By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – On many fronts, Sunday proved to be a bad day for the Detroit Lions.
First and foremost, they lost to the New York Giants, eliminating themselves from the playoffs. Tangentially, wide receiver Dorin Dickerson told reporters he had suffered a concussion but continued playing anyway, only seeking medical attention after dropping a pass and committing a penalty in overtime.
One more ugly element of the game, though, turned out to be the obviously limited ability of superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who last game became the first NFL player ever to amass 5,000 receiving yards in a three-year span.
Sunday, Johnson had three catches for 43 yards in the game – decidedly un-Calvin-like numbers.
Johnson had been listed as questionable for the game because of a knee issue, and head coach Jim Schwartz revealed after the game that it was not just the knee bothering Johnson.
“Calvin’s beat-up,” Schwartz said. “He’s been beat-up pretty much the whole year, but he has gone out and has tried to do whatever he could this game. His knee and his ankle, his ankle was an issue last week, and it was an issue all week this week. He tried to contribute what he could.
“It was very difficult for him,” Schwartz continued. “We tried to use him in the red zone and some third downs and things like that. He was nowhere near 100 percent.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford did not target Johnson even once in the second half or in overtime.
“He wasn’t his full self, I wouldn’t say,” Stafford said after the game.
The knee in particular plagued Johnson throughout the season, and he has had to miss a considerable amount of practice every week, often practicing only one or two days. Schwartz’s comment about Johnson being beat-up most of the season begs the question of whether whatever is ailing the wide receiver can even be fixed.
Schwartz, though, said soreness was the main issue.
“I don’t think he needs surgery,” Schwartz said. “He doesn’t have anything that’s surgical, at least at this point. His ankle was very sore, and his knee remained sore. I just think we will see where he is next week, if he is able to contribute. I mean he’s such a competitor, and he wants to be out there and help the team. It killed him to be on the sideline and watch as that game went on.
“You’re one play away from sealing a game or making a play here or there,” Schwartz continued. “Calvin can make that difference for us. He certainly feels a tremendous responsibility to this team. He is an incredibly hard worker. He’s a committed teammate.”
The coach said Johnson would play Sunday in the team’s last game against Minnesota if possible.
With the Lions now out of the playoff picture, though, it is a reasonable question whether putting the injured wide receiver out there for a game that does not matter is even worth the risk.