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Calvin Johnson: “Didn’t see that opportunity” to win in Detroit

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Calvin Johnson hasn’t said all that much about his decision to retire — in America.

But during a promotional trip to Italy, the former Lions receiver admitted all the losing he was subject to eventually wore him out.

Via the Detroit News, Johnson told the Italian press that the losing coupled with his own injuries made it easier to walk away.

“That’s everybody’s goal, when they come to the league, is to win a Super Bowl,” Johnson said. “That’s the ultimate goal. … I wanted to win it, and like I said, I just didn’t see that opportunity [with the Lions].”

He played 135 games over nine seasons for the Lions, and they were 49-86 in those games.

And since American sports stars combining forces seems to have caught on in basketball, he was asked if he considered changing teams, when he expressed his frustration at not being able to.

“I mean, I thought about it,” Johnson replied. “Just like in basketball, you know, guys, they create these superteams. But it’s not quite like that in football where I had the freedom just to go.

“I was stuck in my contract with Detroit, and they told me, they would not release my contract, so I would have to come back to them. I didn’t see the chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time, and for the work I was putting in, it wasn’t worth my time to keep on beating my head against the wall … and not going anywhere.

“It’s the definition of insanity,” he added with a laugh.

Johnson had previously alluded to contractual matters as a source of his frustration, and to be honest, nothing he said was false. He was stuck on a lot of bad teams, though things were turning for the better on his way out the door.

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74 Responses to “Calvin Johnson: “Didn’t see that opportunity” to win in Detroit”
  1. doctorrustbelt says: Jul 11, 2017 4:51 PM

    Addition thru subtraction.

  2. enkay85 says: Jul 11, 2017 4:54 PM

    “He was stuck on a lot of bad teams, though things were turning for the better on his way out the door.”

    ___________________________________

    This is definitely (imo) true, but as that .362 winning percentage likely already left its mark. The damage was done.

  3. Stupid Lions Fan says: Jul 11, 2017 4:54 PM

    ‘stuck in his contract’ HA! What a joke. Convenient that CJ leaves out the fact that he was highest paid WR in NFL history making it hard for the team to put talent around him.

    Also interesting that players don’t take accountability when they leave, says ‘them’ instead of ‘us’ as if he wasn’t a part of all that losing.

  4. Bl00dwerK says: Jul 11, 2017 4:56 PM

    Nobody else saw it either.

  5. mzew233 says: Jul 11, 2017 4:59 PM

    how has belichick not called this guy?

  6. cobrala2 says: Jul 11, 2017 4:59 PM

    What I’m a gonna say has no bearing on what kind of WR he is…

    If Calvin Johnson truly wanted to win a SB so bad he’d find a way out of Detroit. He was drafted by Detroit but HE CHOSE to stay in Detroit.

    That’s on him.

  7. wannabear says: Jul 11, 2017 5:00 PM

    This guy is way smarter than I thought I am a Bears fan but I have always admired him.

  8. godfatherd says: Jul 11, 2017 5:00 PM

    “Stuck in my contract” is not the proper term to use when you sign a $127 million dollar deal and decide half way through you would rather play somewhere else.

  9. doctorrustbelt says: Jul 11, 2017 5:02 PM

    Dear calvin johnson,

    You ARE NOT Barry Sanders.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Rustbelt

  10. btv77 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:04 PM

    Stupid Lions Fan says:
    Jul 11, 2017 4:54 PM
    ‘stuck in his contract’ HA! What a joke. Convenient that CJ leaves out the fact that he was highest paid WR in NFL history making it hard for the team to put talent around him.

    Also interesting that players don’t take accountability when they leave, says ‘them’ instead of ‘us’ as if he wasn’t a part of all that losing.
    _________________________________________

    I get what you’re saying but the organization agreed to the deal as well. It’s on them to make the numbers work. If you want the best WR in football then you have to pay him accordingly. Detroit has a long history of struggling to find success in the post season. That points directly to organizational problems. The Fords need to sell the team or pony up the cash for top flight management and get out of their way.

  11. kenmasters34 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:05 PM

    Terrible what they did to Barry Sanders….

