For many years after he retired, Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a frosty relationship with the Lions. That is no longer the case.
In fact, Johnson was on the practice field today at the Lions’ Organized Team Activities and hugged head coach Dan Campbell, and Johnson told Ryan Ermanni of Fox 2 in Detroit that he has enjoyed getting to know the current coaching staff.
“Being able to talk to the coaches and whatnot, it’s very cool,” Johnson said. “I’m a fan of the game, I’m a fan of Dan and the coaching staff he has over there because I know how much the team will learn from that, will glean from that. It’s very exciting the way they ended last year, it’s very exciting the way they’re going into this year.”
When Johnson retired, the Lions forced him to pay back $1.6 million of his signing bonus, and that angered Johnson. Although the Lions had a contractual right to do it, teams often decide not to squeeze money out of their retired players, especially players like Johnson, who was one of the greatest in franchise history on the field as well as a good representative of the team off the field. It’s easy to understand why Johnson’s feathers were ruffled.
But the Lions are a different team now, with a different chief operating officer, different member of the Ford family acting as owner and a different head coach, all of whom have made an effort to improve the franchise’s relationship with Johnson. It appears to be working, as one of the best ever to put on a Lions uniform is on board with where the team is going.