Calvin Johnson had to return at least $1M from his signing bonus when he retired from the NFL after nine seasons.

By Khadrice Rollins
June 02, 2019

Calvin Johnson is open to repair his fractured relationship with the Lions if they are willing to cut a check.

When Johnson surprised the world by retiring after the 2015 season, Detroit made him pay back at least $1 million of the $16 million signing bonus he was given a few years prior. When talking with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press Saturday at his annual high school camp he runs, Johnson explained how the Lions returning the money would fix their broken bond.

"They already know what they got to do," Johnson told the Free Press. "The only way they're going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don't do that. I don't care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That's the bottom line."

When Detroit legend Barry Sanders retired unexpectedly before the 1999 season, he was also forced to repay the franchise a seven-figure portion of his most recent signing bonus. Sanders had a strained relationship with the squad for years but now works as a paid ambassador for the team.

Team president Rod Wood previously said rebuilding a relationship with Johnson was "a very high priority," adding that he would like to have Johnson functioning in a role with the franchise similar to Sanders's.

"I ain't talked to Rod," Johnson told the Free Press. "I don't even want to talk about that. I don't have no reason to talk about that. I don't even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. Had the rookies, [wide receiver Marvin Jones] came out, they did a great job with the kids. I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kind of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that."

Johnson played his entire nine-year career with the Lions and earned three All-Pro nods while becoming the franchise leader in all major receiving categories. He is 44th in NFL history in receptions (731), 30th in receiving yards (11,619) and tied with Brandon Marshall for 22nd in touchdowns (83), one ahead of contemporaries Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne.

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