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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

I don’t say this often, but the Lions are right

Calvin Johnson didn’t even mention the Lions in his Hall of Fame speech.
Image: Getty Images

The disagreement over money between Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions just won’t end.

So much so that Johnson didn’t even thank the Lions in his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech Sunday.

Johnson is still sore that the Lions wanted their $1.6 million signing bonus back after he quit football after the 2015 season. He paid it back, but still isn’t satisfied. He wants the Lions to give the loot back.

Johnson should get over this the the small amount of money in this equation and simply bury the hatchet.

The Lions are the only team he ever played for. He needs to have a relationship with them for the long term.

For sure, the Lions are a terrible franchise — one playoff win since 1957 — and have done a lot of things wrong. But they are right when it comes to Johnson.

He owed the Lions money. Had the Lions let him slide, it would have set a bad precedent for the organization moving forward. It would have been bad business.

In the future, other players could quit and use the Johnson case as a reason why they shouldn’t have to pay back pre-paid signing bonuses.

This seems pretty obvious, and really shouldn’t be a conflict. When you don’t honor your contract, you don’t get paid. It’s pretty standard.

Can you imagine if a team refused to pay a player who lived up to the terms of the contract? My God. It would be bloody murder.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions, trying to get their former WR back in the fold, bent and even offered Johnson a repayment plan. They would pay Johnson back $500,000 a year for three years in exchange for Johnson doing 28 hours of work for the team, plus a one-time $100,000 to Johnson’s foundation.

Johnson has refused.

Sounds like an amazing olive branch.

In the meantime, Johnson has gone out of his way to badmouth the Lions, making them out to be the bad guys. And on Sunday, in his glorious enshrinement, he thanked everyone — including the fans and the city of Detroit — but not the Lions.

Somehow, the Lions asking for their money back made Johnson forget that they actually drafted him and gave him an opportunity of a lifetime to play professional football. And let’s not forget, they paid him millions of dollars to live out his dream.

For the record, in 2007, Johnson was the highest-paid Lion with a $64 million contract, and the $27.2 million in guaranteed money was the most by any receiver in league history at the time.

In 2012, Johnson signed an eight-year contract extension with $132 million, with $60 guaranteed, making him the highest-paid receiver in the league.

Yet, somehow, Johnson felt hurt that they wanted money back that was legally theirs by the language in the contract. They always paid him top dollar and never cheated his All-Pro ability on the field.

This has happened twice to the Lions. In 1999, HOF running back Barry Sanders abruptly quit the day training camp opened. Sanders was driving to camp and at the last minute, turn around and drove back home.

That was it. He was done. This would be the last of his legendary change-direction runs. Sanders was done with football, done with the Lions.

There was only one problem. He owed the Lions $5.5 million from a pre-paid signing bonus. Sanders sued the Lions in court and lost. Sanders paid the loot back. Fences have been mended between the two sides and Sanders now does work for the organization.

Maybe, if Johnson won a Super Bowl or even a single playoff game in his career, it might be different. The Lions could have looked the other way and rewarded the dough as a parting gift.

But that never happened. Johnson piled up stats and the Lions keep drowning in losses.

Johnson eventually quit. Of course, that’s his right. No player should have to play if their heart isn’t in it. But to want to keep all the money for services not rendered makes no sense.

Johnson was a great receiver during his day. But in this fight, he, not the Lions, dropped the ball.


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