you talk CJ and Barry, but love him or hate him, Matthew Stafford has been the face of the Lions since he was drafted. And, as a NFL fan, Stafford makes games exciting, just like Brees makes games exciting. I never watched a Lions game because of CJ, I do watch Lions games because of Stafford.

  39. He should have just showed up that last season out of shape and pulled a hammy in the preseason. He could ride the pine all season, get paid handsomely and then go get a SB ring with the Patriots.

  40. Mr. Johnson,

    The Lions, like any other NFL team, are not going to celebrate your career because YOU didn’t put it all together and win them a championship.

    You walked away as you should have, with as many faculties intact as is warranted after a nine year career.

    YOUR peers lauded you constantly, year after year.

    Now, you will be called a quitter (see above troll comments), but it’s the truth.

    And it’s nothing new, sir. Go ask Barry Sanders. The consummate professional. Ask Mr. Sanders what they said about him:

    quitter

    Congrats on a great career and your impending Hall of Fame induction.

  41. It is a business. Getting that money back gave the team more cap room and gave them an opportunity to be more competitive. That bonus money was designed to compensate you for all of the years in the contract, not just the ones you decided to play.

  42. Athletes are usually less in touch with reality than most.

    Crossing my fingers this post doesn’t get deleted. Pretty sad to make a comment about sports media, another out-of-touch-with-reality group, and have it deleted. Yet other people can conduct personal attacks and get away with it. What gives?

  43. JBLionsFan says:
    May 20, 2017 10:51 PM

    Lions are building. They’ll be tough this year. Name one team on their schedule that thinks it will be an easy win.
    ————————————————————
    That may be true. Unfortunately, Johnson played nearly all of his career for a poorly constructed, badly coached team that got no respect from anyone, especially the refs. At some point you decide it’s not worth the pain and effort.

  44. Lose a lot of respect for Megatron here. Great player (although overrated), but get over yourself. You never had that real desire to be great. Detroit owed you nothing.

  45. If I recall correctly the lions never pressured him to make a decision it was always when you decide we’ll go with your answer. And if he’s upset about having to give back part of his bonus then he shouldn’t be. If I pay someon to do job x over x number of years for x dollars and I only get him for v number of yours I’d say he only earned v dollars

  46. GenXJ says:
    May 20, 2017 9:49 PM
    nyneal,
    Thank you for your dedication in serving as a real American worker for almost 4 decades. Don’t blame you for walking away even though you were willing to work further. Business is business. Some jobs separate the majority of the people as “equipment” & the other few as “the team.” All is lost when experience goes out the window.

    _______________________________________

    Thanks for the kind words. I agree with you about the experience. One of the biggest mistakes big companies make is to buy out their senior employees because they are trying to trim the fat. Education and knowledge are great things, but experience is just as important.
    I started working at the job where I am currently employed (school bus driver) 3 days after I left that plant, and when ever I could, I joined my former fellow co-workers on the picket line for a couple of months after I retired from there, too. The strike did no good. The company just went to court and shut the place down. It is now owned by a different company and they’ve re-hired only a small portion of the former employees, and now make them work 12 hour shifts. It was sad, and I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar.

  47. Really? I’m not even a Lions fan and this annoys me. So you had a contract right? Then you didn’t honor it and quit on the team and the fans? You think the team should be psyched and throw you a party? What is the matter with people these days.

    I am still flabbergasted that Tiki Barber quit on the Giants like he did and can’t stand him til this day. He was a favorite of mine at the time too. Obviously it’s their right to quit but it’s everyone else’s right not to like it. Sorry bro, but fans like you because you’re part of their team, not because you seem like a nice guy or something.

  48. walker1191 says:
    May 20, 2017 7:41 PM
    abninf says:
    May 20, 2017 6:42 PM

    Aside from Dallas, almost all big citys with teams are armpits.
    ————————————————————–
    Let me guess: You’re from Dallas? You couldn’t pay me to live there, but I’d happily move to Seattle, SF, LA, Boston, NY, Miami, etc, etc.

    As a NE fan I’d like to point out that Boston is not home to and NFL team. Providence is closer. Boston declined building a Stadium years ago.

  49. Simple fact, when you work for someone, you’re just a spare part in a junk yard. Some learn that early on, some learn it late.

