Lions invite disgruntled Johnson to camp

The Detroit Lions have extended former receiver Calvin Johnson an invitation to the team’s training camp next month in Allen Park, Michigan, team president Rod Wood told WJR Radio on Monday, according to the team website.

Johnson, the franchise’s all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, has expressed displeasure over the past few months with his departure from the club upon his retirement in March 2016.

At the time of his retirement, he said the various injuries that had built up during his nine-year career with the club, including ankle and finger issues, were the main reason for his decision. He still has a finger that is off-kilter and he told ESPN that during his “Dancing with the Stars” stint last year, there were weeks where his ankles were still in bad shape.

Earlier this month during a news conference in Italy, Johnson said the team’s lack of success was also a contributing factor to his early retirement. During a news conference with Italian reporters, he brought up the idea of superteams when he was asked if he thought about switching teams.

“Of course, I thought about it,” he said. “Just like in basketball, you know, guys, they create these superteams. But it’s not quite like that in football where I had the freedom just to go.

“I was stuck in my contract with Detroit, and they told me they would not release my contract, so I would have to come back to them. I didn’t see the 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.”

In the same news conference, Johnson was asked if he would consider returning to the NFL. He said it would “be too much of a toll on my body” if he played and that he was “tapped out.”

This spring, Johnson told the Detroit Free Press he felt he should have been treated differently on the way out, and a source told ESPN he had to pay back over $1 million of his remaining protracted signing bonus upon his retirement, much more than the $320,000 that was initially reported.

When Wood sat down with ESPN last month, he declined comment on the Johnson situation. Earlier this year, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he hoped the two sides would be able to work out their issues.

“Playing in the National Football League for a team, it’s like a family. Families sometimes have disagreements,” Caldwell said. “They look at things a little differently. I have grown children. Sometimes we look at things a little differently. We hash them out, talk them out. There’s dialogue, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. But we get the differences worked out.

“I think the same thing will happen in this situation. Maybe there’s a disagreement, a little different viewpoint, but the most important thing, I think, is perhaps this whole thing will bring about a little bit more dialogue.”

Since retiring, Johnson has gotten married, been on “Dancing with the Stars,” run his foundation and football camp, traveled to Italy, and picked up skiing. A message sent to Johnson seeking comment about the invitation to Lions camp was not immediately returned to ESPN on Monday.

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