Had the Lions resided in better position within the NFC hierarchy, Calvin Johnson would have been more likely to consider returning. In an admission not unlike the circumstances surrounding Barry Sanders‘ 1999 retirement, Megatron told ESPN’s Michael Smith the Lions’ poor 2015 season and current status didn’t make leaving the game as difficult as it would have if they built on their 2014 playoff season.
“If we would’ve been a contender, it would have been harder to let go,” the former three-time All-Pro wide receiver told Smith during an E:60 profile that also delves into the injury issues that led to Johnson stepping away at age 30.
Johnson still amassed 1,214 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns last year but had to deal with ankle injuries the past two seasons. The potential Hall of Fame wideout also told Smith he’s had “a few” concussions.
The Lions made two playoff berths during Johnson’s nine years, losing in the first round of the 2011 and ’14 NFC brackets. Detroit went 7-9 in ’15, but its 1-7 start effectively dashed any playoff hopes. Johnson retired in March but said in June that while he has no plans to return, such a re-emergence would be with the Lions.
Here’s the latest from around the league.
- In light of the NBA’s dramatic cap rise generating critiques of the NFLPA’s job during the 2011 lockout, NFL Players Association assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah attempted to clarify some points to Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com. The union floated the idea of negotiating the removal of the franchise tag but the owners’ concession demands would have been too high for their liking, Klemko writes. “Our system is designed to protect players as much as we can against a short career,” Atallah said. “So things like a higher minimum salary, injury protection, 89% minimum cap spending, post-career benefits that extend into forever. Our system is designed specifically towards the type of employee we have who is at risk of injury. That’s the best argument against comparing us and any sport; we just have a unique employee base.” While it’s difficult to reconcile Mike Conley making more than any NFL player at five years and $153MM fully guaranteed, Atallah pointed out the 53-to-15 roster imbalance between the leagues while emphasizing that the latest CBA stood to reward second- and third-tier players — i.e. Malik Jackson or Olivier Vernon — amid the franchise tag’s continued constraints.
- It’s been six weeks since the Tom Brady and the NFLPA appealed the federal court ruling that reinstated the Patriots quarterback’s four-game suspension, and despite the second circuit failing to rule in the three- to six-week span expected, Michael McCann of SI.com anticipates Brady’s ban remaining in place. “The most likely verdict is the second circuit will not grant a re-hearing,” McCann said, via WEEI.com. “The second circuit grants re-hearings at less than 1% of the time. The odds are certainly not good for Brady.”
- Andre Johnson remains interested in continuing his career, posting a video of a recent workout (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). The Colts released Johnson after one season in March, and we’ve heard nothing connecting the soon-to-be 35-year-old receiver to any teams at this point. PFR’s Dallas Robinson rated Johnson among his top-10 offensive free agents still available.
- Although the Raiders ended up with both Khalil Mack and Derek Carr in the 2014 draft, Mark Davis pushed the front office to select Carr with the No. 5 overall pick that became Mack, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk recalls. Carr ended up going at No. 36, with Reggie McKenzie and Co.’s decision allowing them to land one of the game’s best players in Mack.