LOS ANGELES: Detroit Lions wide receiving great Calvin Johnson made it official on Tuesday, announcing his retirement from the NFL at the age of 30.
Johnson told the Lions one day before the team would have become liable for his $24 million salary cap charge.
“After much prayer, thought and discussion with loved ones, I have made the difficult decision to retire from the Lions and pro football,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have played my last game of football.”
The Lions gain room to maneuver in terms of the league salary cap, but they’ll have a void in their offense.
“A harsh reality of our business is that great players like Calvin Johnson do retire and we all understand that no one player could ever replace Calvin,” general manager Bob Quinn said.
“But rather than dwell on that reality, we should, instead, truly appreciate what a remarkable talent we have had the privilege of watching.”
Johnson, a first-round draft pick, caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons.
He set career highs for receptions (122) and yardage (1,964) in 2012 and made a career-best 16 touchdown receptions in 2011.
In 2015 he caught 88 passes for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns, but he has been dogged by foot and ankle injuries that limited his practice.
He had told Lions coach Jim Caldwell the day after the season ended that he was retiring, but Caldwell asked him to take more time to make the decision.
“Let me assure you that this was not an easy or hasty decision,” Johnson said. “I, along with those closest to me, have put a lot of time, deliberation and prayer into this decision and I truly am at peace with it.”
Johnson’s decision recalled the retirement of fellow Lions legend Barry Sanders.
Sanders walked away from the game after 10 NFL seasons by faxing an announcement to his hometown newspaper just prior to the start of 1999 training camp.
At the time Sanders was 31 and 1,457 yards shy of Walter Payton’s rushing record.