By Larry Lage
The Associated Press
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Calvin Johnson has given the Detroit Lions something to be proud of the past two years.
He’s probably the only person who can say that.
The humble wide receiver, though, would be the last one to boast about himself.
“Without saying anything, Calvin speaks volumes,” teammate Nate Burleson said. “It’s amazing. He can show up day to day and not say anything and still be the brightest star in the galaxy.
“And nowadays, that’s something you don’t see often.”
Johnson broke one of Jerry Rice’s single-season records last year with 1,964 yards receiving. He also tied Rice’s personal mark with an NFL-leading 122 receptions. But Johnson couldn’t truly celebrate because the Lions lost their last eight games to finish 4-12.
“It hurts when you don’t win,” he said Friday after signing a slew of autographs following the team’s first practice.
Johnson could rejoice a bit in 2011 when he helped Detroit end is 11-year postseason drought after leading the league in yards receiving and making the All-Pro team for the first of two straight seasons.
Johnson said he still can get even better.
And, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFL.
While Johnson made a lot of catches, deep while well-covered and short before the defense could get set, he let one pass go through his hands in the end zone.
“Stuff like that shows me I have to sharpen up,” he said. “It’s a learning experience because you can’t relax out here. That one drop messed up my practice. That’s going to mess up the whole day. I relaxed a little bit and it went off my fingertips.”
During a drill earlier in the day, instead of standing in line he jogged about 15 yards away from his position group to pick up a football and toss it to a coach. It was just a simple gesture, but it was the latest example he put on display to prove he doesn’t look at himself as a coddled superstar.
Instead of jogging on some routes, he sprints. Instead of letting some errant passes get away, he leaps or twists and turns to try to make catches as if he’s trying impress the coaches enough to make the team.
“There’s a stereotype of diva wide receivers, and Calvin breaks a lot of stereotypes,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “(Six-foot-5) guys aren’t supposed to run that fast. And 240-pound guys aren’t supposed to have the agility that he has.
“We’re really, really proud to have him on our team, and he’s obviously a difference-maker on the field. It doesn’t take one training camp practice to see that.”
And even though Johnson looks like he couldn’t get in better shape, he insisted he has work to do on his body.
“I’m trying to get in the best condition I can to get ready for the games,” he said. “I’m trying to limit my mistakes as much as possible. I always strive for perfection even though I can never reach perfection.”