Calvin Johnson Says He'll Make Peace with Lions If They Repay Signing Bonus

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2019

In this Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015 photo, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) warms ups before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field in Detroit. Johnson says NFL players could get painkillers like they were
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Detroit Lions President Rod Wood let it be known last month that repairing the relationship with ex-star Calvin Johnson is "a very high priority" for the organization, and the former wideout has now made it clear what it will take for that to happen.

He wants the club to give back the part of his signing bonus he was forced to repay when he retired following the 2015 season.

"They already know what they got to do," Johnson told the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett on Saturday. "The only way they're going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don't do that. I don't care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That's the bottom line."

When Johnson walked away from the game at the age of 30, he made it clear that his decision was a result of his body being "fed up" with football, not because of any issues with the organization or the losing seasons he had to endure. However, tension later developed between him and the Lions.

Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press reported in June 2017 that Detroit required Johnson to give back a portion of the $16 million signing bonus he received when he signed an eight-year, $130 million extension in 2012. Per Monarrez, Johnson gave back at least $1 million.

The Lions said in March 2016, according to Monarrez, that the situation was "settled to the satisfaction of the parties." That doesn't appear to be the case, though.

The man known as Megatron will one day find himself enshrined in Canton after putting up gaudy numbers during his nine-year career in Detroit. He hauled in 731 catches for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns, setting the NFL single-season record with 1,964 yards in 2012. He led the league in receiving twice.

He earned six Pro Bowl selections and was named first-team All-Pro three times.

When Johnson arrived in the Motor City, the franchise was in the midst of a seven-year playoff drought and coming off a 3-13 season. It would hit rock bottom during his second year in the league when it became the first team ever to go 0-16.

Ultimately, though, he was able to help the Lions return to relevancy and make the postseason twice.

Johnson not only put together one of the greatest careers by a receiver in NFL history but also managed to pull in nine figures despite retiring with four years remaining on his megadeal. He made more than $113 million in on-field earnings, according to Spotrac.

Birkett noted that the Lions are expected to honor some of the greatest players in franchise history this fall as the NFL celebrates its 100th season. When asked about the possibility of missing out on the festivities, Johnson said he wasn't "sweating it": "Whether it happens or not, either way it's whatever."

Johnson will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2021.