By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson knows how to poke a little fun at the expense of an opposing rookie player who may have said a little bit too much.
Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam, who team faces Johnson’s Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Monday Night Football, talked about Johnson glowingly this week. He included a caveat, though.
“He’s pretty old,” Elam told the Associated Press, “so I don’t know how physical he’ll be.”
Of course, the 28-year-old Johnson handled the slight with his usual aplomb – plus a little humor.
“It’s all good,” Johnson said in a teleconference with Baltimore reporters the following day. “I’ll show him what that old-man strength is all about, though.”
Johnson could not resist pointing out that Elam, a safety, will not be primarily responsible for Johnson during the game, so Elam can talk without necessarily having to back it up when the teams meet.
“He doesn’t have to see me on the field,” Johnson said. “He can talk all he wants. He plays back. I don’t see him every play unless I run past him. I’m not worried about it.”
The rest of the Lions found Elam’s comments downright comical. Center Dominic Raiola shook his head and smiled.
“[Elam]’s got to deal with him, not me,” Raiola said. “I don’t know what to say to that. It’s a rookie popping off.”
Lions receiver Nate Burleson said he thinks Elam’s teammates – particularly the cornerbacks who do have to cover Johnson – probably do not appreciate his words about a player who is already the most difficult to cover in the NFL.
“Especially being a rookie, I know they’re like, ‘Come on little buddy,'” Burleson said. “‘Take it easy with the comments.’ I get what he was trying to say. I just don’t think he really understands what old is in this league. If he’d have called me old, I would’ve took it and just not said anything. But Calvin? He’s the real deal.
“Maybe he’s not watching the same film I’m watching, but from what I see out of Calvin, he’s physical, he’s fast, he’s a freak, he’s unstoppable – definitely not old,” Burleson added, then grinned. “Make sure that we take all our proper medication and lube these old bones up and we’ll see what happens on Monday night.”
Though Johnson will hardly be distracted by words exchanged leading up to the game, teammates say Elam’s comment might drive Johnson more than he lets on. While there might not be an actual bulletin board for trash talk in the Lions practice facility, Raiola said the comments will come back on game day.
“Right there in Megatron’s body, like in his mind,” Raiola said with a grin. “He can release those forces on them I guess. Or like Calvin said today, he said something like, ‘The only time I’m going to see him is if I run by him.’
“You’ll see him on Monday,” Raiola added. “He gets juiced up. He won’t ever show it.”
Burleson’s initial reaction to Elam’s insult – of which teammates informed him by helpfully pulling up an article with the quotes on a big screen in the wide receivers meeting room – was a mild one.
“He just laughed, and it was kind of one of those laughs like, ‘We’ll see about that,’ laugh, so I don’t know,” Burleson said. “I think it was funny.”