It has been over two years since the day Calvin Johnson shocked the NFL and announced his retirement. Since that moment, it has slowly become more and more apparent that there was some sort of fallout between Johnson and the Detroit Lions shortly after he ended his playing career.
First, it looked like he was angry about having to give back $320,000 of his signing bonus. Later, it was reported that number was actually over $1 million. Debate raged on whether the Lions were right in reclaiming that money—which they are well within their rights to do—but some within the NFL consider touching a player’s signing bonus bad business, especially with an All-Star as beloved as Johnson.
Throughout the process, Johnson has—much like the rest of his career—remained relatively silent, only dropping scant details here and there during his rare public appearances. On Saturday, he dropped another nugget while he was hosting a free football camp in Southfield.
Apparently, when Johnson announced his retirement to head coach Jim Caldwell, general manager Bob Quinn and president Rod Wood were summoned to meet with the Lions receiver. It’s there that things turned sour very quickly:
“It had to surprise him, cause then he told me to wait around and he got the GM and stuff,” Johnson said. “But I knew there was going to be a problem once Rod talked to me and the first thing out of his mouth was like, ‘Did you earn all your bonus?’ I was like, ‘Oh, shit.’ I knew right then it was going to be a problem. I was like, ‘All right, I see how it’s going to be.’”
Whether or not you think the Lions were right in reclaiming Johnson’s signing bonus, this isn’t a good look for Wood. Remember, Wood was hired with no football experience in November of 2015, just a few weeks before Johnson would play his final football game. If Johnson retelling of events is accurate, it’s at least a little more understandable why he has been frustrated with the way things ended. Wood’s approach, while direct and purely business-oriented, could definitely be interpreted as crass and off-putting, considering Johnson mentions just how emotional and tough this decision was for him.
“I was so stressed out,” Johnson said. “I was thinking about that more in the last three games than anything else. I was like, ‘Dang, man. How the hell am I going to tell Coach?’
The biggest bummer of this entire situation is that it still hasn’t seemed to be ironed out a full two years later. Back in January, Johnson claimed the Lions hadn’t even reached out to him to try and mend the relationship, even though Wood said they had back in July of 2017.
Hopefully at some point the two sides can come to an agreement and figure things out, because it just sucks to see these two sides at odds after how much each did for the other for nearly a full decade.