By: Will Burchfield
Rod Wood is trying to mend the fence between the Lions and one of their all-time greats.
In an interview with WJR Radio on Monday, Wood, the Lions president, said he has invited Calvin Johnson to attend the team’s training camp at the end of this month.
Johnson, who retired after the 2015 season at the age of 30, has aired some grievances of late with the only organization he ever played for. In May, he expressed frustration with the way the Lions handled his retirement, including making him pay back a portion of his salary. And last week he confirmed that the team’s constant losing was a factor in his decision to walk away from football.
A once happy relationship is turning sour, and Wood wants to turn things around.
“Calvin, interestingly, texted me a couple weeks ago,” Wood told WJR. “We exchanged a few text messages recently and they were very cordial. I won’t get into what they were about, but they were very professional. I did invite him out to training camp, we’ll see if he does that. Hopefully he shows up.
“He’s a great player and we want to have him in the tent, not outside the tent. Hopefully that’s the way it ends up.”
Head coach Jim Caldwell expressed a similar sentiment after Johnson said he was disappointed with how the Lions treated him on his way out.
“I can also tell you this, playing in the National Football League for a team is like a family,” Caldwell said. “Families sometimes have disagreements, they look at things a little differently. I have grown children, sometimes we look at things differently and hash it out, talk it out with dialogue.
“I think this thing will perhaps bring about more dialogue. How long will that take? I’m not certain. I’m not putting any parameters on it, but I think there will probably be a little discussion and I think that will be a good thing.”
In Johnson’s latest comments, delivered to the Italian media last week, he said he retired in part because he was “stuck” in his contract with Detroit and the team wouldn’t release him.
“I didn’t see a chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time, and for the work I was putting in, it wasn’t worth my time to keep on beating my head against the wall and not going anywhere, he said. “It’s the definition of insanity.”