Hall-of-Fame receiver Calvin Johnson should have no trouble cutting his Hall-of-Fame induction speech to eight minutes. He won’t have to thank the Detroit Lions.
And it sounds as if that’s the plan.
It’s no secret that Johnson and his former team have a fractured relationship that goes back to Megatron’s abrupt retirement at 30, four years into a 2012-contract extension. The Lions forced him to give part of his $16-million signing bonus back and refused to relinquish his rights – forbidding him from signing with another team.
That created a fissure that still hasn’t been repaired, as Johnson noted on a Zoom call Friday when asked about his Hall-of-Fame induction speech. Johnson will make it as part of the Class of 2021 on Sunday, Aug. 8, and it sure seems as if he’ll pull a Barry Sanders and not thank the Lions.
Now, to be clear: He didn’t say that. But he didn’t have to.
“I’m definitely going to bring up a lot of people that I’m thankful for,” he said. “There are so many people during my career that had an impact and those specific people I’m going to try (thank) … at least I have them on the ticker. But I’m not going to mention everybody. As far as the Lions, hey, I got nothing to say.”
Sanders didn’t, either, when inducted into the Hall in August, 2004. He thanked the Lions’ fans. He thanked the city of Detroit. He thanked his teammates and coach Wayne Fontes. But nothing about the Lions' organization itself, though eventually he and the club settled their differences.
Johnson isn’t there yet, and it sounds as if he may follow the same Canton script as Sanders. While that may be awkward – especially with members of the franchise, like team president Rod Wood in attendance – he’s unconcerned.
“I’m sure I’m going to run into him,” he said of Wood. “But you know me: I keep it short. I keep it moving. I go about my business.
“Put it like this: I’m not going to be seeing my family a whole lot during this whole weekend, so I’m going to be looking forward to seeing them whenever I get a chance to. So If I pass Rod Wood, I’m going to keep moving.”
Apparently, that hasn’t characterized talks between Johnson and the club. Wood earlier this year indicated the Lions wanted to repair the ruptured relationship with their former star receiver, but, apparently, little or nothing has changed. In fact, according to Johnson, there’s been no progress.
“It’s kind of been a standstill there,” he said. “I’m five years out now. I’m not wasting any time waiting on them.”
Too bad. But look at it this way: That’ll make it easier to keep his induction speech short.