Calvin Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. He’s put up historic numbers and is a legend in the city of Detroit. But the former Lions stand out, who retired last year at age 30, detailed to ESPN his history of injuries, use of painkillers and concussions. And it wasn’t pretty.
Johnson opened up how difficult it is for him to get up in the morning.
“When you wake up in the morning, you can’t walk,” he said. “You know, you’re shufflin’ across the floor. … I gotta go through, like, a little routine when I wake up in the morning to get everything functioning and ready to go.”
Johnson went on to discuss the use of pain killers in the game.
“If you were hurting, then you could get ’em, you know. It was nothing. I mean, if you needed Vicodin, call out, ‘My ankle hurt,’ you know. ‘I need, I need it. I can’t, I can’t play without it,’ or something like that. It was simple. That’s how easy it was to get ’em, you know. So if you were dependent on ’em, they were readily available.”
It’s not incredibly surprising to hear a former NFL player talk about these subjects. However, what’s scary for the NFL is who’s doing the talking. Calvin Johnson isn’t a running back who takes a lot of impact. He isn’t a linebacker who tries to create contact on every play. He’s not in the trenches with the linemen. Johnson is a wide receiver, the flashiest position in the game. The position where contact is avoided at all costs. A position that mothers want their sons to play rather than running back because of safety concerns. Wide receivers are taught to avoid contact, to make defenders miss. Beyond all of that, a major takeaway from all of this is that Calvin Johnson isn’t just another guy. He’s a superstar. His words carry more weight. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s a fact.
During the interview, he also said he doesn’t know how many concussions he’s had.
“Concussions happen,” he said. “If not on every play, then they happen like every other, every third play, you know. With all the helmet contact, guys hitting the ground, heads hitting ground. It’s simply when your brain touches your skull from the movement or the inertia, man. It’s simple to get a concussion, you know.”
The NFL has taken PR hit after PR hit in recent years for a variety of issues. Safety is one of the many talking points. But a recently retired, top player coming out and breaking down major injury concerns and pain killer use is just another dagger. The NFL should be scared for the future of the league because of players like Calvin Johnson.