According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Detroit Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson is planning to retire, as the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket told close family, friends, and several members of the Detroit Lions before last season began that 2015 would be his final year in the NFL. This, after several months of rumors and questioning, began surrounding the idea of Johnson’s future in the league.
A five-time Pro-Bowler, Johnson would be entering his tenth NFL season if he were to come back in 2016. Schefter also reports that Johnson told his fellow teammates quarterback Matthew Stafford and linebacker Stephen Tulloch of his decision to retire before the 2015 season began, and asked that they keep the information confidential. The rest of the Detroit Lions team and management, including head coach Jim Caldwell, did not become notified of Johnson’s retirement contemplation until after the 2015 season.
Johnson, 30, suffered a series of nagging injuries in 2015 to his ankle and lower body, which became major factors in his decision to retire, according to Schefter.
The retirement of a star player in their early 30’s is nothing new to the Detroit Lions and their fans. In 1998, at the age of 31, Detroit’s star running back Barry Sanders retired from the game of football. His decision to retire was deemed by many to be very unorthodox, as Sanders left the game of football healthy and was in the prime of his career. Sanders accounted for 15,269 rushing yards, 2,921 receiving yards, and 109 touchdowns while playing just nine seasons in the NFL.
Years following his retirement, Sanders revealed that the culture of losing in the Detroit Lions’ organization was too much to handle and was the main reason for his early departure from the NFL. This is what makes the cases of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson extremely different, as ‘Megatron’ has stated in the past that he cannot see himself playing for any other team in the National Football League. Barry Sanders did what he thought was right for him mentally and that was to retire from the game of football. For Calvin Johnson, it appears that his decision to retire is entirely based on the physical toll the game has taken on his body. Even at ‘6″5 and being abnormally larger than most defensive backs, the hits Johnson has taken over the course of his playing career have clearly done some damage to him. Damage, to the point, where he is trying to get out of football at an age where many would consider it “too early.” With the issue of concussions just recently coming to light and the game’s speed and size increasing year by year, expect to see more “early retirements” from star players similar to the status of Calvin Johnson in the following years.
Johnson’s teammates, Corey Fuller and James Ihedigbo took to social media to congratulate Johnson on a great career and wish him the best:
A photo posted by Corey Fuller (@coreyfuller10) on Jan 31, 2016 at 3:34pm PST
— DIGGZ32 (@JamesIhedigbo) January 31, 2016