  50. walker1191 says:

    Let me guess: You’re from Dallas? You couldn’t pay me to live there, but I’d happily move to Seattle, SF, LA, Boston, NY, Miami, etc, etc.
    ===================================

    You wouldn’t do it for economic or quality of life reasons. I do get the feeling Austin might attract you. It’s basically mini-LA with a lower cost of living.

  51. janneywheels says:
    May 20, 2017 10:57 PM
    He shoulda been a Jet.

    They bake you cupcakes on your birthday, even when you’re not on their team.

    ::::::::::::

    I don’t think that’s for just anyone they do that. For example Tom Brady never got cupcakes baked for him.

    But if he had it still would have been more likely to come from the Jets than from Belichick baking them.

  52. I worked 30 years for the same company the last year was my highest at 45k ,,,,,I retired on a Friday I was treated like I was coming back on Monday !

  53. The Lions were in a tough spot. With Stafford, Suh, and Calvin being top two picks in the rookie windfall days, and all three being really good players.

    They were held over a barrel by Suh, and were wise to let him go to Miami.

    Calvin talked about retirement, the Lions had to make a decision. If I remember right, it was a significant chunk of cap space that Lions were having to hold while he waffled like Favre. What did you expect them to do?

    Years ago, I told a boss I was thinking of leaving at the end of the month. I was fired two days later. Never did go back to see if my badge number was retired there.

  54. Give them a foot and they take a yard.

    If they allow one year another player will try to retire with two years… its simple really business is business

  55. He played 9 seasons, but his skills seemed to be on the decline in 2015. Detroit wanted him to stay and continue to build his HOF resume, but not at the $25 million cap hit that was coming. Obviously his choice, but I looked at his retirement as quiting on the team. Detroit did too obviously, because they took part of his signing bonus back

  56. golions1 says:
    May 20, 2017 10:50 PM

    It is a business. Getting that money back gave the team more cap room and gave them an opportunity to be more competitive. That bonus money was designed to compensate you for all of the years in the contract, not just the ones you decided to play.

    _______________________________

    Typical delusional excuse from the one and only Lions fan with 500 handles on here. Get a grip stoner kid, the Lions are the Browns of the NFC. They have ONE playoff win in sixty years. They ruin the careers of NFL superstars decade after decade, by wasting their talent and making them suffer! Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Nad Suh……This list will continue…..

  57. I love how you lame asses are trying to compare your job with an NFL athlete.

    Unless you are one of 1800 or so people in your field….then No you arent going to get Calvin Johnson money.

  58. Hurt feelings on the Lions part I think. They believed as did many others that Johnson still had a lot left in the tank so when he retired they felt like Johnson sleighted them

  59. Calvin was the alltime pile up the stats when it didn’t matter guy . Hard to win when your highest paid player hides in crunch time .

  60. abninf says:

    Aside from Dallas, almost all big citys with teams are armpits.

    ===================================

    Agreed. Dallas is not an armpit; it is the bottom dwelling region of the national anatomy.

  61. BillAndTomsAsteriskAdventure says:
    May 20, 2017 5:27 PM
    Can definitely see his side, but economics vary across the country. Things aren’t especially rosy in Detroit.

    =====

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Ford family is personally feeling the economic pinch much of Detroit is.

  62. thegreatgabbert says:
    May 20, 2017 5:31 PM
    “10 years I worked for that company, 10 years! All I’ve got to show for it is a lousy $130 million! I’m bitter.”.
    ===

    Yes, and the owners made 5 times that with no risk their bodies or minds.

    Why are people so envious of the money athletes make but have no issue with how much old white male owners make?

  63. kneedragr says:
    May 20, 2017 10:28 PM

    He should have just showed up that last season out of shape and pulled a hammy in the preseason. He could ride the pine all season, get paid handsomely and then go get a SB ring with the Patriots.
    ______________________

    This is typical of the underhanded, cheating methodologies employed by the patsies and promoted by their fans.

  64. karlpk says:
    May 20, 2017 5:51 PM

    I loved watching him play even against the team I root for and in fact, the Packers should contact him and see if the can talk him back into playing – he could get the Lions back that way :~)
    ______________________

    Nice try but Calvin retired. The Lions still own his playing rights.

  65. With all due respect Calvin. You are leaving us to speculate why your upset. When asked by the writer to expound you said no reason to. Clearly there is. You dropped the mic and walked away. So let’s assume it is the fact they asked you to pay back a portion of your signing bonus.

