It has been a contentious offseason between Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions this year. Johnson has been uncharacteristically open about his feelings in Detroit, and railed against the team back in May when he admitted he still wasn’t happy about the way things ended with the Lions. While it’s unclear exactly what has Johnson upset, most theories surround Detroit’s decision to recoup some of the signing bonus they were contractually allowed to take back.
Johnson was even more harsh towards his team this week while in Italy for the Italian Bowl XXXVII.
The interview with Italian media started off innocently enough. Johnson reiterated that he was retired and would stay that way. “I’m not coming back to play, it’s too much of a toll on my body,” Johnson said.
But then the interview started to take a turn. Johnson started to intimate that part of the reason he wasn’t going to return was because he would have to play for the Lions. At first, it was subtle. “If I was to keep playing, I would have to play in Detroit, and that just wasn’t for me anymore.”
But then when he was asked if he every thought of changing teams, Johnson was pretty clear in his criticism of the Detroit Lions. “I thought about it,” Johnson said. “I was stuck in my contract in Detroit, and they told me they would not release my contract so I would have to come back to them.”
As for the reason why Johnson didn’t want to come back to Detroit? It appears he didn’t think they were competitive enough. “I didn’t see a chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time, and for the work I was putting in, it wasn’t worth my time to keep on beating my head against the wall and not going anywhere.”
When asked specifically if that’s why he retired, Johnson said, “Yeah, and my body.”
Johnson comments about the Lions’ competitiveness is a bit surprising. Johnson told ESPN that he had decided that 2015 would be his final season before the season ever started. At that point, the Lions were coming off a 2014 playoff appearance and one of the most heartbreaking postseason losses in franchise history. However, by the time Johnson had played his last game in Detroit, the Lions were a disappointing 7-9, after a taxing season that started with losses in seven of eight games.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the Lions are aware of Johnson’s unhappiness and want to work through any issues. “We’re all concerned about anytime that we hear that one of our alumni is not happy,” Caldwell said back in late May.
But it’s unclear if Johnson is ready to mend any fences. Though he still lives in Detroit—a place he says he’ll always call home—he’s in the process of moving back to Georgia. Johnson has already visited Raiders OTAs this offseason and has shown no public interest in returning to help out the Lions in any capacity.
You can watch Johnson full interview with the Italian media below: