On Wednesday, the Detroit Lions got their first chance to respond publicly to Calvin Johnson’s displeasure with the way his career ended with Detroit. Head coach Jim Caldwell held a press conference just before the team took the field for Day 2 of organized team activities.
While some fans have been pushing for the media, the team and Johnson to just move on and forget about it, Caldwell preached the opposite. “All of us within the organization from top to bottom, from Mrs. Ford down through Rod (Wood) and Bob (Quinn) and the Ford children, everybody, we’re all concerned about anytime that we hear that one of our alumni is not happy.”
Caldwell spoke for several minutes on the topic of Johnson between questions about the new rule changes and his impressions about Day 1 of OTAs. Caldwell made clear that he wants to solve the disagreement between Johnson and the team.
“Playing in the National Football League for a team, it’s like a family, and family sometimes has disagreements,” said Caldwell. “We get the differences worked out and I think the same thing will happen in this situation.”
Caldwell didn’t go into detail as to what the disagreement may be about, but many have speculated that the sticking point is when the Lions demanded Johnson repay $320,000 of his signing bonus, just 10 percent of what Detroit could legally claim.
But Caldwell wants to mend whatever issue is bothering Calvin, and pointed to Detroit’s strong relationship with past alumni as a sign they’ll work through it. He acknowledged the strong presence of historic players at the Taste of the Lions event, which featured, among others, Lomas Brown, Billy Sims and Barry Sanders—a player who infamously dealt with a similar dispute when he abruptly retired from the team in 1999.
As for Johnson joining the Raiders for their OTAs? It sounds like Calvin has an open invitation to Detroit whenever he’s interested in returning.
“Our practices are open to all our alumni,” Caldwell claimed. “They can come anytime, any day. There’s no restrictions against them in terms of watching our practices and being involved.”
But first it’s obvious the Lions must work through their disagreements, and Caldwell is confident that will happen. “The most important thing, perhaps this whole thing will bring about a little more dialogue,” Caldwell said. He declined to give a timeline on when he’ll smooth things over with Johnson but said he texts with the former receiver “often.”
Let’s hope for all of our sake that the healing process begins soon.