Around the NFL  

 

Lions announce Calvin Johnson has retired

Calvin Johnson might still have gas left in the tank, but he's putting his NFL career in park for good.

The Detroit Lions announced Tuesday the receiver filed his retirement papers after a nine-year pro career.

Johnson's announcement comes more than a month after the wideout released a statement that he was contemplating his NFL future. Debate raged in Detroit about whether or not Megatron should retire, or whether the Lions would be forced to cut the three-time All-Pro selection due to his $24 million cap hit.

Watch:

In the end, Johnson's retirement was underscored by the tacit words in which many breakups conclude: It's not you. It's me.

And it was him.

Johnson dealt with a plethora of injuries over the past five seasons that ranged from his ankles to his fingers. Megatron's decision to walk away from Detroit at just 30 years old wasn't about the money or so much the win-loss record as it was the injuries.

Regardless of the circumstances, Johnson's retirement will be a blast of déjà vu for many in Detroit.

In July 1999, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders abruptly announced his retirement from the Lions. It was a jarring decision at the time that seemed to come out of left field.

Still in my formative years, Sanders walking away while still one of the top running backs -- with the all-time rushing record in sight -- left me in a zombie-like state for the rest of the summer. I checked the local newspaper every day, convinced the running back would return, that his retirement was a move to coax a perennial loser to change. It never happened.

A downtrodden franchise seeing its greatest players retire at age 30 certainly rips callouses off old wounds for Lions fans.

Johnson's retirement with gas left in the tank will feel like a loop in history for many in Detroit. But the retirements of Sanders and Johnson were not equivalent.

Megatron walking away was neither abrupt nor amorphous. The Wichita Eagle was not involved.

Johnson penned a definitive statement in his retirement press release: "I have played my last game of football.

"Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision. As I stated, I, along with those closest to me, have put a lot of time, deliberation and prayer into this decision and I truly am at peace with it," Johnson wrote. "I also want you to know that I have the utmost respect and admiration for the game of football. It has provided so much for me and my family and I will be forever grateful to the game."

The perennial Pro Bowler leaves the Lions as their all-time leading receiver, hauling in 731 catches for 11,619 yards and had 83 touchdowns. In 2012, he set an NFL record for the most receiving yards in a season at 1,964. He also has the second-most receiving yards (329) in a game.

Much of Johnson's career will be picked apart in coming days. In just nine seasons, the receiver was one of the most prolific in the NFL. Despite playing with some shaky quarterbacks early in his career and nagging injuries late, the 6-foot-5 athletic freak earned six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Megatron averaged 86.1 receiving yards per game, which is the highest mark in NFL history.

Yet, in the Hall of Fame debate that is sure to come, his lack of longevity and failure to raise a poor franchise to even one playoff win will be railed upon. I refuse to pander to those arguments at this stage. They are malignant. The wounds too fresh.

Instead, I choose to remember one of the classiest professional athletes ever. I choose to remember the ridiculous sideline catches he made look effortless. I choose to recall the notch of excitement when a long pass left the constraints of the TV screen and the next frame showed Megatron draped in opponents. You knew he was coming down with the ball.

So many times he did.

Fan Discussion