Sunday could be Johnson's last home game in Lions uniform

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Calvin Johnson has been the face of the Detroit Lions for nearly his entire career.

The star wide receiver has been a safe bet to reach 1,000 yards each year, and he's been so productive that the mark hardly looks like an accomplishment for him this year.

And as he's compiled an abundance of statistical milestones and personal accolades, Johnson has made several catches that children around the country try to emulate on the sandlot.

"Usually faces of franchises are quarterbacks, and even before Matt (Stafford) got here, Calvin was a guy that everybody obviously thought of when they thought of the Detroit Lions," wide receiver Lance Moore said. "I would say they kind of share that now, but it's definitely pretty cool for a wide receiver to kind of get that praise and that credit."

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But, as important as Johnson has been to the franchise since 2007, his future in Detroit is unclear. Among the first decisions the next Lions general manager will have to make is whether or not Johnson, who has a $24 million salary cap hit in 2016, will be with the team next season.

If Johnson isn't playing for the Lions next year, whether due to a trade or release, Sunday's game against the 49ers (1 p.m., FOX) would be his last home game at Ford Field. But he's not thinking about that possibility.

"Whether it is or whether it's not, just going to go out here and try to leave a great impression on our home field," he said.

Johnson, 30, admitted he doesn't know what the future holds, but he knows the new GM will want to "put his own touch on the team."

"Whatever that may be, it's just something you've got to roll with," he said.

Although Johnson hasn't played this year like a player worthy of the top wide receiver contract in the NFL, getting rid of him could have ramifications beyond what happens on the field as he's the franchise's most popular player since Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.

For that reason, among others, fellow receiver Golden Tate would be surprised to see Johnson in a different uniform in 2016.

"I don't think he's going anywhere," Tate said. "This guy's one of the faces of our franchise. He's a franchise player; he sells tickets. He's arguably the best player in the league."

Stafford said the love fans have for Johnson is apparent each time he goes to Ford Field and sees all the No. 81 jerseys.

"There's just a million of them, and rightfully so," Stafford said. "Everywhere you look, everywhere you go, I know that's the question I get. 'How's Calvin? How's it playing with Calvin?' All that kind of stuff. It's well-deserved."

But, like Johnson, Stafford admits he doesn't know what will happen after the new GM arrives.

"I've enjoyed playing with him," Stafford said. "I'm going to continue to enjoy playing with him as long as I can."

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Stafford was also asked about the possibility that Sunday could be his final home game at Ford Field, but he looked stunned at the question.

"I have no idea," Stafford said. "I'm just playing football, it's my job."

Johnson, meanwhile, has just one catch in each of the past two games. He reached 1,000 receiving yards Monday for the sixth straight season.

One way the Lions and Johnson could avoid a split is if he takes a pay cut, but he said he'll consider that option when, or if, the time comes. And even if Sunday might be his last home game at Ford Field, the thought isn't causing Johnson any stress.

"It's just another game," he said. "Just go out there and play hard and get a win, that's the big thing about it — whether it is or whether it's not."

But such a decision would impact people well beyond Johnson. If he's not with the Lions, the team would take on a new identity. No longer would it be Megatron and the other Transformers. Instead, it would be a team that suddenly didn't have its best playmaker of the past decade, a receiver so good that some people argue he's better than Jerry Rice.

"I can't even really imagine Stafford without Calvin or Calvin without Stafford," Tate said. "It just doesn't make sense in my head."

Home sweet home

A look at Calvin Johnson's numbers at Ford Field

Year: G, Rec., Yds, Avg., TDs, W-L

2007: 7, 26, 371, 14.3, 3, 4-3

2008: 8, 29, 574, 19.8, 5, 0-8

2009: 7, 29, 394, 13.6, 4, 2-5

2010: 7, 26, 409, 15.7, 7, 3-4

2011: 8, 36, 656, 18.2, 6, 5-3

2012: 8, 56, 962, 17.2, 3, 2-6

2013: 8, 53, 922, 17.4, 5, 4-4

2014: 7, 44, 723, 16.4, 6, 6-1

2015: 7, 40, 621, 15.5, 6, 3-4

49ers at Lions

Kickoff:1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: FOX/97.1

Line: Lions by 9.5

Records: 49ers 4-10; Lions 5-9

Series: 49ers lead 36-26-1