Calvin Johnson gives the saddest reason why he doesn't miss football at all


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The Detroit Lions have never qualified for the Super Bowl, haven’t won a playoff game in 26 seasons and were the first NFL team to ever go 0-16 in the regular season.

While the Lions have been bad for a long time, it’s not necessarily true they’re so bad that wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired rather than play another season in Detroit.

Johnson — known as “Megatron” during his nine-year career with the Lions — walked away from football after the 2015 season. At 6-foot-5, he was a dominant receiver who set the NFL’s all-time single-season record for receiving yards with 1,964 in 2012.

At the time of his retirement, Johnson said he was tired of the beating his body was taking. But in July, he admitted the Lions’ lack of success was a factor.

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“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,” Johnson said in July.

In a piece published Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune website, Johnson said he still has fans asking him to return to football. But he says he has no plans to come back to the NFL because of the physical beating he took over nine NFL seasons.

“I love football. But it became difficult to love the game as much when I was in some sort of pain every day,” Johnson said. “I never talked about it while I was playing because … what good would that do? It wouldn’t make me hurt any less. It would just sound like an excuse. And I hate making excuses. So I continued to play as best I could for as long as I could, which turned out to be nine years.

“And don’t let anyone try to tell you that nine years is a ‘short’ football career. With the beating you take on the field, nine years literally feels like forever. They should have a system to measure a football player’s age — like dog years or something — because nine years in the league doesn’t equal nine years in real time. It takes a lot more years out of you.”

Lions fans who still recall running back Barry Sanders announcing his retirement via fax on the eve of training camp opening in 1999 felt some of that same pain when Johnson called it quits. The two players were almost the same age when they walked away from the game, and both were among the greatest players in the team’s history.

Johnson’s departure wasn’t as surprising as that of Sanders, who was less than 1,500 yards away from breaking Walter Payton’s NFL record for career rushing yards when he quit.

But Johnson said it wasn’t a decision he made hastily.

“I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, ‘You know what? I’m going to retire today,'” Johnson said. “I contemplated it for over a year.”

Despite having $67 million remaining on his contract with the Lions, Johnson said he had to put his physical well-being first.

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“There were days when I was elated because I was breaking records and making my family, friends and fans proud. But the more I played … even that pride couldn’t outweigh the pain I felt while shuffling my feet across the floor because I couldn’t bend my ankles,” he said. “I didn’t want to worry about potentially being in too much pain to play with my son, you know?

“My job was to play receiver. I got paid to catch the ball. But there was a point when every time the ball hit my fingers, they ached. There were other aches and pains and things I don’t need to go into, but eventually, my body said to me, ‘I’m done.'”

Johnson said his body now feels “better than it has in years” and he enjoys dedicating his time to being a family man.

“I have so much going on in my life to be excited about,” he said.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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