Lions president Rod Wood really, really, really wants Calvin Johnson to like his team again. Reconnecting with Megatron has become a top priority for him ever since the receiver unexpectedly retired in 2015. In Wood’s ideal world, Johnson would go the way of Barry Sanders where he’d eventually get over his financially-motivated blood feud with the franchise and come around to being a team ambassador that uses nostalgia to help the team’s marketability—since that sure as hell isn’t coming from watching Matt Stafford throw 65-yard picks. But Johnson would prefer a different approach, according the Detroit Free Press.
“They already know what they got to do,” Johnson told the Free Press at the annual camp he runs for local high school students Saturday in metro Detroit. “The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”
The money Johnson is referring to is a multi-million dollar portion of the $16 million bonus he got from the franchise in 2011. When the receiver announced his retirement, the Lions made him pay back that portion to the organization, much like they did with Barry Sanders in 1999. This seems like a pretty simple ask for an organization that, like every team in the NFL, is worth over a billion dollars. If not for that, then it should be done to regain some goodwill that has been lost amongst the fanbase for being a franchise where talent goes to die. Yet, even with the solution staring the Lions in the face, there’s seemingly been no attempt from them to start working on a plan with the team’s greatest receiver.
Johnson said he hasn’t heard from Wood or the organization yet, though receiver Marvin Jones, offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi and several rookies helped out at his football camp Saturday.
“I ain’t talked to Rod. I don’t even want to talk about that,” Johnson said. “I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. Had the rookies, Marv came out, they did a great job with the kids. I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kind of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee that paying Johnson back will fix any deep-seated animosity the receiver has towards the franchise. Megatron has made it known on multiple occasions that the Lions treated him like shit and more or less held him hostage on a team with quite a bleak future. Given that all of that forced him to straight up quit the sport he loved, it’s hard to imagine a situation where signing a check will suddenly make things better.