Lions WR Johnson may cash in on spectacular season
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP)
Calvin Johnson might cash in this offseason with a massive contract as he enters the final year of his deal with the Detroit Lions while coming off one of the NFL's all-time best seasons by a receiver.
''That's something that is coming up,'' said Johnson, who signed a six-year deal worth up to $64 million after Detroit drafted him No. 2 overall in 2007. ''But I'll leave that alone until after the season.''
He hopes the end isn't this week.
Johnson helped Detroit earn a spot in the postseason for the first time since the 1999 season - Saturday night at New Orleans - after doing what only Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and former NFL star Randy Moss have done. Rice, Moss and Johnson are the only players in NFL history with at least 95 receptions, 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.
Johnson led the league with 1,681 yards receiving, putting him behind Rice's total in 1995 and ahead of Moss' in 2003. Johnson scored 16 times, once more than Rice did in his most spectacular season and one fewer than Moss during the best year of his career. And, Johnson joined the trio with 96 catches - 26 fewer than Rice and 16 less than Moss.
Johnson didn't just produce this season.
He's one of six receivers in league history with at least 45 TD catches and 5,000 yards receiving in a four-season span, according to STATS LLC - putting him on a short list that also includes Rice, Moss, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and Lance Alworth.
The Saints, though, proved Johnson can be slowed down. He had six catches for just 69 yards and didn't score in New Orleans' 31-17 win last month against Detroit.
''Calvin Johnson really didn't do a lot against us,'' New Orleans safety Roman Harper said. ''So, we'll continue to try to take him away.''
Johnson has faced constant double teams, sometimes with two defensive backs pressing him close to the line as if he was out wide on the punt team, and Matthew Stafford has still been able to loft and thread passes to him.
At times, it seems as if the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Johnson can't be stopped. He's fast enough to zip past defenders - he runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash - and athletic enough to rise over them with his 45-inch vertical leap.
Moss is about as tall, played about 20 pounds lighter and with a similar skill set, but one of his former teammates believes Johnson has the potential to have a superior career.
''Calvin has the ability to be better than Randy because he's tougher and Randy stopped working on fundamentals like route running,'' Carter said earlier this season. ''We haven't seen a wide receiver with Calvin's measurables.
''The only thing that will stop him from being one of the all-time greats is not staying healthy.''
Johnson, who played in every game this year and has missed three in four seasons, practiced Thursday for the first time this week. He had been resting an Achilles tendon, declining to say which one was holding him out of workouts earlier in the week.
No one who has seen Johnson in the weight room at Lions headquarters questions what he has done to get ready for being on the biggest stage of his career.
Instead of coasting with the talents he was born with, the player nicknamed Megatron by former teammate Roy Williams wows witnesses with his jaw-dropping strength and an insatiable work ethic.
''He's already bigger and stronger than everybody and you'd think he'd take a day off in the weight room, but he works out every day like he's training for the combine,'' Lions center Dominic Raiola said. ''He's got a LeBron James-type build and you don't see that much in this league. They don't make football players that big, ripped up like him with the ability to run fluidly like he does.''
Raiola and offensive guard Rob Sims will never forget flipping huge tractor tires in a workout soon after the lockout ended last summer, then watching Johnson lift and push the same pieces of rubber with ease as if they came off a bicycle.
''We were like, `Man, look at that,''' Sims recalled, still amazed six months later. ''That'll be a story I'll tell my grandkids about when they ask me about Calvin Johnson.''
When Johnson was asked to react to what his teammates said about him, the humble and soft-spoken native of Tyrone, Ga., simply shrugged his shoulders and offered an aw-shucks response.
''I don't impress myself,'' he said.
If Johnson did, he would be the last to tell anyone.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.twitter.com/larrylage