By: Will Burchfield
With each NFL team that Calvin Johnson visits, his lack of involvement with the Lions grows more notable.
Especially considering an invitation to attend training camp is on the table.
Johnson joined the Raiders as a special guest during OTAs in May. On Monday he showed up at the Dolphins’ practice during training camp.
In each case, he had a connection with the team through a former coach in Detroit.
Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing was the Lions’ quarterbacks coach from 2011 to 2014. Dolphins wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson filled the same position with the Lions from 2005 to 2012.
Megatron was decked out in Dolphins gear on Monday as he worked with the team’s receivers.
Per Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Johnson was at practice “specifically to help Miami’s top three get to the next level on things they need to work on.”
Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker comprise the Dolphins’ top three receivers.
As Johnson links up with other NFL teams, his relationship with the Lions is fraying.
He expressed frustration in May with the way the organization handled his premature retirement. The Lions forced Johnson to pay back 10 percent of his prorated $16 million signing bonus.
“I don’t even like to talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “I just didn’t feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out. That’s all. I mean, it’s all good. I’m not tripping. I don’t feel any kind of way, just hey, that’s what they did.”
In July, 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 told reporters in Italy. “It’s the definition of insanity.”
On the heels of those comments, Lions president Rod Wood invited Johnson to attend training camp.
“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.”
Through the first week of camp, though, Johnson did not make an appearance. Numerous former Lions have been at the team’s facility in Allen Park, and even Chad Johnson showed up for a practice last week.
But not the Johnson that matters to Lions fans.
Head coach Jim Caldwell understands the delicate nature of the situation, and is hopeful the two parties can work things out.
“I can tell you this, playing in the National Football League for a team is like a family. Families sometimes have disagreements, they look at things a little differently,” Caldwell said after Johnson’s first round of comments in May. “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.”
The Lions’ training camp extends through this month. Their final preseason game is Aug. 31 at Buffalo.