Nov 16, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Calvin Johnson on the sideline against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the first quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Johnson, Lions discussing how to repair relationship

Newly elected Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson said he has spoken with Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp numerous times in what he hopes is a step toward repairing a fractured relationship between himself and the franchise.

“I know that myself and Sheila Hamp, we’ve had some great conversations recently, and it’s been good to get to know her and just really have those face-to-face conversations,” Johnson said Sunday in a Hall of Fame conference call. “So I think that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Johnson and the Lions have been involved in a disagreement stemming from Johnson having to repay $1.6 million to the Lions after he called it a nine-year career after the 2015 season. That was part of the $16 million signing bonus that came with the seven-year, $113.45 million contract extension he signed in March 2012.

In January, Hamp acknowledged for the first time the discord between Johnson and her team. Hamp didn’t delve into the specifics of situation publicly, but said she was interested in mending it.

“I hope we can repair things with Calvin Johnson,” Hamp told ESPN in January. “He was obviously an amazing player for us and we’re going to continue to reach out to him and hope that we can repair things because I think it’s important that he come back into the Lions family.

“…He was a great, great player and a terrific person and we would love to have him back with us and working with us and helping us with everything.”

Johnson, who on Saturday became just the seventh first-ballot receiver to be elected to the Hall of Fame, was the face of the Lions during his time in Detroit. He made six Pro Bowls, was named a first-team All-Pro three times and was selected to the All-Decade first-team for the 2010s.

The Lions drafted him No. 2 overall in 2007 after his standout career at Georgia Tech.

Johnson, 35, lives in the Detroit suburbs with his family and works at Primitiv, a cannabis business he and former Lions offensive lineman Rob Sims started.

Johnson, who is the Lions’ all-time leader in receptions (731), receiving yards (11,619) and receiving touchdowns (83), praised the Lions’ fans on Saturday after learning he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August in Canton, Ohio.

“To you guys, this is everything. You guys were everything to us,” Johnson said about the fans. “You filled that stadium. You brought the energy each and every Sunday, even though, in my tenure there, we were 0-16 (in 2008), but you guys still believed in us, you all believed in the city and you all believe that we’re going to have a Super Bowl winner there at some point.

“I hope for you guys that it is sooner than later and I’ve loved living my whole adult life in Michigan. I’m still there and I love you guys and appreciate you guys for all the support and love that you guys have shown me from then until now. And Detroit, the city, is number one in my heart, for sure.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looks on before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Matthew Stafford trade expected before Super Bowl

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely to have a new team to play for before the Super Bowl, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Interest in Stafford is significant, with both the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams rumored to be among the potential landing spots for the 12-year pro.

NBC Sports also reported that a trade for Stafford is likely to occur this week.

Detroit has been looking to deal the quarterback after Stafford asked to move on from the only NFL franchise he has played for since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009.

New Lions coach Dan Campbell told the Detroit Free Press that interest in the quarterback is “pretty hot and heavy right now.”

“We’ve got quite a few offers and so it looks like we’ve got some trade partners,” Campbell told the paper. “We’re just trying to work out the best scenario and see what’s best for us, ultimately.”

Stafford, who turns 33 next month, did not lead the Lions to a NFC North division title or playoff victory in his 12 seasons with the Lions. He currently has two years left on a team-friendly contract due to pay him a combined $43 million — $20 million this year and $23 million next year.

When Stafford is traded, it will be in principle only until the new league year begins in March. Stafford is due a $10 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2021 league year. Detroit would carry $19 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2021, but a trade would yield a savings of $14 million in cap space and $20 million in cash at a time the NFL’s salary cap is expected to decrease, NFL Network reported.

Stafford started all 16 games and threw for 4,084 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, despite playing through rib, right thumb, ankle and neck injuries. None of the injuries are expected to require surgery.

Stafford has started 165 games — going 74-90-1 — for the Lions and has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 45,109 yards, 282 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. His 38 game-winning drives rank eighth all time and his 31 fourth-quarter comebacks are seventh-best in league history.

He led the Lions to the postseason three times, most recently in 2016, when Detroit went 9-7 before losing to Seattle in the wild-card round.

With Stafford reportedly on the trading block and the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson in Houston and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, the quarterback market could be robust this offseason. The free-agent class could include Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Rams could be a player for QB Matthew Stafford

The Los Angeles Rams have been disappointed with the play of quarterback Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions are set to part ways with Matthew Stafford, with ESPN reporting Friday the teams could be open to doing business together.

