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T.J. Hockenson says it ‘was huge’ Detroit Lions retained OC Ben Johnson

The former Lions tight end praised Detroit and his old offensive coordinator in a candid conversation at the Pro Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Former Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson has somehow become the villain in some Lions fans’ eyes after the team traded him at the 2022 deadline. Perhaps some were frustrated that it didn’t work out as well as it could have in Detroit. Some were miffed by comments he made that could be construed as mildly insulting to the Lions.

However, during last week’s Pro Bowl Games, Hockenson reunited with one of his good buddies from the Lions, quarterback Jared Goff. And thanks Goff being mic’d up during the event, we got to see and hear the two hang out for a while in an eight-minute video the team posted to YouTube. The two were taking selfies together and helping each other warm up. But the most interesting interaction happened around the six-minute mark of the video when Hockenson started to talk about his time in Detroit. Here’s the verbatim interaction.

Hockenson: “I love Detroit.”
Goff: “Of course.”
Hockenson: “I got drafted there. That meant a lot to me.”

[editor’s cut]

Hockenson: “Keeping [Lions OC] Ben [Johnson] was huge for you guys.
Goff: “Huge.”
Hockenson: “Dude.”

[editor’s cut]

Hockenson: “He’s a great dude, man. I love him.”

Hockenson’s affinity for Johnson shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He was his tight ends coach for two seasons before becoming the Lions’ offensive coordinator last year. Not many players have been as intimately involved with Johnson as Hockenson, as the offensive coordinator spelled out back in November just days after the trade went down.

“On a personal level it hits close to home because I’ve been here three and a half years now and he’s probably the one guy, one player I’ve gotten closest with,” Johnson explained. “Just being able to coach him, hands-on with him, spend the most time with him over the course of the last few years. So, it hits home because you get close with these guys. But I do wish him the best, he’s going to a great situation. We’ll miss him, there’s no question.”

Johnson was such a positive influence on the Lions offense in 2022 that he received several interview requests for other NFL head coaching gigs. After leading the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the league, it looked like the Lions may lose him after just one season at the position. However, Johnson eventually took his name out of consideration for head coaching jobs and reportedly got a ‘large raise’ to stay in Detroit for at least one more year.

Even players no longer on the team recognize how big of a move that was.

You can watch the entire Goff mic’d up video below:

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