The Lions and Calvin Johnson continue to have no relationship. The rift traces to the fact that, when Johnson retired, the Lions made him pay back some of his signing-bonus money.
Johnson recently elaborated on his concerns in an interview with Graham Bensinger.
“What do you make of their efforts to resolve it?” Bensinger asked Johnson.
“Not really an effort,” Johnson said.
So what needs to happen?
“I’m not saying they got to repay me the $1.6 [million] all up front, but they need to figure out a way to do it, and not have me work for it, because I already did the work for it.”
The Lions recently offered to pay Johnson $500,000 per year for three years, if he worked 28 hours per year. They also offered to make a $100,000 donation to a charity of Johnson’s choice, pushing the total payout to $1.6 million. Johnson declined.
“That’s a joke,” Johnson told Bensinger. “I put it like this. Imagine you had a friend — well, maybe not even a friend, just somebody. They gave you something and then they take it back. And then are y’all gonna still really hang out? Are y’all still cool? And imagine you did a whole bunch of work for it, too. It’s the principle. It’s the principle of it. You cannot have me back unless you put that money back in my pocket. . . . I’m not working for it.”
Technically, Johnson hadn’t earned the money. He received it as an advance on future services. That said, the Lions shouldn’t have asked for it back. They needed him off the books for cap reasons, and if he hadn’t retired they likely would have cut him. (Frankly, his agents screwed this up by not brokering a better deal when Johnson willingly walked away, allowing the team to dump most of his bloated cap number for the 2016 season.)
Johnson also was asked whether the financial issue triggered Johnson’s failure to mention the Lions in his Hall of Fame induction speech.
“Mama always tell you if you ain’t got nothing good to say, don’t say it at all,” Johnson said with a laugh.
As to the issue between player and team, there’s nothing more to say. There will be no relationship until Johnson gets his money.