Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press reported the news. Previous NFLPA records showed Johnson had paid $320,000 of a potential $3.2 million the Lions could have required the three-time All-Pro pay.
The Lions were not required to force Johnson to repay any of the $16 million signing bonus they gave him in 2012. Their financial request has apparently led to some bad blood between the two parties.
“I just didn't feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out,” Johnson told the Free Press last month. “That's all. I mean, it's all good. I'm not tripping. I don't feel any kind of way, just hey, that's what they did. Hey, it is what is.”
Lions ownership previously recouped money from former running back Barry Sanders when he unexpectedly retired in 1999. That also led to some behind-the-scenes tension. Johnson and Sanders are arguably the two best players in franchise history, which makes the Lions' hard-line stance all the more confusing.
Sanders and the Lions eventually settled their differences, and his No. 20 was retired. Lions coach Jim Caldwell likened Johnson's squabble as familial issues.
"Playing in the National Football League for a team, it's like a family," Caldwell said, per Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. "Families sometimes have disagreements. They look at things a little differently. I have grown children. Sometimes we look at things a little differently. We hash them out, talk them out. There's dialogue, but it doesn't mean I don't love them. But we get the differences worked out.
"I think the same thing will happen in this situation. Maybe there's a disagreement, a little different viewpoint, but the most important thing, I think, is perhaps this whole thing will bring about a little more dialogue."