More than a year into retirement, Calvin Johnson doesn’t have the warm and fuzzies about the Detroit Lions.
Johnson revealed to the Detroit Free Press over the weekend that he’s not thrilled with how he was treated by the Lions when he stepped away from the game. He was asked about the possibility of his jersey being retired.
“I don’t even like to talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended,” Johnson said. “If they see me around here, we’ll see. But hey, I don’t know.”
Oh. Megatron wasn’t done sounding off.
“I don’t feel any kind of way, but I just didn’t feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out,” Johnson said. “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.”
What’s Johnson upset about? As with many disputes in life, it can be traced back to money. And it seems the team and one of its greatest players are sideways over $320,000.
The Lions asked Johnson repay a prorated portion of his signing bonus when he retired after the 2015 season. That amount, from his 2012 contract, was $3.2 million. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that according to NFLPA records, Johnson repaid $320,000 and the Lions announced the matter was settled.
Maybe the Lions considered the matter closed, but Johnson clearly hasn’t moved on.
Usually these disputes get forgotten over time, and it seems like a $320,000 repayment wouldn’t preclude Johnson from having a relationship with his only NFL team. But it has been more than a year and Johnson still hasn’t let it go.
The Lions look bad for trying to get a relatively small amount of money back when Johnson clearly just was done with the NFL and didn’t want to play anymore. Other teams have had the option of recouping signing bonus money but let players keep it (the Dallas Cowboys let Tony Romo keep $5 million they could have asked for, as Birkett pointed out).
Johnson also looks petty for holding a grudge because he wasn’t allowed to keep all the money from his signing bonus when he retired before he fulfilled his contract. And, for practical purposes, Johnson got a gift of about $2.9 million upon retirement, when he only had to pay back 10 percent of the prorated part of the signing bonus.
Presumably this won’t last forever. Lions fans have been through enough; they shouldn’t be denied being able to celebrate the career of one of the best receivers ever over some repaid signing bonus money.
– – – – – – –