Lions wide receiver Golden Tate dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Monday to discuss numerous topics, including the offseason retirement of former teammate Calvin Johnson.
“It was a tough day for the game of football, the state of Michigan certainly,” Tate said on Tiki and Tierney. “Based off what I could see, he still had a lot of juice left. He was still elite, he was still the best at playing, I think. But injuries man, it’s tough.”
Johnson, 30, endured numerous knee and ankle injuries, among other ailments, during his nine NFL seasons. A former No. 2 overall pick, Johnson finished 11th in the league in catches (88), tenth in yards (1,214) and tied for 14th in touchdowns (nine) last season.
“I never knew he was in so much pain because he showed up every single day, grinding through it, played in every game and produced,” Tate said. “And at the end, that’s when I found out that he was hurting. . . . What’s more important: throwing another few years on and maybe hurting yourself even more, or watching your kids grow up?”
For Johnson, the answer seems clear.
Many people will miss Megatron – none more, perhaps, than quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has certainly benefitted from Johnson’s size, skill set and brilliance. Stafford has averaged 4,634.8 passing yards and 28.8 passing touchdowns over the last five seasons.
Still, Tate believes Stafford can be an elite NFL quarterback even without one of the top playmakers in the game.
“When I look at the stats, and I see the numbers that he’s put up for years and years – you see he has all the tools to be great,” Tate said. “(But) it’s deeper than him. We got to help him out. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can only do so much.”
The Lions started last season 0-5 and 1-7 before going 6-2 down the stretch. Their only losses came against the Packers and the Rams – the former by a Hail Mary, the latter on the road.
“We’ve moving in the right direction,” said Tate, who finished with a team-high 90 catches for 813 yards and six touchdowns last year. “I’m excited about where we’re going, and I’m excited to be in this organization for at least another three years because I see us being a contender.”