The split between future Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions was an ugly one. It hearkened back to the time when the greatest running back of all time, Barry Sanders, retired and initially shied away from the organization. Fans from all over the NFL were swept up into the drama. Despite repeating over and over—even after the messy divorce from the team—that he had retired because of injuries and health, any time Calvin popped up in conversation it would eventually get framed that he was coming back to play. Obviously he never did, and until now it looked as if there was little hope his relationship with the team he played for could be mended.
Recently, the Associated Press’ Larry Lage wrote of Barry Sanders’ role within the Lions organization. This was pointed out by commenter YouGonnaEatThat? here on POD. It’s a good read, but he buried the lede when talking about Sanders’ presence at the Jets game with the following:
“As Sanders was the honored guest in Wood’s suite for a game earlier this month, Johnson was in a nearby luxury box on the same floor.”
Wait a minute. Calvin was at the Jets game? Week 1?
Johnson would go on to say, “I know Lions fans appreciate Barry’s role with the team because he’s the greatest Lion and one of the greatest running backs - if not the greatest - to play the game.” Johnson would not comment on his own relationship with the team, per Lage.
I won’t take away from Lage’s main story about Sanders (again, here), because it’s definitely worth your time to read. In it, he also speaks to Lions legend and current color commentator Lomas Brown, who said, ”If the Lions continue to reaching out to [Johnson] and being warm to him, I think it’ll happen.”
Team president Rod Wood, who has been the other side of the coin when it comes to the Lions/Johnson split, has been quoted in the past talking about how they’d like to get him back, but no concrete measures had been taken (that we know of). Lage would go on to quote Wood:
‘’It’s still goal of the organization, and me in particular, to get Calvin back in the fold,’’ Wood said. ‘’It was good to see him at the (Jets) game.’’
It’s never enjoyable to have a player put their blood, bodies, and reputations on the line year after year only to leave the team feeling dejected and unappreciated. Calvin Johnson will go down as the greatest receiver to ever don a Lions uniform and has already become a measuring stick for college prospects entering the NFL.
It would be great to have him back with the team, like Barry Sanders and Herman Moore before him, but I think many of us would settle for just being able to see him at games or practices from time to time. Legends deserve to live their retirement how they see fit, but it’s always special for a fan to be able to meet their heroes in a team environment.