Burleson: 'Ridiculous' Quinn not reaching out to Johnson
San Jose, Calif. — Former Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson thinks it’s time for the Lions to try to convince Calvin Johnson to play in 2016.
At Super Bowl Opening Night, the new version of media day, Burleson said it’s “ridiculous” that new general manager Bob Quinn hasn’t yet reached out to Johnson about the possibility of the star receiver retiring at age 30.
And despite some of Johnson’s teammates, other NFL players and fans rushing to congratulate him on his retirement, Burleson said there’s still a chance Johnson plays next season.
“Nothing’s official,” he said at the SAP Center. “I’m waiting, and maybe that’s the fan in me. Maybe it’s like being a fan of Tupac. I don’t think he’s dead yet. Until you prove that to me, I still think he’s living in Cuba.”
Burleson, now an analyst for NFL Network, said he reached out to Johnson after an ESPN report Sunday that said Johnson told his family and coach Jim Caldwell he planned to make 2015 his final season. If Johnson was indeed retiring, Burleson would’ve send out a heartfelt congratulations on Instagram.
“I was just like, ‘Look man, before I send out this post, I don’t want to be premature when you come around suiting up come summer camp (and) now my emotional message falls through the crack,’” Burleson said. “He kind of laughed and was like, ‘Nah, it’s all good. We’ll talk a little bit later.’”
Of course, what Johnson wants to say or have Burleson — his teammate from 2010-13 — say publicly could be contrary to his actual plans, but Burleson said the Lions should work hard to show how much Johnson means to the franchise.
Thus far, the team’s only public statement said the organization understands and appreciates Johnson’s decision to consider his future. Quinn said last week at the Senior Bowl he wants to give Johnson time and avoid pressuring him into a decision, so the two had yet to talk.
“That’s ridiculous,” Burleson said. “You’re casually going about enticing one of the best receivers in my era to come back, and then you’re casual about showing your appreciation for a guy who has … put the organization on his back without complaint.
In Burleson’s opinion, the Lions haven’t done enough to quash rumors about Johnson’s future in Detroit.
“Rumors surfaced about him getting traded; rumors surfaced about him renegotiating his contract,” Burleson said. “Whether you think they’re all warranted or not, the question remains after that, how much do they want C.J.? I’m not saying that has to do with his decision to possibly retire, but it all plays a role in a guy willing to walk away from a game right around his prime.
“So, for me, it’s less about the percentage of how Calvin feels. It’s how much are they going to actively recruit Calvin back.”
Of course, like most people close to Johnson, Burleson acknowledged that health is a major factor in the decision.
“My personal opinion is that C.J.’s tired in every sense of the word,” he said. “Physically, he’s given so much of himself, and then mentally, it’s a huge responsibility to be the face of an organization and to not always get the results that would warrant your efforts.
“Calvin’s the hardest worker I ever met, and he’s not at events like this.”
Burleson also said the idea of this being a financial power play by Johnson is “one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard” because money is not a top priority for the Lions star.
“It just so happens that he was the best player in the world, and the money came along with it,” Burleson said. “If this indeed came from his mouth, I will say this, believe what he says.”