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Is Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions going to retire?

Posted Feb 1, 2016

Have we really seen the last of Calvin Johnson? The Lions wide receiver had already declined to take part in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, despite being selected to the all-star game for a sixth consecutive year, and afterward ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Megatron was ready to call time on his playing career.

Still only 30 years old, Johnson had released a statement at the start of January saying he was “evaluating options for my future”. But Schefter reported on Sunday that the player’s mind was already made up, claiming he had informed his family at the start of this season that it would be his last - and then delivered the same message to Lions head coach Jim Caldwell following the week 17 loss to Chicago.

But why step away from the game so young, when Johnson still has so much to offer? He has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in all of the past six seasons, and seven of the last eight. ESPN noted that his 86.1 yard per game receiving average is the highest of any player in NFL history that has taken part in at least 100 games.

Injuries doubtless played a part in his decision, Johnson starting all 16 games this season for the first time in three years, but battling ankle problems along the way. He hardly needs to keep going for the money, with the Detroit Free Press reporting that he has made $106.4 million in on-field earnings (and no doubt a lot more in marketing deals) already in his career.

It is hard to shake the sense, though, that the Lions’ failings as a team were also a factor. For all Johnson’s brilliance, Detroit have made the playoffs only twice since drafting him with the second overall pick in 2007 - falling in the wild card round on both occasions.

His story echoes that of another Lions star, Barry Sanders, who quit football just after his 31st birthday despite standing within touching distance of the NFL’s all-time rushing record, then held by Walter Payton. Sanders would only have needed to repeat the 1,491 yards that he piled up in his final season (his lowest mark for five years) to overtake the Chicago Bears great.

Instead, he walked away a 10-time Pro Bowler and former league MVP, but with only a single playoff victory to his name. The possibility of history repeating itself now has been almost too much for some Detroit media members to bear.

“Once again, we’re reminded more of how much the Lions have wasted as opposed to how much they’ve won,” wrote columnist Drew Sharp in the Detroit Free Press. “Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. Two extraordinary gifts to football and sports overall. Two transcendent stars that never once got lost within the blindingly strong glare they radiated.

“Both gave far more than what they got back from the Lions. Both got beaten down. It’s rare when a franchise gets that top-five all-time talent at one position. But the Lions struck lightning twice with Calvin and his ungodly combination of size, strength, speed and grace. And twice, they threw it away.”

Three more things you might have missed

- ESPN ranks the best trash-talker on all 32 teams.

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- Cam’s still not as cool as this snowman version of himself, though

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