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Lions extend training camp invitation to Calvin Johnson

The ball is in Calvin Johnson’s court.

San Francisco 49ers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In the midst of a tizzy of Detroit Lions news Monday morning, including the announcement of single-game ticket sales and uniform debut dates, team president Rod Wood dropped an interesting piece of news. Wood told WJR Radio, via Tori Petry, that he has extended an invitation to Calvin Johnson for Detroit Lions training camp this year.

This year, Johnson has been uncharacteristically open about his displeasure with the Lions organization. Back in May, Johnson told the Detroit Free Press that he was not happy with the way things ended with the Lions, hinting that he was offended by Detroit’s effort to recoup some of his signing bonus.

Just last week, Johnson spoke with Italian media and claimed he was “stuck” in his contract with the Lions and retired, in part, because he didn’t think the Lions had a chance to win a Super Bowl at the time.

Johnson’s messy exit has left another black eye on the Lions organization, conjuring up memories of Barry Sanders’ retirement, which also resulted in wide scrutiny of the team. The Lions are no stranger to ridicule, but now they hold the distinguished dishonor of having two discontent superstars retire early because of the team’s lack of competitiveness.

But Wood’s effort to mend fences is the first sign of a potential reconciliation. A few months back, head coach Jim Caldwell expressed interest in fixing the relationship. “We’re all concerned about it,” Caldwell said. “The most important thing I think perhaps this whole thing will bring about a little bit more dialogue.”

A good place to start for Calvin would be to accept Wood’s invitation to training camp. Just showing up at a Lions event would do a lot to improve Johnson’s image in the eyes of Lions fans, many of whom feel at least partially betrayed because he showed up to Raiders OTAs earlier this offseason.

But the wounds may be too fresh for Johnson to accept Wood’s invitation quite yet. Barry Sanders took several years before he could face the Lions again, but now he’s one of the most active alumni within the franchise. Perhaps this is the first step in that direction.

UPDATE: Justin Rogers of The Detroit News has a few more quotes from Wood’s interview with WJR:

“Calvin, interestingly, texted me a couple weeks ago,” Wood said. “We exchanged a few text messages recently and they were very cordial. I won’t get into what they were about, but they were very professional. I did invite him out to training camp. We’ll see if he does that. Hopefully he shows up.

“He’s a great player and we want to have him in the tent, not outside the tent. Hopefully that’s the way it ends up.”

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.