By Terry Foster
Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders are different people, but they are the same.
Both are quiet. Both are super stars and both will wear yellow Hall of Fame jackets during ceremonies in Canton. Sanders has already gone through the process. Calvin will too.
Here is another thing the two might have in common. They both might walk away from the game before their time is up. Sanders left after 10 seasons, and do not be surprised if Johnson does the same this spring following his ninth season. I have no inside information. I have no scoops to give you. This is a hunch.
I found it interesting that Calvin Johnson grabbed the ball following his touchdown during the season finale against the Chicago Bears.
It was his 83rd touchdown pass, so it was not a historic grab. The Lions are not making the playoffs so it was not a big grab.
But Johnson insisted on having that ball when he ran off the field during the Lions 24-20 victory in Chicago.
I also know that he has asked former teammates what is life on the other side is like. That in itself means little. Guys talk about retirement all the time. However, I believe he is contemplating leaving the game for good.
He might not act upon it, but he at least thinks about it.
A Lions sideline reporter asked Johnson an interesting question after the Bears game. He told Johnson that he loves it here and wants to return. Right?
"I love Detroit," Johnson said. "Let's leave it at that."
That is hardly a ringing endorsement to return to the Lions.
Johnson is 30 years old and his body is beaten up. He does not practice any more and he can barely move after games. He has a young man's body, but an old NFL body. I would have no problem with Johnson retiring. Lions fans should support him if that is what he wants to do. You just don't realize how tough it is to play nine years in the NFL.
Calvin has been hit a lot of times in his career and he will be hit more if he sticks around and becomes an official slot receiver Johnson needs to think about his long term future. He is getting married this year and CJ should think about family and running around with his kids. I do not want to see Johnson doing an interview in a 30-for-30 series in a wheelchair.
The man has nothing to prove. He has 11,619 yards receiving and 83 touchdowns. In 2011, Johnson grabbed 96 balls for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. A year later he topped that with 122 catches for 1,964 yards and five touchdowns.
This is a Hall of Fame player who can carve out a new career.
So what about the millions that Johnson could walk away from? He's earned more than $110 million in his career. He might have to give some money back if he leaves but Johnson is in good shape. He does not throw money away and my guess is he has a nice nest egg to fall back on.
One other thing. I heard from a former player who said playing for the Lions in Detroit is not easy.
"Playing in this city takes all the love out of the game," he said. "All the cash and all the records means nothing. It beats you up."
Johnson is beat up in more ways than one. It might be time to walk away and enjoy life.
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