Lions, looking to mend fences, invite Johnson to camp

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Detroit Lions president Rod Wood has extended an olive branch to disgruntled former receiver Calvin Johnson.

Johnson, who retired in 2016, has been critical of the Lions in recent interviews. Last month, at a youth camp hosted by his foundation, he told reporters he didn’t like the way the Lions treated him on his way out. The following week, he accepted an invitation from the Oakland Raiders to attend an OTA practice and work with the team’s young receivers.

Last week, while serving as an honorary guest at the Italian Bowl, Johnson expanded on his frustrations with the Lions organization.

“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,” Johnson said during a press conference. “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.”

The Lions’ brass have been disappointed with the comments. After the first wave, coach Jim Caldwell compared the disagreements to a family dispute.

“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.

“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.”

Wood, in an interview with WJR-AM on Monday is hoping to accelerate the healing process, inviting Johnson to come to the team’s training camp, which starts at the end of this month.

“Calvin, interestingly, texted me a couple weeks ago,” Wood said. “We exchanged a few text messages recently and they were very cordial. I won’t get into what they were about, but they were very professional. I did invite him out to training camp. We’ll see if he does that. Hopefully he shows up.

“He’s a great player and we want to have him in the tent, not outside the tent. Hopefully that’s the way it ends up.”

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Johnson played nine seasons for the Lions, setting most of the team’s receiving records during his career. He finished with 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns.