Six straight Pro Bowls. Three times and All Pro. That’s what Calvin Johnson aka ‘Megatron’ had accomplished by the age of 30 when he up and retired from football. It was the most surprising retirement since Barry Sanders walked away from these same Lions at the same age.
Megatron doesn’t play a position with the short shelf life as Sanders had as a running back. Even though he wasn’t quite the dominant receiver he had been a few years before, most would say Johnson still had a few years left. He just didn’t want those years to be in Detroit.
At this stage of Johnson’s career, he saw a dead end in Detroit and wanted to go somewhere he felt he could get a ring. But the Lions refused to let him out of his contract, so he retired. Johnson spoke on his situation in a press conference while a guest of the Italian Bowl.
“I don’t have the freedom just to go,” Johnson said. “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, so I didn’t see a chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time and for the work that I was putting in, it wasn’t worth my time to keep beating my head against the wall and not going anywhere. It’s the definition of insanity.”
Johnson added that he has definitely thought about playing for other teams in the league. The question is which team or teams would be of interest to him should the Lions somehow decide to let him out of his contract.
This situation is a lot like that of Marshawn Lynch, of whom the Raiders lured out of retirement this offseason. In that instance, the Seahawks didn’t let Lynch out of his contract, they simply couldn’t afford it, so they traded him to the Raiders and the two sides negotiated a new deal.
Johnson was invited to Raiders practices this offseason as a guest of new offensive coordinator, Todd Downing. The two knew each other from Downing’s days as the QB coach in Detroit.
“He’s in a great situation,” Johnson said of Lynch in Oakland.
It is a situation that was facilitated in part by the strong relationship between Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie and Seahawks GM John Schneider who worked together for many years in Green Bay. The powers that be in Detroit appear to be far less eager to give in to Johnson’s requests.
Just the presence of Megatron at Raiders’ practice had fans salivating at the thought of him catching passes from Derek Carr.
The fans aren’t the only ones.
Johnson would like that as well. He was asked which NFL quarterbacks he’d most like to play with and Derek Carr made the short list.
“Brett Favre,” Johnson said as his top choice to play with. “When I came into the league, he was on his way out, but I got to see him play in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is another Green Bay guy who has a cannon for an arm. There’s a young cat that I just met; Derek Carr out of Oakland. I really like that guy.”
So, it seems the Raiders’ newly extended franchise QB has made a strong impression on another unemployed star player. He had visited with several other players who visited the team, including Lynch, and they each came away wanting to play with him.
I’m sure his comeback wins to lead the Raiders to a 12-3 record last season, making them a favorite for a run at the Super Bowl helps his case as well.
You can see the entire press conference here. It’s a bit long with each question and answer translated between Italian and English.