ESPN finally aired their E:60 segment with Calvin Johnson on Thursday night. The portion of the show devoted to the Detroit Lions wide receiver ran about 15 minutes and covered a variety of topics including when and why he considered retiring and what's next for the star athlete. But he made one thing pretty clear: he will not be returning to the NFL.
Michael Smith, who was the ESPN employee designated to interview Calvin, held the receiver's feet to the fire on several issues. When first bringing up the idea of a return to the NFL, Johnson actually seemed open to the option "It would be something to consider," Johnson said after Smith asked what would it be like if Johnson took a year off then returned to another team. But when Smith pushed on the topic, asking if the only thing holding him back from joining a different team was a contract with Detroit, Calvin interrupted saying, "I'm not saying that." Smith pushed further until Calvin laid things out very clearly. "There's a lot of different things I could do, but football isn't one of them."
The other hot-button issue was the cause of Johnson's retirement. Johnson laid it out quickly at the top of the interview, focusing on the physical toll of the game. "I decided to retire based off of the way my body felt, the way I felt mentally and all those things working together." Johnson continued, "I wanted to not have those problems later down the road."
But Smith quickly turned the conversation away from injury, instead looking to dig up some dirt on Johnson's former team.
Smith: "How much did the fact that the Lions weren't winners, how much did that factor into your decision to walk away after nine years?"
Johnson: "I don't know, but what I can tell you is that it's a big unknown because -- say you were, I'm winning, you're winning, you know, you win a Super Bowl. You just never know how you feel after that. I'm wasting my time trying to think about what could have happened."
Not accepting Johnson's dodging of the question, Smith persisted, comparing the situation to former Lions running back Barry Sanders, who notoriously retired after having some issues with the Lions front office:
Smith: What do you think about people comparing you to Barry Sanders? Saying 'I've had enough of this, I'm walking away.'
Johnson: I mean, I've had enough.
Smith: Enough of the Lions, in particular...
Johnson: Alright, alright, alright...I'm going to have to write a book, man. [laughs] If the Lions could get out of their way, man...that's...I mean...I think everyone would agree.
Again, Calvin doesn't really answer the question, but he does seem to imply there's something going on here. While his remark about "having enough" clearly wasn't directed towards the Lions, his admission about wanting to write a book says that there's more to the story that can't be captured in a short interview. Johnson finally admits that success would've made the decision harder before the two moved on. "If we would have been a contender, it would have been harder to let go."
But in the end, Johnson moved the discussion back to the injuries. Calvin admitted that at times it was hard for him to walk in the morning, he was in pain when simply catching the ball and at one point in his career had his knee drained 12 times during a single season. "I can't put in what I want to put in, what I used to put in to get the results I used to get," Johnson said. "I'm not going to sell myself short, I'm not going to go out there and not be 100 percent."
Johnson spent nine years with the Lions, totalling 11,619 receiving yards and 83 touchdowns.