Lions WR Johnson Confirms He Had Injured Fingers
NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Calvin Johnson is downplaying whatever was wrong with his fingers last year.
And with good reason, perhaps — he was still healthy enough to catch 122 passes for an NFL-record 1,964 yards last season.
Johnson met with reporters Monday and was coy when asked how badly his fingers were hurt. Were they broken?
“I had a couple injuries to them, yeah,” Johnson said. “Nothing that’s going to prohibit me from doing what I’ve got to do.”
That much was obvious. Despite little help from an inconsistent running game amid a lost year for the Lions, Johnson had one of the best seasons ever by a receiver. Now, the 27-year-old star is eager to move beyond personal stats. He’s hoping Detroit can rebound from its 4-12 season and win a few more games in 2013.
“I can have three touchdowns and 200 yards, but if we lose the game, what’s it all for?” he said.
Johnson was already among the NFL’s top offensive players after leading the Lions to the playoffs in 2011. He caught 16 touchdown passes that season and ended up signing a new $132 million, eight-year deal with Detroit last year.
But not much went according to plan for the Lions. Their running game wasn’t enough of a threat, the receiving corps was weakened by injuries, and quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for only 20 touchdowns with 17 interceptions.
Johnson seemed unaffected by all the struggles around him — and by the end of the season, his pursuit of Jerry Rice’s mark of 1,848 yards receiving was about the only good news the Lions could savor. He broke that single-season mark in the second-to-last game before falling just short of a 2,000-yard season in the finale.
So if his fingers were injured, well, that’s probably news to most of the defensive backs who had to cover him.
“I don’t blame any drops or anything like that on it,” Johnson said. “It’s just part of the game. Had a heck of a season with it and I’m just fortunate to be in that position.”
Detroit tried to upgrade its offense during the offseason, signing free agent running back Reggie Bush. The Lions may not need to pass as much now, but Johnson would welcome any help that takes some of the pressure off him.
“It’s going to force them to bring another man down, more than we had last year,” Johnson said. “You know, if you don’t, Reggie can make you look foolish in the open field.”
Aside from Johnson, no other wide receiver caught more than 33 passes for the Lions last season. They’ve parted ways with Titus Young, and Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are recovering from injuries. Detroit drafted Virginia Tech wide receiver Corey Fuller in the sixth round.
Identifying a dynamic receiver to play opposite Johnson is certainly a priority for the Lions.
“Somebody that can spread the field and somebody that can make plays — it’s as simple as that,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of new guys. Guys have done some things in the offseason to better themselves, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we look when we get on the field.”
The 2012 season was a forgettable one in Detroit, for pretty much everyone but Johnson. He’s still in the prime of his career — and those fingers will presumably be healthier this year.
All that’s left is for the rest of the Lions to follow his lead.
“During the end of the season last year, there were a few games here and there where one play could have made a difference,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some pieces that I think can help our offense where we can make that one more play at an important time in the game.”
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