Caldwell: Time, talking can remedy Lions-Johnson rift

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Jim Caldwell didn’t like hearing that former player Calvin Johnson is unhappy with the Detroit Lions organization for the way he was treated following his retirement, but the coach believes time and conversation will heal this wound.

“I can also tell you this, playing in the National Football League for a team is like a family,” Caldwell said. “Families sometimes have disagreements, they look at things a little differently. I have grown children; sometimes we look at things differently and hash it out, talk it out with dialogue.

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“The most important thing, I think this thing will perhaps bring about more dialogue,” Caldwell said. “How long will that take? I’m not certain. I’m not putting any parameters on it, but I think there will probably be a little discussion and I think that will be a good thing.”

At his youth camp last weekend, Johnson was reluctant to talk about the Lions. He said the relationship between the two sides was hurt by the way he was treated following his 2016 retirement. As part of that process, the Lions negotiated the return of $320,000 of his signing bonus, 10 percent of the repayment they were eligible to seek.

Still, the move was unusual, compared with how other organizations have handled similar situations.

“I just didn’t feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out,” Johnson told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s all. I mean, it’s all good. I’m not tripping. I don’t feel any kind of way, just hey, that’s what they did. Hey, it is what is.”

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Caldwell, who said he communicates with Johnson regularly via text message, was disappointed to hear this rift had formed.

“First of all, I think all of us within the organization, from top to bottom, from Mrs. Ford on down through Rod (Wood), Bob (Quinn), the Ford children and everybody, we’re all concerned about it,” Caldwell said.

On Tuesday, Johnson showed up as a guest at an Oakland Raiders practice, supporting former Lions assistant Todd Downing, who is Oakland’s new offensive coordinator.

Dressed in Raiders gear, Johnson reportedly joked with offensive lineman Donald Penn about joining the team, but said the Lions would never let him out of his contract.