It's been three weeks now since Calvin Johnson's camp made their statement and gave credence to what were once just swirling rumors and speculation. The original story evolved faster than my brother's Pokémon with a GameShark, and before anyone could realize where the vector came from Lions fans were contemplating a future without Megatron. So where are we now?
In many ways the news remained in a holding pattern for the scant amount of Lions offseason we've suffered thus far. Part is due to the installment of new general manager Bob Quinn, who has been quite busy establishing his war council and has yet to meet with Calvin Johnson or his agent. This isn't necessarily a sign for panic; Quinn hopes to meet with Calvin Johnson before the free agency period, which is in the early weeks of March. For those keeping score at home, that gives a month and change to the new general manager to discuss things with the star wide receiver.
And that's fine. Those expecting Calvin Johnson's decision to be measured in weeks following the season are sure to be disappointed, and many have even come to expect it given the language of the Johnson camp's own press release. But "not-too-distant future" is still wildly relative and it would make greater sense that a football player would take more time than fans might tolerate to recover. A little more perspective is necessary: it's only just his entire future and well-being we're discussing here.
Recovery right now seems to be the key component. Quotes from Johnson's agent Bus Cook at the Senior Bowl this week make the claim that he's tired, his body is tired. It's tempered with the addition of "he's still got a lot of game left," but it almost seems necessary to add such as to not invoke too much panic. It's a bleak picture to be sure.
That said, it's not necessarily the language for one that is, as some might claim, angling for a trade out of Detroit. It's focused too much on his health; that same question of health would linger over anyone who might want to buy, without even beginning to discuss the matter of his contract. And while the matter seems far more bleak than before, given the continued silence and concerns for his health and exhaustion, there are proposals.
As this whole mess ostensibly began with a blog post by Terry Foster over on CBS Radio Detroit, it's fitting we've got another Foster entry that cropped up Thursday that may change matters. Although Terry Foster did not include any source in his original article, in the latest entry he professes a source both for the original contemplation of retirement and the latest news.
Foster's source notes a proposal the Lions might work on with Calvin Johnson: play on Sunday, and then take time away from the team until practice begins on Wednesday. Given the schedule that all players follow, this would mean that the only real team involvement that would be missed would be reporting to the facilities on Monday for treatment and practice. This may not seem like much, but Foster tempers any too eager to cry for the proposal: "How would players feel about a teammate who does not have to report for Monday workouts?"
(This is perhaps a point where having a coach, one that knows the locker room, one that commands the respect and attention of such, is valuable; the same traits that Jim Caldwell seems to have with this Lions team.)
Of course, the Lions and Johnson still have yet to talk. The Lions have matters pertaining to this Saturday's Senior Bowl and the continued construction of the new front office, all chrome and shiny and mint-fresh; meanwhile Calvin Johnson certainly needs more time to recover -- if not for his body, then for himself, to process his decision and discuss matters with his camp and family.
There is no rush on either party to have this matter pounded out before the end of February; the Lions do not need to plan right now for a possible departure of Calvin Johnson, if only by the grace of the NFL's elongated offseason calendar. If the discussion of restructuring Johnson's contract is on the table, then the Lions would benefit to wait and hire the right personnel to handle matters pertaining to the salary cap.
The NFL is a league on the verge of change when it comes to its stars, the money, and what it's all worth for extended periods. Antwaan Randle El seemingly broke ranks from a hundred voices bellowing about toughness and the gifts of the game when he discussed his problems and claimed he probably wouldn't play football if given the choice again. Marshawn Lynch finds himself in a similar predicament to Calvin Johnson, contemplating retirement after another season of pain and injury and frustration. In the case of both Lynch and Johnson, they're certainly in the position to do so; both have received their due pay in their contracts and wonder if continued punishment is worth the extra money. These two, both around the same age, represent a potential new vanguard seeking to get paid enough to get out young, rather than suffer through more punishment in their later playing years. Push your body to the limit, fight through high school and college and the rookie years and early contract periods. Get paid, save what you must and get out. Leave the brutality and pain behind. Find life beyond football; plenty of athletes now dabble in entertainment, journalism or business. The game is an opportunity, not a career. Be a family man.
I don't know if those matters hang above Calvin Johnson's head, or if it's simply a matter of pain outweighing love for the game, or anything else. I don't know if anything above becomes a factor for Johnson on whether he retires or not; I can't tell what time away from the season will do for his perspective. But it's clear this matter is nowhere near its end.