Lions' Johnson closing in on another 1,000-yard season

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — For Calvin Johnson, gaining 1,000 receiving yards each season is the norm.

"As long as we're on the field, we're going to surpass that mark," he said Sunday.

Despite all the questions about him slowing down at age 30, Johnson is about to reach the millennium mark again. He needs just 79 yards in Thursday's game against the Packers, and considering he's averaging 83.7 yards per game this year, there's a good chance he'll reach the milestone.

And when Johnson does, it'll just be another moment for people to praise his exceptional career as another 1,000-yard season would give him six straight, something just 14 other receivers have accomplished in NFL history.

Just nine players have had seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Five have had eight or more — Torry Holt (8), Marvin Harrison (8), Cris Carter (8), Tim Brown (9) and Jerry Rice (11).

And Johnson's teammates, young and old, have enjoyed the chance to witness his dominant stretch.

"Sometimes I do like to step out and think about those moments like, 'Wow, I'm playing with Calvin Johnson, Hall of Famer,' " rookie running back Ameer Abdullah said. "(It's) something I can tell my kids."

Both Abdullah and quarterback Matthew Stafford described Johnson as "a true professional," and players and coaches have praised his work ethic throughout his illustrious career.

Coach Jim Caldwell said he's never heard Johnson, the team's best player, complain about anything.

"We often remind the guys on this team that they have an opportunity to be with a very rare individual in Calvin Johnson," Caldwell said. "He's everything you could ask for in terms of a real pro. He's the epitome of a professional athlete in terms of his approach to the game. He gets in here early, he stays late (and) he takes great care of his body. Obviously, the numbers in terms of what he's been able to accomplish on the field speak for themselves, but he's even a better person.

"He'll be a Hall of Fame player; he's a Hall of Fame person long before that. That will bestowed upon him, but just tremendous in every way."

Based on Johnson's past performance, 1,000 yards receiving is hardly a milestone. His most memorable milestones were breaking Rice's single-season yardage record with 1,964 in 2012, and having 16 touchdowns along with 1,681 yards in 2011.

But, even with those gaudy numbers and two others in which he's eclipsed 1,300 yards, Johnson knows 1,000 yards is the benchmark for top-flight receivers.

"You only see the top receivers in the league up there every year, and I'm still one of those guys," he said.

Considering he's 30, an age where the performance of many NFL players declines, Johnson said there's a little more satisfaction in still being one of the top guys. Although most teams still had Week 12 games to play, Johnson's 921 yards ranked fifth in the NFL as of Sunday.

Johnson said he doesn't think about achieving milestones. On Wednesday, he told a story about former wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson told Johnson that he'd break Rice's record in the Week 16 game against the Falcons in 2012.

"(Jefferson) said after the first drive, 'We're going to get that this game, you know that right?'" Johnson said.

"I just shrugged it off, but he believed it and I believed I would get it. But I never knew when it would be."

There's no promise Johnson will achieve the 1,000-yard milestone against the Packers, but he is coming off one of his best games of the year with eight catches for 93 yards and three touchdowns.

"Obviously, when he's in the right spot, his physical ability takes over, and he does what we all love to see him do. And that's go make big plays," Stafford said after praising Johnson's work ethic.

Regardless of what Johnson has already accomplished, he said he's still trying to improve every year.

"It's hard to beat some of the things that I've done over my career," he said. "But just to put together a solid year fundamentally from when I'm watching film, whether it's seeing the ball better or in and out of routes better, just those things you can't lax on them."