Stafford suspected Johnson's last game would be his finale
DETROIT (AP) Matthew Stafford dropped back and threw a 6-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, converting a third down to seal a victory for the Detroit Lions at Chicago in their finale last season.
Stafford said Tuesday he suspected the superstar receiver was playing his last NFL game back then against the Bears.
''I thought it had a chance to be,'' he said. ''I wasn't 100 percent positive. I'm glad he had a sweet game.''
Johnson had 10 receptions, matching a season high, and 137 yards receiving, his second-highest total of the year, and scored a touchdown to help the Lions beat the Bears 24-20 on Jan. 3. A little more than two months later, the 30-year-old Johnson announced that his nine-year career in the league was over.
The Lions returned to team headquarters Monday for the first time since Johnson retired to begin offseason workouts.
Johnson is long gone, leaving a huge void.
''He's irreplaceable, really, with one person,'' Stafford said.
The 6-foot-5 receiver - known as Megatron because of his size and spectacular skills - set NFL records with 86.1 yards receiving per game and with 1,964 yards receiving in 2012. He wasn't at his best last season and yet, he was still pretty good, making 88 catches for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns while playing through lingering injuries.
''We're definitely going to miss Calvin,'' safety Glover Quin said. ''And, some of the plays he made on Sundays and practices and the person he was.''
Detroit won't have a go-to receiver anything like Johnson this season, but it will have a solid duo.
Golden Tate, who has 189 receptions for 2,144 yards in two seasons with the Lions, will likely become the team's No. 1 wide receiver. Former Cincinnati receiver Marvin Jones, who signed a five-year deal in Detroit just days after Johnson retired, will probably be its No. 2 option in the passing game. Jones set career highs with 65 receptions and 816 yards receiving last season with the Bengals.
Stafford said he was excited when he found out Jones signed, saying he ''flashed,'' when he watched him play on tap. Stafford threw Jones some passes Tuesday and got to know him a little more on and off the field.
''I just told him, `Be yourself, and we'll be fine,''' Stafford said. ''He seems like a guy who can do it all - stretch the field, go underneath, has great hands.''
Detroit desperately hopes its struggling franchise is in good hands with first-year general manager Bob Quinn.
He had a relatively anonymous supporting role in the New England Patriots' front office, working for a team that won four Super Bowl titles with him as an employee. Now, has a high-profile job with a franchise that has only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.
Quinn has made some subtle changes with the roster; adding Jones was his biggest move. He also put his mark on the team's practice and training facility. Quinn hired a new strength coach, giving him a new weight room to work in, and had some new carpet and TV monitors installed along with charging outlets in each player's locker.
''You know, good stuff,'' Quinn said.
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