Calvin Johnson opens up about his icy relationship with the Detroit Lions in a new Sports Illustrated profile, telling how the organization ultimately treated him as a commodity in the nine seasons he was one of its greatest assets.
The wide receiver retired three years ago at age 30. SI shares several jaw-droppers about Johnson's time with the Lions — chief among them his claim that after a 2012 game in which he sustained a hit so hard he "blacked out," he was forced to go on the record to recant his initial statement that he was concussed.
Other highlights from the lengthy piece include:
- Johnson is waging a boycott of sorts against the organization over its requirement that he pay back $1.6 million of his final signing bonus, due to his early departure (his contract was to last through 2019). He “won’t step foot in anything Lions-related” until he gets his money back, he tells SI. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I cheer for the Lions. . . . I cheer for the players.”
- When Johnson broke a finger, leaving it bent at nearly 90 degrees, he says he was told by training staff to wait until he retired to get it fixed.
- Opioid abuse is a thing. Johnson used Percocet, but mostly opted to smoke weed after Sunday games for pain relief. “You really could go in the training room and get what you wanted. I can get Vicodin, I can get Oxy[contin]. It was too available."
- The league made Johnson change out of his beloved blue Nike cleats during his final game, into a pair that comported with its requirement that all shoes be black, white or "a league-approved third color."
Tensions between the team and its ex-star seem unlikely to thaw anytime soon. We'll leave you with this, from the Sept. 23 magazine issue:
Lions president Rod Wood has said publicly that reconnecting with Johnson is “a very high priority” and that he was in contact with the former wideout. But Johnson says they talked only once, when Johnson called the team to get some information for his accountant.