  12. Mike Klingensmith says: Jul 11, 2017 5:07 PM

    Yeah because they really twisted your arm making you sign that huge contract.

  13. afifthlombardiforthehaters says: Jul 11, 2017 5:08 PM

    Well calvin its not to late to get what you want 2017 hasnt started yet & it seems like New England is headed right where you want to get to again ……😁

    Just Sayin…..😎

  14. Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: Jul 11, 2017 5:10 PM

    It must be tough to be a Lions fan and this is coming from a Bucs fan. We’ve maybe had ten total good years since 1976.

  15. tonyzendejas says: Jul 11, 2017 5:10 PM

    I saw it…and then Pete Morelli picked it up because he gets frightened when the Dallas crowd boos at him.

  16. mikewhorio says: Jul 11, 2017 5:11 PM

    Great natural ability, great player, but much like Barry Sanders I never thought he had that “win at all costs” attitude like the truly great ones do.

  17. bencoates57 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:13 PM

    If be wanted to play for a winning team, he can’t swallow 80% of the cap space. You need to pay people to play on your side if the line of scrimmage.

  18. Stupid Lions Fan says: Jul 11, 2017 5:22 PM

    btv77 says:
    Jul 11, 2017 5:04 PM

    I get what you’re saying but the organization agreed to the deal as well. It’s on them to make the numbers work. If you want the best WR in football then you have to pay him accordingly. Detroit has a long history of struggling to find success in the post season. That points directly to organizational problems. The Fords need to sell the team or pony up the cash for top flight management and get out of their way.
    ________________________

    What are you talking about? Antonio Brown is NOW the highest paid WR, do the Steelers with 6 SB’s have an org problem?? You pay for talent, period. He was ‘stuck’ in the richest WR contract, POOR GUY.

  19. Before you hate, just make sure you refer to him as '2015 PRO BOWL MVP' Matthew Stafford says: Jul 11, 2017 5:29 PM

    You bowed out too early, Calvin. Did you see how Stafford was even better with you gone? He’s gotten a rough roster to the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years and now Quinn has this roster improving drastically. This isn’t SOL anymore. You’ll be watching the different, new Lions win a Super Bowl from your couch in the next few years!

  20. thingamajig says: Jul 11, 2017 5:29 PM

    “stuck in my contract”. I didn’t know they rookie contracts that lasted 9 years.

  21. rainsarge says: Jul 11, 2017 5:32 PM

    In my lifetime the Lions have 2 playoff victories.

  22. jackedupboonie says: Jul 11, 2017 5:34 PM

    He was stuck. One thing players could negotiate is for player options halfway through contracts instead of teams being the only ones who are able to retain or rip up contracts.

  23. jonathankrobinson424 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:39 PM

    …so come back and be a LEADER!!! You think Peyton Manning sat around whinning about not being on a winning team. A LEADER brings up the people around him, not sulks in a corner about why things arn’t working out. His comments indicate WHY he was part of the losing mentality in Detroit.

  24. nflhof says: Jul 11, 2017 5:40 PM

    Quitter is all you are Calvin

  25. possumsauce says: Jul 11, 2017 5:44 PM

    “rainsarge says:
    Jul 11, 2017 5:32 PM
    In my lifetime the Lions have 2 playoff victories.”

    Take heart, they still have FOUR more world championships than Minnesota.

  26. ricko1112 says: Jul 11, 2017 5:45 PM

    What are you talking about? Antonio Brown is NOW the highest paid WR, do the Steelers with 6 SB’s have an org problem?? You pay for talent, period. He was ‘stuck’ in the richest WR contract, POOR GUY.
    _________________________
    The Steelers 6 SB rings have nothing to do with AB. The 2 SBs they won this century (not before free agency and the salary cap) never would have happened if they made stupid deals like this. Of course, Seattle and Arizona got hosed by the refs all game long too. It would have been comical if it weren’t so disgusting.

  27. stellarperformance says: Jul 11, 2017 5:46 PM

    I thought the Lions had all the makings of a SuperBowl caliber team a few years ago. So did he. That’s why he re-signed. That’s why he stayed. So shut up.

