Matt Stafford and the Lions have some things to figure out this offseason. Namely, just what they're going to wedge into that gaping, Calvin Johnson-sized crater in the team's offense.
Stafford and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell recently gave an interview to WJR-AM in Detroit (h/t MLive.com's Justin Rogers) about Johnson and the prospect of a comeback for the recently retired wide receiver.
They don't expect Johnson to be in the locker room this fall, but they know he's going to miss the game and would welcome him back with open arms if he were to have a change of heart.
"I take him very seriously at his word," Stafford. "I'm sure he's going to miss football. It was a big part of his life. But at the same time, I think he's happy with his decision and he's at peace with it. I know he'll still pull for us, but in my mind, I don't see [a return] happening."
Caldwell says he spoke with Johnson several times before the decision, advising him to follow his heart and that the door is always open should he change his mind.
I think we made it very, very clear we'd love to have him back. Jim Caldwell
"We had several conversations," Caldwell said. "You just want to talk a few things out here and there. But what it boils down to is that it's a private matter. I think we made it very, very clear we'd love to have him back. You don't find many guys quite like him, not just as a player, but as a person, as a leader of our team. He just did so many other things well...we certainly made our case known, but he made the final decision."
John retired in March after nine seasons in the NFL, much to the surprise of everyone outside the Lions locker room, and even those ewithin. One of the few who seems to have felt the decision coming was Stafford, who said he his conversations with Johnson over the season tipped him off that it could be his last.
"I had some inklings, and some conversations with him," Stafford said. "And I know him well enough to know the way he was acting, the way he was talking, there was a chance it might be his last year."
If Johnson is, in fact, happy and done, he should be content. His career might not be as long as more traditional greats, but in almost all measurable categories, he was a Hall of Fame caliber wide receiver.
But if he isn't content, well...the door's open, Calvin.
Dan is on Twitter. He's retiring from the Crying MJ game in a month. But he doesn't know if he'll be able to stay away.