While there's no real animosity between the longtime star and the franchise, former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson told the Detroit Free Press on Saturday that he wasn't completely pleased with how he was treated by the club when he retired in March 2016.
When the newspaper asked Johnson about the possibility of his No. 81 jersey being retired -- something the franchise did not do last season, nor did it honor him in any significant way -- he said he doesn't like to talk about the Lions much.
"I don't even like to talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended," Johnson told the newspaper. "If they see me around here, we'll see. But hey, I don't know.
"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. Hey, it is what it is."
Johnson declined to specify what he was unhappy with about how his retirement played out -- saying "it's simple; it's easy when you think about it."
When Johnson retired, he paid back $320,000 of the signing bonus on his final contract, one-tenth of the $3.2 million the Lions could have collected. Not every team in the NFL requests prorated signing bonus repayments, particularly from star players like Johnson.
Johnson, the NFL's single-season receiving yards record holder with 1,964 in 2013, is Detroit's franchise leader in almost every major receiving category, including receptions (731), yards (11,619) and touchdowns (83).
He retired mostly because of injuries. Over his final few seasons, he suffered injuries to his knees, fingers and ankles. In a lengthy December interview with ESPN, Johnson explained that some of his fingers still don't bend correctly, he has a pinched nerve in his shoulder, and during his season on "Dancing with the Stars," his ankles continually gave him trouble.
Johnson also told the Detroit Free Press on Saturday that he "of course" kept a concussion from team doctors and that players often conceal head injuries from their coaches.
"Guys get concussions, they don't tell the coaches," Johnson said. "It happens. I don't tell the coach sometimes 'cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes you allow that to jeopardize yourself, but that's just the nature of the world."
Johnson previously detailed having a "fair share" of concussions during his career to E:60.
When Johnson was asked by ESPN in December about what he thought about the NFL now that he was retired, he called it "strictly business."
"In everything I can say, it's strictly business because everything is, it's I don't know how to say it without dogging the NFL. I don't want to dog the NFL," Johnson said in December. "The NFL did not do me wrong. The NFL is awesome to a lot of people, and the NFL is great to millions of people because it's a product that everybody wants to see. Now my experience, maybe with my team, I don't know, you know. Could have been better."
Asked to explain that more, Johnson said there were few regrets.
"I don't regret anything that happened on the field with my guys, anything that happened in my nine-year career, nothing at all, not one thing about it. Not even how it ended because I knew how it ended," Johnson said. "I walked out on my own, you know what I'm saying. I just wish that, damn.
"Really, though, I'll just leave it at this: I don't have any kind of bad relationship with any of the players, that I don't know everybody on the team. I love those guys. I played with them and grinded with them, and the guys that are there that I didn't know, much respect goes out to them. I respect any of those guys, anybody that steps on that field. But I wish that things, I just wish that it ended a little bit differently. That's all you're getting because that's going to be too big of a headline."
Since retirement, Johnson has gotten married, started working with younger receivers, picked up skiing as a hobby and been on "Dancing with the Stars," finishing third. He has said multiple times that he has no interest in returning to the NFL.