  28. aypeeswhippingstick says: Jul 11, 2017 5:56 PM

    This describes succinctly the experience of the hundreds of players who wear or wore the purple in Minnesota the past half century or so.

  29. dregonspengler says: Jul 11, 2017 6:15 PM

    jackedupboonie says:
    One thing players could negotiate is for player options halfway through contracts instead of teams being the only ones who are able to retain or rip up contracts.

    Technically, NFL teams are not “ripping up contracts?” If they were they’d be in court 24/7.
    NFL contracts — like those in most of the rest of the working world, aside from the idiots that run MLB and the NBA — are not guaranteed.
    They are, in fact, a series of pre-negotiated one year deals. Each contract stipulates that each subsequent year of the deal kicks in only at the team’s discretion. If a team does not exercise its option for another year then the player becomes what many veterans aspire to be — an unrestricted free agent.
    Teams do it that way because, like your boss and mine, they will not give guaranteed deals. Also, because the league would be in chaos if every player became a free agent at the end of every year.
    The NFLPA accepts the multi-year option at the team’s discretion in exchange for a portion of each player contract being fully guaranteed. That means a guy can underperform, or miss games for off-field behavior, and still walk away with hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in guaranteed money they often did not earn.
    There are always two sides to every coin. So why do so many people complain when a team cuts a guy before it’s exercised all its one-year options — falsely accusing it of not honoring the deal, when in fact it did — yet they give players a pass for the often-times unearned money they “steal” from a team?
    I find your proposal is intriguing, but I don’t see the NFL giving in on it. They gave the players free agency, meaning they can keep them only four or five years (for first-round picks) on one deal. I can’t foresee them agreeing to develop a guy and let him walk at his discretion after only two or three years. But, you never know.
    A lot of things that are negotiable in collective bargaining. But the players will NEVER give up free agency, and the owners will NEVER agree to guaranteed contracts (aside from perhaps a few star QBs having their salary tied to the salary cap).

  30. alwaters9 says: Jul 11, 2017 6:26 PM

    I was a Calvin fan until now. Never realized he was so unhappy with the Lions. He wasn’t forced to sign that huge contract extension but he did. I guess money was more important than winning. I used to overlook some of the key fumbles and drops that he had (Chicago- the Calvin rule to lose the game, Seattle the fumble in the end zone to lose the game and Dallas playoff game drop near the goal line – game lost). I wonder if those were due to lack of concentration because he was unhappy?

  31. jimbobcooterqbtutor says: Jul 11, 2017 6:34 PM

    Yes, Calvin swallowed a lot of cap space, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he signed a team-friendly deal – GM Mayhew, although he made some good draft choices and trades, was awful at filling the team with quality depth and that was their downfall when the inevitable injuries struck.

    He also made too many boneheaded draft picks and trades to ever build a consistently winning team.

  32. staffordwives9999 says: Jul 11, 2017 6:34 PM

    Sounds like sour grapes from a overrated, grossly over paid WR. He should be on his knees thanking Matthew Stafford for the ridiculous 120 million dollar contract he got 5 years ago. Last 3 years Slow.. many drops balls.. injuries. A far cry from the player he was.

  33. manderson4150 says: Jul 11, 2017 6:45 PM

    As a Lion’s follower, they really kissed his backside….he didn’t have to stay, but he did….

  34. abninf says: Jul 11, 2017 6:47 PM

    Promotional trip in Italy? He’s promoting himself in a country that never heard of him?

  35. timegambit says: Jul 11, 2017 6:56 PM

    Megatron will soon be Megaton.

  36. nyneal says: Jul 11, 2017 7:18 PM

    Johnson feels exactly the way Barry Sanders felt when he left. They both were class acts who gave everything they had to the Lions and they were burned out from losing.
    It’s totally understandable and I give them both credit for leaving even though they were still capable of playing at a high level.
    There are some pros who play for more than just the money and Sanders and Johnson were two.