According to the report, Stafford believes the Rams are “a viable contender in his trade market,” a source indicated.

The Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $134 million contract in 2019 that had $110 million guaranteed. A restructuring of the deal in April freed up $7 million for the Rams. But cutting Goff after five seasons would cost the Rams $65.2 million in dead money. Trading him would cost $22.2 million.

Goff, 26, is a two-time Pro Bowler that helped the Rams to the Super Bowl after the 2018 season, but he struggled in that game, a loss to the New England Patriots, and his quarterback rating the past two seasons was worse than the previous two.

Goff has thrown for 18,171 yards in 69 career games with 107 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. He led the NFL in pass attempts in 2019 with 626.

Goff threw for 3,952 yards and 20 TDs with 13 interceptions in 15 games this past season, undergoing thumb surgery after a Week 16 injury. The Rams went 9-6 with Goff as the starter and advanced to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs where they were defeated by the Green Bay Packers.

Stafford, 32, has played 12 seasons with the Lions after he was the No. 1 overall selection by the team in 2009 out of Georgia. Stafford has one Pro Bowl appearance, and he has delivered a better QB rating than Goff in each of the past two seasons.

Stafford has thrown for 45,109 yards in 165 career games with 282 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. He led the NFL in pass attempts in 2011 (663) and 2012 (727). He also led in completions in 2012 (435).

Stafford passed 4,084 yards this past season with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions in 16 games as the Lions went 5-11.

Goff has played in six career playoff games, while Stafford has played in three playoff games and none since 2016. He is 0-3 in the playoffs.

Trading Stafford will cost the Lions $19 million in dead money. Stafford and the Lions agreed last week to mutually part ways, it was reported Jan. 23.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Lions seeking to trade QB Matthew Stafford

Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions are likely to part ways during the offseason, with the team actively shopping their franchise quarterback on the trade market, according to numerous reports.

The Lions recently hired a new general manager in Brad Holmes and new coach Dan Campbell, so the time appears right to move on from Stafford, who has not led the team to an NFC North division title or a playoff victory in 12 seasons under center.

Stafford is expected to bring the Lions plenty of talent, which would include at least a first-round pick in return, ESPN and NFL Network reported.

Stafford, who turns 33 in February, has two years remaining on a team-friendly deal that is due to pay him a combined $43 million — $20 million this year and $23 million next year.

Stafford started all 16 games and threw for 4,084 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, despite playing through rib, right thumb, ankle and neck injuries. None of the injuries are expected to require surgery.

If Stafford is traded, it likely would occur before the fifth day of the 2021 league year in March, when he’s due a $10 million roster bonus. Detroit would carry $19 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2021, but a trade would yield a savings of $14 million in cap space and $20 million in cash at a time the NFL’s salary cap is expected to decrease, NFL Network reported.

The teams that may be in the market for a quarterback include the Washington Football Team, Broncos, Colts, Panthers, Patriots and Saints.

Stafford has started 165 games — going 74-90-1 — for the Lions since being taken No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft. He’s completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 45,109 yards, 282 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. His 38 game-winning drives rank eighth all time and his 31 fourth-quarter comebacks are seventh-best in league history.

He led the Lions to the postseason three times, most recently in 2016, when Detroit went 9-7 before losing to Seattle in the wild-card round.

With Stafford reportedly on the trading block and the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson in Houston and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, the quarterback market could be robust this offseason. The free-agent class could include Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

New Lions GM Brad Holmes to evaluate everything, including Matthew Stafford

After taking over a team that finished 5-11 this season and hasn’t had a winning season since 2017, new Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes knows everything has to evaluated, and that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford.

In his introductory video conference Tuesday, Holmes lauded Stafford’s abilities but didn’t commit to the 32-year-old returning to the Lions in 2021.

“Matthew, great player. And what you really appreciate is, I think the talent level is easy to see, but you really appreciate how intangibles show on film, how urgent he plays, how competitive he is, the toughness that he shows,” Holmes said. “But it is my job to evaluate the entire roster, and through that process, I have not had any discussions with Matt or any players for that matter. So I just want to be fair to the process and make sure that we evaluate that thoroughly, but obviously, Matt, very good football player.”

