Calvin Johnson backs Dan Campbell despite fallout with Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson didn’t watch the recent season of “Hard Knocks,” the inside look at Detroit Lions training camp. He doesn’t know how he would have felt if the series had been filmed in Detroit during his nine seasons with the team.

“I’m indifferent about it,” he said on Monday (August 22). “It would be great for the fans to see a bit inside the dressing room. But for me, you know how I was, I always try to dodge the cameras.

Johnson, fit in a Pro Football Hall of Fame polo shirt — he was inducted last year — spoke before taking part in the 12th annual Jalen Rose Leadership Academy Celebrity Golf Classic at the Detroit Golf Club.

Johnson was still in his prime when he retired, aged 30, after the 2015 season. The wide receiver, who has played his entire career with the Lions, is the franchise’s all-time leader in terms of yards and touchdowns. He was a six-time Pro Bowl draft pick and led the NFL in receptions and yards in 2012.

There has been friction between “Megatron” and the Lions since his retirement, including a financial dispute. (He should have repaid his $1.6 million signing bonus when he retired.)

Asked about his relationship with the Lions on Monday, Johnson didn’t offer much. “I’m not here to talk about that,” he said.

Johnson said last month he would be open to coaching one of the Lions’ 2022 first-round picks, wide receiver Jameson Williams. On Monday, he said he had yet to contact the rookie, but others were working to make the connection.

Johnson’s first two years in the NFL, 2007 and 2008, coincided with current Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s final two years as a player. Campbell was a tight end with Detroit from 2006 to 2008.

Johnson said he did not consider Campbell at the time becoming a coach, although he was not surprised. “I have a lot of respect for him,” Johnson said. “I’m sure his players do.”

Johnson added: “He was a great teammate. He played with one arm, still launched, gave everything. A guy like that, it’s not hard to get left behind.

Johnson is presumably referring to when Campbell, with Detroit, played several games with a torn triceps.

Johnson avoided making a prediction on the Lions, who went 3-13-1 in Campbell’s first season last year, haven’t had a winning season since 2017 and haven’t won playoff game since 1992.

“I really don’t know (how the Lions will do this year), but I hope he does well,” Johnson said. “I wish him the best.”

Johnson launched a cannabis dispensary, Primitiv, in 2019 with former Lions teammate Rob Sims.

Both, according to the company’s website, “suffered the long-lasting effects of physical and mental punishment suffered during their playing careers.”

Primitiv opened its first retail store, in Niles, earlier this year. The next step is a new line of products, featuring nanotechnology that speeds up the action of marijuana. Johnson said he currently cannot offer anything in Detroit beyond medical marijuana due to current legislation, but hopes that will change soon.

Charles P. Patton