  37. campcouch says: Jul 11, 2017 7:23 PM

    Didn’t he sign that new contract? He wasn’t forced to stay and I’m sure a team of his choosing would have paid him as well. Sounds like he has regrets but his ego won’t let him return to the league.

  38. williamwallacewouldhavebeenaraider says: Jul 11, 2017 7:44 PM

    The Lions have had 2 all time great players retire early instead of playing for them. That’s gotta hurt

  39. clq1089 says: Jul 11, 2017 7:55 PM

    Before you hate, just make sure you refer to him as ‘2015 PRO BOWL MVP’ Matthew Stafford says:
    Jul 11, 2017 5:29 PM
    You bowed out too early, Calvin. Did you see how Stafford was even better with you gone? He’s gotten a rough roster to the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years and now Quinn has this roster improving drastically. This isn’t SOL anymore. You’ll be watching the different, new Lions win a Super Bowl from your couch in the next few years!

    Lol they haven’t even won the division since 1993.. they should start with winning that…

  40. mattstaffordsays says: Jul 11, 2017 7:57 PM

    I’m leaving soon too, good move Calvin, the wasted talent train that is the Detroit Lions, won’t every stop!

  41. absodefinitely says: Jul 11, 2017 8:01 PM

    doctorrustbelt says:
    Jul 11, 2017 5:02 PM
    Dear calvin johnson,

    You ARE NOT Barry Sanders.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Rustbelt

    ——————————————————–Barry Sanders is a cautionary tale, anyone drafted by the Lions considering signing a second contract need only to look at how that franchise treated its best player ever…get out ASAP…

  42. spartylegendhyzersmadcuzlionssobad says: Jul 11, 2017 8:03 PM

    One playoff win in SIXTY YEARS! 0-16 season in the past decade. Pathetic playoff losses, fans blaming everything (mainly sound referees and solid/ error free officiating) but the coaches and Stafford inability to win games that matter due to horrid turnovers….You made the right decision, the Lions are the worst team in the NFC and there is no signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

    Glad you don’t have to deal with that shame and embarrassment of being in a Lions uniform and that garbage city of Democratic Detroit!

  43. spartylegendhyzersmadcuzlionssobad says: Jul 11, 2017 8:09 PM

    One playoff win in SIXTY YEARS! 0-16 season in the past decade. Pathetic playoff losses, fans blaming everything (mainly sound referees and solid/ error free officiating) but the coaches and Stafford inability to win games that matter due to horrid turnovers….You made the right decision, the Lions are the worst team in the NFC and there is no signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

    Glad you don’t have to deal with that shame and embarrassment of being in a Lions uniform and that garbage city of Dem0cratic Detr0it!

  44. nitzie says: Jul 11, 2017 8:10 PM

    He would have retired at 28 in Minnesota.

  45. radrntn says: Jul 11, 2017 8:18 PM

    I just wonder if he is going to come and hang out at the raiders summer camp , as he did this past spring at the raiders ota’s……where there is smoke there just might be fire…..

  46. tweetypiehearts says: Jul 11, 2017 8:19 PM

    classless comment

  47. darkbaconlips says: Jul 11, 2017 8:30 PM

    Detroit is the armpit of the NFL.

  48. tremoluxman says: Jul 11, 2017 8:31 PM

    CJ, when you realized you were playing for a crap team, you shouldn’t have signed a long-term deal. You opted for the Big Bux instead of playing out your contract and signing with a potential winner while you were still in your prime.

  49. harrisonhits2 says: Jul 11, 2017 8:41 PM

    “how has belichick not called this guy?”

    Lions still own his right he can’t talk to him. He would have to call the Lions and see what absurd compensation they’d want to let the Pats sign him.

    Not to mention he would blow out their cap management with what they’d have to pay him

  50. Before you hate, just make sure you refer to him as '2015 PRO BOWL MVP' Matthew Stafford says: Jul 11, 2017 8:58 PM

    You don’t have to win the division to win a Super Bowl. Ravens in 2012. If Stafford doesn’t hurt his finger this year after winning 8 of 9 games, I could see them making that kind of Ravens run. That and Ameer staying on the field

  51. emmonsh says: Jul 11, 2017 9:00 PM

    johnson disappeared in big games. The lions are a much better team now. He was the loser. all that money for nothing.