Holmes, 41, was hired Jan. 14 to replace Bob Quinn, who was dismissed in November. The Lions haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and their drought without a playoff win dates to 1991 — the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind the Cincinnati Bengals (1990).

Previously Holmes was the Los Angeles Rams’ director of college scouting. Despite the Lions’ dismal record the past several seasons, he doesn’t consider the task at hand to be a rebuild.

“That’s not the approach,” he said. “That’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure we can put the most competitive team possible out there in 2021.”

The first major move Holmes has to make is hiring a head coach. New Orleans Saints tight ends/assistant head coach Dan Campbell is the favorite to get the job, according to multiple reports Tuesday. Holmes didn’t address the speculation, but did describe what he wants in a head coach.

“My No. 1 core trait was, first of all, he’s got to be a leader of men,” Holmes said. “He has to have presence. Within that presence he has to have poise, he has to have confidence, he has to have command and he has to have mental toughness. He has to have intelligence. A strong passion to develop.”

Whether Lions’ future includes Stafford remains to be seen. In 2020, Stafford played through injuries and completed 339 of 528 passes for 4,084 yards and 26 touchdowns. He was intercepted 10 times.

The 12-year veteran is far and away the Lions’ all-time leader in passing yards (45,109) and passing touchdowns (282).

He’s due a base salary of $9.5 million while his salary-cap hit will be $33 million and his dead-cap value will be $19 million in 2021, according to Spotrac.com.

Part of Holmes’ evaluation of Stafford will include what the quarterback brings in intangibles.

“I think the intangibles are the separator of success at this level,” Holmes said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; View of a Detroit Lions helmet on the bench before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Lions hiring Brad Holmes as general manager

The Detroit Lions are finalizing a multi-year deal to name Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes as their new general manager, multiple outlets reported Thursday.

Holmes, 41, interviewed twice each with the Lions and Atlanta Falcons for their GM openings.

Holmes spent the past 18 years with the Rams, who will receive two third-round compensatory draft picks as part of the NFL’s new hiring initiatives.

Per a league resolution adopted in November, a team receives a third-rounder in each of the next two drafts if a minority assistant coach becomes a head coach or a personnel executive becomes a general manager.

Holmes, who played college football at North Carolina A&T, worked for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks after graduation before joining the Rams in St. Louis as a public relations intern in 2003. He became the college scouting director in 2013.

Holmes replaces Bob Quinn, who was dismissed along with head coach Matt Patricia on Nov. 28.

Quinn was hired in Detroit in January 2016 after being part of a front office that won four Super Bowls in New England.

The Lions finished 5-11 in 2020, their third straight losing season. Detroit hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016 and has not won a playoff game since the 1991 season, a 29-year drought that is the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind the Cincinnati Bengals (30 years).

Holmes’ immediate duties will include hiring a head coach and preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Lions will have the No. 7 overall pick.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) gets tackled by Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (24) and strong safety Duron Harmon (26) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins’ big day gets Vikings past Lions

Kirk Cousins passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-35 season-ending victory over the host Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Alexander Mattison rushed for 95 yards on 21 carries and also caught three passes for 50 yards and another score. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 133 yards and set the NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the season.

The Vikings (7-9), who were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, snapped a three-game losing streak. The Lions (5-11) finished their season with a four-game skid.

Matthew Stafford passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions. Marvin Jones Jr. caught eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Cousins threw three touchdown passes in the first half, lifting his club to a 21-16 lead.

Matt Prater’s 54-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Detroit a two-point lead before Cousins hit Chad Beebe on a 40-yard touchdown pass with four seconds remaining in the half. Beebe caught the ball near the 20 and two Detroit defenders collided, allowing him to break free.

Detroit regained the lead in the first minute of the second half. James Agnew’s 70-yard kick return set up Jones’ second touchdown reception, a 26-yarder after a defender slipped.

The Vikings got those points right back on their next possession. Mattison scored on a 2-yard run. A Harrison Smith interception set up a 23-yard Dan Bailey field goal to make it 31-23.

Detroit’s Adrian Peterson scored on a 2-yard run with 3:02 left in the third quarter. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving the Lions down by two points at 31-29.

A roughing the passer call on 4th-and-goal allowed the Vikings to score again. Cousins scored on a 1-yard sneak as the Vikings built a 37-29 lead. Bailey missed the extra point.

