Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has hinted before that the team’s inability to contend for a Super Bowl played a role in his retirement following the 2015 season, along with injuries.
Last week, he took it a step further.
Johnson, in Italy last week for the Italian Bowl XXXVII, met with members of the Italian media, where he was asked about playing for the Lions, and the decision to retire.
Johnson, again, hinted that one had something to do with the other.
“I mean, I thought about it,” Johnson said, when asked if he thought about changing teams. “Just like in basketball, you know, guys, they create these superteams. But it’s not quite like that in football where I had the freedom just to go.
“I was stuck in my contract with Detroit, and they told me, they would not release my contract, so I would have to come back to them. I didn’t see the chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time, and for the work I was putting in, it wasn’t worth my time to keep on beating my head against the wall … and not going anywhere.
“It’s the definition of insanity,” Johnson said with a chuckle.
When asked by the interpreter if that was why he retired, Johnson said, “Yep, and the body.”
“That’s everybody’s goal, when they come to the league, is to win a Super Bowl,” said Johnson, who delivered the game ball for the showdown between the Milano Rhinos and the Milano Seamen. “That’s the ultimate goal. … I wanted to win it, and like I said, I just didn’t see that opportunity (with the Lions).”
It appears to be the second time in three months Johnson has expressed some level of frustration publicly with the Lions. In May, he told the Detroit Free Press he didn't feel like he was treated fairly by the organization over bonus money after he decided to retire.
Johnson spent nine seasons in the NFL — all with the Lions — before retiring after the 2015 season with 11,619 career yards and 83 touchdowns. A six-time Pro Bowler, Johnson holds the single-season record for receiving yards (1,964), set in 2012.
Johnson said he has no plans to return to the NFL, as the game took “ too much of a toll on my body as I played.” He was asked about running back Marshawn Lynch, who retired from the Seahawks for one season before coming back with the Oakland Raiders.
Johnson, who was a “special guest” with the Raiders for OTAs in May, said Lynch was in “a great situation.”
“If I was to keep playing,” Johnson continued, “I’d have to play in Detroit, and it just wasn’t for me anymore.”
Johnson also talked about the transformation of Detroit since arriving as a rookie out of Georgia Tech in 2007.
“I was homesick, no doubt about it,” he said. “I’ve never been homesick before. I was there by myself, and my first impression of Detroit was very bad. You drive around the town, and you see a lot of boarded-up buildings. But since, a lot of money has been put into Detroit to revive it so … I still live there now, I’m about to move back home (to Georgia), but it’s still home. It’ll be home for me.”