  52. intrafinesse says: Jul 11, 2017 9:11 PM

    I’ll tell you what, you pay me $64,000,000 over 7 years and I’ll walk buck naked up and down your block a few hours a day during the summer and I’ll sing praises to you.

    Yeah it sucks playing for a bad team. It also sucks to have to work for a living and support your family and worry about your future and your kids futures and paying for college and …
    Yeah , all that stuff that 64MM takes care of.

  53. notthesameolelions says: Jul 11, 2017 9:44 PM

    Should have given that big money contract to Suh!

  54. racerx1225 says: Jul 11, 2017 10:25 PM

    He’ll win a Super Bowl with the Raiders this year…. maybe next.

    You heard it here first.

  55. racerx1225 says: Jul 11, 2017 10:26 PM

    and the Lions sucked ass, why do you think guys like him and Sanders retire early, they get sick of playing for a losing team and a losing organization and please, spare us the BS about his contract holding the team back. Every team has high paid WR’s or they suck.

  56. catchallstash says: Jul 11, 2017 10:33 PM

    Wow, could the lions suck more? They cause 2 of the best football players in history to retire early. Words can not express my disdain for that organization for what they did to Barry and Calvin….and I am not even a fan of the team.

  57. ronbno24 says: Jul 11, 2017 10:36 PM

    Actually he was stuck… Free agency for top players like Calvin never hit free agency.. he would’ve been franchised!! So he’s essentially forced to negotiate with Detroit and get the best deal possible… With the franchise in their back pocket the teams are at an advantage… So yea he was stuck

  58. vegaskid21 says: Jul 11, 2017 10:43 PM

    With that chubby, turnover machine, fat headed so called quarterback the Lions have, I don’t blame Calvin for bailing.

  59. LionsPride69 says: Jul 11, 2017 11:14 PM

    I used to love Calvin. I still have his jersey. That being said, he has done nothing but belly ache after he quit early and they made him pay his bonus back. The guy sucks up all the cap space then complains they can’t win a Super Bowl. We wont get into his costly drops and fumbles in crunch times. So Calvin, shut your pie hole and go put on your 127 million dollar dancing shoes twinkle toes.

  60. LakefrontLegend says: Jul 12, 2017 1:05 AM

    I don’t like these comments by Johnson, not necessary

  61. akemp3000 says: Jul 12, 2017 5:02 AM

    CJ’s comment about being stuck was related to his inability to move to another team, not about money. He’s always been a quality individual raised by quality parents. Wish there were more like him in the NFL. I agree he should have figured out a way to leave Detroit early on but am guessing he hoped at the time that he, Stafford and Suh could turn it around. He learned a hard lesson about Lions football.

  62. bullcharger says: Jul 12, 2017 7:11 AM

    That’s exactly the reason most people assumed he retired. It’s a shame that Det would put a guy in that position after so many good years of service instead of trading him. Sure he has a contract, but why not get something out of it instead of letting him retire. That was really a selfish/ego driven move.

  63. BigAlHeBDMan says: Jul 12, 2017 9:26 AM

    After a stellar player matures and realizes he has enough money in the bank, his mental fortitude progresses to the point where “he’s playing to win the game”. The sad part is due to the “parity” of the inverse order of the draft, the best players many times wind up on the crappy teams.
    Even though Calvin is probably a Hall of Famer, playing for the Lions just was not mentally satisfying. He walked away like Barry Sanders.

  64. 6jaws9 says: Jul 12, 2017 10:12 AM

    I’d be Lion to you if I said Detroit was a great place to play in the NFL.

  65. laurencejn says: Jul 12, 2017 10:26 AM

    During CJs long winded press conference, where he speaks more than be did in 9 years with the Lions, by the way, he laments how Marshawn Lynch has it way better than him as a Raider. Hey Calvin, Mr. Football Historian, the Raiders have made the playoffs exactly ONE time in the past 15 years, which is actually fewer than you did as a Lion!
    You know, buddy. had you not dragged the salary cap down with your ridiculous contract, maybe the Lions could have dulled more holes?! Lost a ton of respect for you in the past 24 hours. Legacy forever tarnished!

