Former Detroit Lions wide receiver #CalvinJohnson, who retired from the #NFL after playing nine seasons, recently sat down with #SportsIllustrated and shared his struggles with being silenced about suffering through concussions, smoking weed after games and opioid abuse amongst other topics.
In the latest interview with SI, Johnson admits that he is sure he suffered at least nine concussions in the NFL, one for every season, a “super conservative” estimate, he says.
The concussions appeared to have been a regular thing for Johnson, as he shares that he got used to them. “Bam, hit the ground real hard. I’m seeing stars; I can’t see straight,” he says. “But I know in a couple minutes I’m gonna be fine. Because I’ve done that plenty of times before.”
Back in 2012, Johnson informed reporters that he suffered a concussion while playing against the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions reported (and still maintain) that he passed their concussion protocol, and Johnson ended up switching his story saying, “I misused the terms nerve damage and concussion.” But he reveals now, “I knew I was concussed because I blacked out. I wasn’t seeing straight. And they wanted me to change my story.”
Why would he play through a concussion one might ask? Well, he says it is mostly because in the NFL, that’s how you earn Employee of the Month. “It’s not about the welfare of the players,” Johnson adds it’s, “just about having that product.”
Further, he admitted that he smoked marijuana after every game, to help with the healing process. He also explained that one of the biggest issues that players faced around the time he first got to the NFL, was an abuse of drugs prescribed to deal with pain.
In the Sports Illustrated interview he says, “When I got to the league, [there] was opioid abuse,” Johnson says. “You really could go in the training room and get what you wanted. I can get Vicodin, I can get Oxy[contin]. It was too available. I used Percocet and stuff like that. And I did not like the way that made me feel. I had my preferred choice of medicine. Cannabis.”
Johnson still has a decent shot at being inducted into the Hall Of Fame, although he retired in his prime, at age 30. Johnson says that if the Lions were a better team he probably would have kept playing, but he is glad he left.
This full story will appear in the September 23 issue of Sports Illustrated.