‘He’s Welcome:’ Barry Sanders Extends Olive Branch to Calvin Johnson

Barry Sanders

Getty Barry Sanders on radio row during the Super Bowl.

The Detroit Lions have a fairly harmonious relationship with their alumni, but one situation that hasn’t been great has been with wideout Calvin Johnson.

There’s been hard feelings on the side of Johnson in the last few years potentially for good reason, but franchise legend Barry Sanders wants to see that come to an end eventually, and he’s putting out word to Johnson that the team would welcome him back whenever he’s ready to rejoin the fold.

Joining the Pat McAfee Show, Sanders explained that he would like to see Johnson back in the mix with the franchise and on better terms even though he can understand some of the hard feelings that have been ongoing in the last few years. Even in spite of that, he would like to see a happy ending and a reunion between the sides play out.

Sanders said:

“I don’t see Calvin often, I’ve bumped into him maybe once or twice since he retired. It would be great if he felt welcome to come back and do anything with the Lions. I know from sort of going through that experience sometimes it takes a little time for one to just get away from it for a while, and mature and see things a different way or whatever the case may be. I know that I speak for the Lions in saying he’s certainly welcome and we hope that happens sooner rather than later.”

McAfee then pressed Sanders on whether he thought the money issue was the biggest factor for Johnson being out of the mix in Detroit. As he explained, it could have plenty to do with many different variables, but he wants Johnson to know that there can be a happy ending to the situation.

“It’s never fun to have to write those large checks. I can’t speak for Calvin, I know for me it was just a matter of time and sort of time passing and enough perspective on the situation and realizing I’m a Lion for life and I probably could have handled things differently on my end as far as retiring. After a certain number of years, you realize look, the Lions are my family. You move on. It was great memories. I don’t know how Calvin feels about that, but obviously he’s up for the Hall of Fame this year. He put up great stats, people always remember him as a Lion. Eventually you just put differences aside and come together and get past some of the differences you had in the past.”

It’s long been expected that time would heal all wounds as it relates to this scenario, and that’s just what could play out if Sanders is right. Currently, Sanders works with the team closely as an active alumni to engage the fanbase and community, so his words are not to be taken lightly.

This could represent an interesting olive branch from the team to Johnson just ahead of him potentially cracking the Hall of Fame.

Calvin Johnson’s Feud With Lions

For the last handful of seasons, Johnson has been embroiled in a feud with the Lions over the amount of money the team made him pay back upon his retirement, Johnson has avoided much contact with the team in the time since, but the Lions want to bring him back in the fold. Contrary to what team president Rod Wood has maintained, Johnson claims the Lions haven’t reached out to him lately. It would be wise for Sheila Ford Hamp to mend those fences before Johnson has the potential to crack Canton, Ohio this coming year.

What’s Next For Calvin Johnson’s Hall of Fame Hopes

Last Tuesday night, Johnson was revealed to be a finalist to crack the Hall of Fame, and he made the cut again through another step in the process. There is just one cut left for Johnson to make at this point in time, and he could soon be joining others in Canton, Ohio.

This is the closest the Lions have had to a former player cracking the Hall of Fame process since Barry Sanders got inducted back in 2004. Obviously, fans will be hoping that Johnson can get this done.

The next step for Johnson? He will have to make it through another final round of cuts as the list whittles down further from 15. From there, the list will be expected to be between four and eight players who will crack the Hall of Fame at this point, and the Lions and Johnson will learn around the Super Bowl their fate. Johnson will be depending on a group of folks continuing to vote him through and believe in his talent enough to crack the list and be the next to get awarded a gold jacket.

Johnson will have to beat out fellow wideouts Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne to get induction this year. If he doesn’t make it this time around, he can be on the ballot again next year.

If Johnson does make it, hopefully, he will be on better terms with the Lions at that point in time.

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