  66. grumpysal says: Jul 12, 2017 10:27 AM

    To all of the bitter Lion fans, if you think CJ’s “cap space” is the reason the Lions have been terrible, you should take a few minutes to think about that logically.

    He isn’t/wasn’t the reason the team has been bad, it’s your front office and ownership.

    I can’t think of any other team that had a potential all-time great walk away from the game close to their prime rather than continue to play for them, and the Lions have had TWO players do it.

  67. laurencejn says: Jul 12, 2017 11:09 AM

    He’s rewriting history when he had a chance to change it years ago. His woe is me BS is embarrassing already. You wanted to be somewhere else, simple don’t sign the extension. You did, so live with the consequences, oh and the one $100 million you made!

  68. granadafan says: Jul 12, 2017 12:55 PM

    This is why players in the NFL should not be signing such long term contracts. The market pay has been on the increase every year and the next guy will always sign a larger contract a couple years later. If your ego can’t handle not being the highest paid or now middle of the pack, then they should not be signing anything more than 2-3 years or be stuck with a losing organization if you want to move.

  69. calvinthegreat81 says: Jul 12, 2017 1:45 PM

    I know I will get some crap for this but- no joke, if that Dallas playoff game in 2014 wasn’t rigged with that PI call then no call because they didn’t want to upset jerryworld I honestly think Lions had a legit shot at winning that SB. We were built for a run that year. Sad…

  70. timmmah10 says: Jul 12, 2017 2:02 PM

    I get what you’re saying but the organization agreed to the deal as well. It’s on them to make the numbers work. If you want the best WR in football then you have to pay him accordingly. Detroit has a long history of struggling to find success in the post season. That points directly to organizational problems. The Fords need to sell the team or pony up the cash for top flight management and get out of their way.
    ________________________

    What are you talking about? Antonio Brown is NOW the highest paid WR, do the Steelers with 6 SB’s have an org problem?? You pay for talent, period. He was ‘stuck’ in the richest WR contract, POOR GUY.

    ——————————————-

    I’m a huge Antonio Brown fan. That being said, the Steelers haven’t won anything since he started getting paid. So that’s a bad comp.

    Calvin Johnson WAS paid. That wasn’t the issue at all.

    What are you guys talking about here?

    Thanks for contributing….

  71. steves11 says: Jul 12, 2017 3:00 PM

    “A far cry from the player he was”

    That kind of happens to every player at some point, once they’re past their prime. Some sooner than others, I suppose. Injuries contribute to it. I thought Calvin retired too soon, but maybe he has all the money he needs. Who are we to judge?

  72. whatjusthapped says: Jul 12, 2017 3:50 PM

    He echoes the sentiments of all 53 Minnesota Vikings.

  73. nard100 says: Jul 13, 2017 10:23 AM

    When you see guys like Kevin Durant being able to go to championship winning situation, of course guys like Calvin are jealous,but the players negotiated at the last CBA and owners have the right to franchise as well as hold rights. NFL players see NBA players making 200 mil and want that, but roster size differences simply make that impossible (53 vs 15).

    For Calvin, retirement was the only option. Stafford simply threw the ball up and made Calvin get it. Interestingly, without Calvin, Stafford’s game itself had to change and it got better, but imho, his game will nver be good enough to take them to the superbowl especially in a division that has Aaron Rodgers in it.

    I also think it is telling that they wouldn’t shop Calvin Johnson so that he get a new start somewhere else. That kinda tells me they know he could succeed somewhere else and they don’t want to endure the embarrassment of that like they didn’t want to do so with Barry Sanders. Sad really, because the team could get some nice assets by trading a guy like CJ like additional first round picks.

  74. buffalobraves says: Jul 13, 2017 8:34 PM

    Take it from someone in Buffalo – much like Calvin, we never saw Detroit with a chance to do much winning over the past decade – either with or without Calvin….

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