Johnson retires at right time
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, February 2, 2016
As a Chicago Bears fan, I know firsthand the feeling of complete and utter helplessness that comes with watching Calvin Johnson play football.
He makes NFL cornerbacks look like high school benchwarmers. He makes defensive coordinators look plain silly, and he gives Matthew Stafford a reason to get up every morning.
Unfortunately for Lions fans, those statements should now be in past tense as Johnson announced his retirement this past week.
Johnson’s decision to retire is hard for some to understand. He is only 30 years old, and he has a realistic shot to reach number two on the all-time receiving yards list if stays on pace.
I, however, 100 percent respect Johnson’s decision to retire.
Too often in the NFL, and professional sports in general, we see great players stay with the game far too long in pursuit of glory, attention or one last chance to win a championship.
Brett Favre, Kobe Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Michael Jordan, Brian Urlacher. The list of world-class athletes who diminished their legacies, to varying degrees, by not retiring when the time was right goes on and on.
However, the list of athletes who went out on top is long as well. John Elway, Mariano Rivera, Lou Gehrig and Ray Lewis all come to mind. And this is where Calvin Johnson belongs.
Now, it’s easy to retire if you’ve just won a Super Bowl, like Elway and Lewis, or have had one of the greatest careers of all-time like Rivera. But to retire in the peak of one’s career without having won a playoff game takes courage and brains. For this, I commend Johnson.
Johnson was in the later stages of his peak. He was the best receiver in the NFL for a number of years and even now, he is still in the top three. By retiring now, Johnson ensures he will be remembered as one of the best to ever play the game. We will still think of Kobe Bryant as one of the best to ever play the game as well, but there will always be that little asterisk of how poorly he played in his final season.
And to those who say Johnson should have stuck around to get that first playoff win. Have you watched the Detroit Lions play? They are not going to win a playoff game anytime soon.
Then there are some who say Johnson should wait until his contract with Detroit is up and join a playoff contender. This happens fairly often in professional sports, but again, I commend Johnson for staying loyal to the Lions.
Johnson has been with Detroit his whole career and his decision to retire a Lion rather than chase a championship somewhere else will only endear him further to the Detroit faithful.
Even though Johnson is relatively young to retire, he has suffered a number of minor injuries. Even Megatron can get some bumps and bruises and a sprained ankle and a dislocated finger hampered Johnson’s production last season.
I am not Johnson’s personal doctor, but I bet more injuries were in Johnson’s future considering his high volume of targets.
Lastly, in a league all about money and winning, it is refreshing to see a player of Johnson’s caliber acknowledge there’s more to life than playoff victories and multimillion-dollar contracts. Johnson did not win when it mattered most, and he is giving up three million dollars by retiring right now. Yet no one can question Johnson’s professionalism, or his greatness.
And though he is ending his career earlier than many, I hope Johnson is remembered for what he was: a class act and one of the best receivers the game has ever seen.