    The fact is they only asked you to pay back 1/10th $320,000 of what they were entitled to $3.2 million. They made you the highest paid receiver in the history of the game and they were very generous with letting you contemplate your future. They didn’t pressure you for a decision or try to change your mind.

    If it’s another reason Calvin please state what it is, or move on to the next chapter of your life.

  66. I’m seeing a lot of comments along the lines like “Calvin should’ve kept the Lions in the know that he was going to retire.”

    First of all, he did. He didn’t wait until the beginning of the season, after the draft and after free agency to retire. So cancel that nonsense now, please and thank you.

    Secondly, how often do teams let players know that they’ll be cutting them?

    You expect player loyalty to the franchise, yet when the franchise shows no loyalty to the player we don’t even bat an eye.

    This is a pro-authoritarian, anti-worker sentiment.

    Most of you aren’t owners, you’re employees. Pick your sides accordingly.

  67. TheVikingsHaveHowManySBTrophys? says:
    May 20, 2017 6:19 PM

    I’m a Packers guy.
    ))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

    Nobody would have guessed.

  68. TD had more yards rushing in a season than you had receiving and he only retired because of injuries. If you call yourself CJ2K, you need to live up to it . Something for nothing is hard to get in the NFL.

  69. Gee let me take a wild guess here, you spent the money and then found out you had to pay it back and what your agent said the lions screwed you, they never ask for the money back.

  70. He wasnt a 25 mil a year player towards the end and the lions told him that. They expected him to take a pay cut, he refused, said he would retire and they said fine. He wasnt all that great the last two years except in his mind.

  71. Pretty hard to draw any conclusions from what he said unless he’s willing to say exactly what the Lions did wrong.

  72. CJ, an elite player in the NFL (2007–2015), earned the right to express his disappointment in the Detroit Lions organization in any way he sees fit.

    Conversely, those who dislike CJ are granted the right by PFT to post critical comments about CJ, even though they aren’t elite at anything and never will be. Most of them can’t even punctuate at sentence without numerous errors. It’s laughable how their imaginations must work. Thank you guys so much for the laughs. You make my day.

  73. walker1191 says:
    May 20, 2017 7:41 PM
    abninf says:
    May 20, 2017 6:42 PM

    Aside from Dallas, almost all big citys with teams are armpits.
    ————————————————————–
    Let me guess: You’re from Dallas? You couldn’t pay me to live there, but I’d happily move to Seattle, SF, LA, Boston, NY, Miami, etc, etc.

    ———–

    Not only that but Jerry Jones has turned the Cowboys into an armpit of a franchise….when was the last time they won anything relevant? They have what…two playoff wins in the last 15 years?

  74. CJ says he isn’t tripping. I think you are. What is this about CJ the $320,000 from your signing bonus the Lions asked you to pay back? He gave no example of poor treatment by the Lions.

  75. stellarperformance says:
    May 20, 2017 5:20 PM

    He caught them off-guard with his unexpected decision to hang up his cleats. He forced the Lions to make adjustments they were not prepared to make. He had an obligation to keep the team informed well in advance, but didn’t do so. Sure, he’s a great player and all, but respect goes both ways. You _ _ _ _ with me, we’ll _ _ _ _ with you. It’s a business and it’s a two-way street. Nobody is feeling sorry for the Lions and I’m not feeling sorry for him.
    —————————————————————
    Caught off guard? he announced his retirement prior to the draft about 4 weeks after the conclusion of the season on March 8th, i dont know how much soon or any more notice a man of his status could give a team…players come and go, a team should never be caught off guard by what a player in his 30’s does…an yes before the draft, mini camps and anything else is well in advance, stick to the packers pages bub

  76. Because of him we had to troll through the Marvin Jones Jr. disappearing act/experiment last year. 8mil a year for Jones to be stymied by man-to-man, bump and run coverage with 0 over the top. Seriously, watch the tape. Jones was weak. This is the only knock against Calvin.

    Other than that Calvin was a class act. Retire his number and treat him like we treat Barry.

    In Quinn we trust.

  77. The Chips always fall where they should. The human was a great players for that team. If they treat him negatively, it’s because, he did something not right/correct. Any business that deal with Million Dollar payments to it’s Employees, are warranted answers to questions when one quits out of the blue. And, keeps the cash.

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