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Kenny Golladay discusses injury, desire to stay with Lions: 'They believed in me'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

For the first time since he suffered a hip injury more than six weeks ago, Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay met with the media to discuss his status for both the 2020 season, as well as re-affirming his desire to stay in Detroit long-term once the franchise hires its next general manager. 

Golladay last played Nov. 1, exiting Detroit's home game against the Indianapolis Colts near the end of the first half. 

Kenny Golladay

As the receiver explained it, he suffered a hip flexor strain against the Colts. And while he was optimistic to be back in the lineup far sooner, he suffered a minor setback during the rehab process, keeping him sidelined. 

"For sure, you know, wanna be on the field," Golladay said. "Even when I was going out there (before practice), I for sure thought I was ready or I wouldn't have went out there. Clearly, it just wasn't ready yet, to be honest. It sucks, really, but I've gotta be smart with my body."

Because Golladay, a pending free agent, has been publicly pushing for a new contract with the Lions through the offseason and early stages of the season, some fans have raised concerns his prolonged absence from the lineup might be more about securing his long-term future than anything else. But both he and interim coach Darrell Bevell dismissed those accusations. 

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"I can be clear that he's not (making a business decision)," Bevell said. "The guy is competing, he's working hard. The good thing for me is I'm in here every day. I get to see what he's doing. I get to see what he's putting his body through to try to get back for us and for his teammates. He's doing that and that's really what I can say. I love his competitiveness, I love what he's trying to do, he's just working with an injury that he's trying to work through."

With three games remaining in the season and Golladay ruled out this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans after missing another week of practice, Bevell acknowledged Friday that it might be time to consider shutting the receiver down for the year. 

"Yeah, I think that's a conversation that's coming," Bevell said. "We're really trying to get him back and he really wants to play, he wants to be in there, but that's a conversation of where are we at in the season that it might come to that."

As for any current contract conversations, those are temporarily paused following the Lions' decision to fire general manager Bob Quinn at the end of last month. 

Even though there's significant uncertainty regarding the direction of the franchise — not only with the general manager position, but also the head coaching vacancy and the much-discussed future of quarterback Matthew Stafford — Golladay reaffirmed his desire to stay in Detroit beyond this season. 

"Kinda just gotta put it like they drafted me here, so I just want to show my loyalty," Golladay said. "You know, they believed in me. ... If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. Then I go somewhere else and ball out and play. But like I said, I'm a loyal person and of course I want to be here. I started my career here."

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A third-round draft pick in 2017, Golladay showed steady improvement his first three seasons, before injuries derailed his 2020 campaign. He topped 1,000 yards each of the past two years and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after leading the NFL with 11 catches. 

He's been limited to five games this season, but in the four he played start to finish, he ended his day with at least 100 yards receiver or one touchdown catch. The team went 3-1 in those games. 

Based on other long-term deals signed by receivers the past few months, Golladay is likely looking at a contract that would pay him between $18-20 million per season. With the salary cap set to decline next season — a residual impact after the pandemic significantly reducing in-person attendance around the league — the Lions would need to clear significant salary to retain Golladay at that market rate. 

The Lions also have the option of using the franchise tag, a one-year deal that would pay Golladay the average of the five highest-paid receivers in the league. That's not ideal for either side since it reduces the player's earning power, while generating a far bigger 2021 cap hit for the Lions. 

"Yeah. I mean, being honest, you know, I'd rather get a (long-term) deal done," Golladay said. "But, you know, if the franchise tag were coming, I wouldn't be able to do anything about it."