NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Calvin Johnson’s NFL career remains over — as does his relationship with the Detroit Lions.
Although the ex-star wide receiver still looks physically capable of playing, the 32-year-old Johnson said Friday that those days are truly behind him after retiring in the 2016 offseason.
“I’m not coming back,” Johnson told co-host Gil Brandt and me Friday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’m enjoying my time off. I’m enjoying things I couldn’t do when I was playing.”
Johnson, who is being honored this weekend as the 2017 Walter Camp Foundation Man of the Year, said his transition to post-football life has gone smoothly. He is forming a consulting company with former teammates related to a variety of business interests that include real estate. Johnson has dedicated even more time toward building his “Catching Dreams” foundation aimed at helping disadvantaged youth (more information can be found here).
MORE: Who are the Lions taking with their first-round pick?
Johnson also is following through on his intent to spend more quality time with his family. That’s one of the reasons Johnson has turned down overtures to become an NFL assistant coach.
“Coaching just takes up too much time,” Johnson said. “I got to the building pretty early when I was playing and coaches were already there and they leave after the players. As far as spending time with family, that’s what I was looking forward to.
“As far as football goes, I still love it. I still love being around the sport. I do some consulting around the league.”
Johnson has accepted invitations for offseason appearances in Oakland and Miami to offer tips to their wide receiving corps. Johnson, though, has no plans to work with the team where he forged a future Pro Football Hall of Fame career.
Bad feelings with the Lions began upon his retirement when the franchise demanded Johnson return a portion of the signing bonus he received from a 2012 contract extension. The Detroit Free-Press reported that Johnson ultimately gave back $1 million. While the Lions got reimbursed, the salary demand severed the team’s relationship with its all-time leading receiver and the NFL’s single-season record holder for receiving yards (1,964 in 2012).
MORE: The greatest Lions to ever don a Detroit uniform
Asked whether the Lions have reached out to try and mend those fences, Johnson said, “Ahh … no. They say they have, but no.”
The wedge is one reason why Johnson sounds indifferent when asked about the state of the Lions now that head coach Jim Caldwell was fired following his fourth season.
“I can’t call it,” Johnson said. “I don’t know any of the people there now.
“You hate to see Caldwell go. He’s a great guy. Guys loved to play for him. I loved to play for him. The man was someone you’d invite out to dinner. He’s that kind of guy. The best to him in his future.”
MORE: The Lions’ best options to replace Jim Caldwell
With his on-field days now behind him, being honored by the Walter Camp Foundation allowed Johnson to reflect upon his past when selected as a two-time All-American wide receiver by the group during his days at Georgia Tech. Johnson parlayed that success into being the No. 2 overall pick by Detroit in the 2007 draft.
“It was kind of nostalgic when I think back to when I was here almost 12 years ago,” Johnson said. “Good times were had. To be back and just be in the same room as these greats like Eddie George to all these young guys coming up now, it’s fun to be in the presence of great talent.”