There was no fax machine this time, no surprise announcement on the eve of training camp.
But just like Barry Sanders did nearly two decades ago, Calvin Johnson is walking away from the NFL and the Detroit Lions on his own terms.
Johnson announced that he is retiring from football in a statement released by the Lions today. He filed his retirement papers with the NFL in advance of the new league year, which begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Lions announced that his contract “matters were settled to the satisfaction of the parties.”
The 30-year-old played nine Hall of Fame-caliber seasons, all in Detroit, and goes down as the best receiver in franchise history.
“Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision,” Johnson said in a released statement. “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.
“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.”
Johnson led the Lions and finished 10th in the NFL with 1,214 yards receiving this season, but a recent spate of injuries started to wear down his body.
Johnson underwent off-season knee and finger surgeries in January 2014 and spent most of the last two seasons on the injury report with nagging pain in his ankle.
He confided in current and former teammates late in the season and in the days after the 7-9 campaign ended that he was considering retirement, and when word leaked of those discussions in early January, he acknowledged the decision he was weighing in a statement released by the Lions.
By announcing his decision now, Johnson gives the Lions and new general manager Bob Quinn plenty of time to prepare for his departure.
The Lions will gain about $11.1 million in salary cap space from Johnson’s retirement and can target a replacement in free agency or spend a high pick on a receiver in this year’s NFL draft.The Lions pick 16th in the first round of the draft.
“That’s a tremendous loss, tremendous void to fill,” Sanders said at the 2016 NFL Honors show in California. “But at the same time you certainly have to take it upon yourself to do that. That’s what they’re going to have to live with, and I’m sure they’re trying to map that out as we speak. And I haven’t really even gotten to that point in my thought process, but we all know it’s dang near impossible to replace a guy like that.”
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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press