There may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the feud between the Detroit Lions and Calvin Johnson. A rift between the two started when Johnson retired after the 2015 season and Rod Wood, new to the Lions’ team president job, requested he pay back a significant part of the signing bonus. While the Lions were legally inclined to ask for that money back, many teams operate treating that bonus as sacred and earned at the time of signing, regardless of how the rest of the contract plays out. Johnson didn’t appreciate the gesture, and has limited his contact with the Lions to basically nothing since.
Six years after the initial rift and no real progress in fixing the problem, there may be some optimism the two sides figure it out soon. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press joined 97.1’s “The Valenti Show with Rico” on Monday, and dropped this little nugget toward the end of the interview.
“I think there is a chance that things get resolved with Calvin Johnson here in the next couple months,” Birkett said.
He didn’t go into any further detail, nor give an indication whether this was simply his opinion or something he’s hearing from the Lions’ camp or Johnson’s side. But it does make sense that some sort of reconciliation could happen soon for a couple of reasons.
For the first time ever, team owner Sheila Ford Hamp talked about the situation a couple weeks back during a virtual press conference.
“I’m not going to go into the money issue, but I hope we can repair things with Calvin Johnson,” Ford Hamp said. “He was obviously an amazing player for us. We’re going to continue to reach out to him and hope that we can repair things because I think it’s important that he comes back into the Lions family. We’d love if he could, if he will.”
Johnson has been a bit more pessimistic about the state of their relationship. After Wood told the media in early January that the team has been continuing to try and reach out to him, Johnson told the Detroit Free Press that was false. Just a couple weeks ago, Johnson made an appearance on the Huddle and Flow podcast and reiterate that he still feels hurt by he gesture.
“I can’t step foot into the building after I dropped so much in there,” Johnson said per MLive. “Because that stung. I mean, it straight up stung. Emotionally, but business-wise? No, it just doesn’t work like that.”
But with Johnson’s Hall of Fame bid this year, it could expedite the healing process here. Johnson could very well be part of the 2021 Class—we’ll find out on Saturday night—and if he is, the Lions may feel pressured to finally bury the hatchet here. It won’t be great optics if the Lions aren’t in an amicable relationship with just their 16th player ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
With a new power structure in the front office, including new general manager Brad Holmes, new head coach Dan Campbell and former Lions legend Chris Spielman, maybe the Lions are finally willing to put this entire thing behind them.