An apparent 38-yard touchdown reception by Jones was nullified after review, as Jones was deemed to have not maintained control when he landed.

D’Andre Swift eventually scored on the drive with a 2-yard run to pull within 37-35, but Stafford threw an incompletion on the two-point conversion try. Minnesota then ran out the clock.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs rout Lions, clinch first playoff berth since 2007

Tom Brady threw four first-half touchdown passes and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clinched a playoff berth by pounding the host Detroit Lions 47-7 on Saturday.

The Bucs (10-5) qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2007. Brady completed 22 of 27 passes for 348 yards despite sitting out the entire second half. Backup Blaine Gabbert threw two touchdown passes.

Mike Evans caught 10 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns and Chris Godwin had five receptions for 84 yards and a score. Tight end Rob Gronkowski scored on both of his receptions.

James Agnew scored on a punt return for the Lions (5-10). Detroit’s starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, injured his ankle in the first quarter and did not return. The Lions have lost seven of their last nine games.

Tampa Bay raced to a 34-0 halftime lead, scoring touchdowns on five of its first six possessions.

Brady connected with Gronkowski, who beat one-on-one coverage, from 33 yards out for the first score. The extra point was missed.

The Bucs needed only four plays to drive 80 yards on their next possession. Brady’s 47-yard hookup with Godwin set up his 27-yard scoring strike to Evans.

Leonard Fournette ran 4 yards up the middle for Tampa Bay’s third touchdown.

Later in the second quarter, the Bucs drove 91 yards in seven plays. Brady connected with Godwin, made a leaping grab in the end zone, from 7 yards out to complete that drive.

A nine-play drive finished off the Bucs’ big first half. Brady’s fourth touchdown pass of the game was snared by Antonio Brown, who scored from 12 yards out.

Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Gabbert threw a 25-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski on the next play. Ryan Succop missed another extra point, leaving the score at 40-0.

The Lions finally got on the board when Agnew returned a Bradley Pinion punt 74 yards with 9:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Gabbert threw a 22-yard scoring pass to Evans midway through the quarter.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) waves after defeating the Atlanta Falcons in a NFL game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs face Lions with long-awaited playoff berth on line

Tom Brady’s arrival led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to believe their long playoff drought might end this season.

That dream could come to fruition as early as Saturday, when the Bucs visit Detroit.

A victory would clinch a playoff berth with one more game to go. So would a Chicago loss or tie to Jacksonville.

The Bucs (9-5) are also still in the running for an NFC South Division title. While the Bucs trail the Saints (10-4) by a game, if the teams finished tied, the Saints would win the tiebreaker since they beat Tampa Bay twice in the regular season.

The last time the Bucs reached the postseason was 2007, when they lost to the New York Giants in the wild-card round.

“I call them hat and T-shirt games,” coach Bruce Arians said. “This is a hat and T-shirt game. You get a hat and a T-shirt when you’re in the playoffs. It’s a great feeling for these guys. That was the goal this year — it was to get in The Dance and anything can happen once you’re in there. But get ourselves in The Dance and we have that opportunity on (Saturday).”

A Brady-fueled comeback on Sunday put the Bucs on the brink of a postseason berth. Tampa Bay trailed Atlanta 17-0 at halftime but roared back for a 31-27 triumph. Brady threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns.

He needs 114 passing yards on Saturday to reach the 4,000-yard mark for the season. Brady will be making his 300th career regular-season appearance.

With Ronald Jones placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and also recovering from finger surgery, Leonard Fournette served as the main running back against the Falcons. He rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.

“I thought it was fine,” Arians said of the running game. “When we wanted to run, we were successful. We pounded it in twice at the goal line and ran out the clock at the end of the game. In between, it was hit or miss. Just enough to keep the play action really good.”

The pass defense was subpar, as it allowed 332 yards. The Bucs also failed to force a turnover.

“Our defense needs to reevaluate themselves a little bit and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing and what we’re capable of doing,” Arians said.

The Lions (5-9) have allowed 30 or more points in each of their last four games. Their decimated defense was gouged for 463 yards in a 46-25 loss to Carolina on Sunday.

Matthew Stafford played despite a rib injury and threw for 252 yards and a touchdown before he was replaced late in the game by Chase Daniel.

“He was sore coming out of the game. He did take a couple of hits in that game,” interim coach Darrell Bevell said. “He’s as tough as they come, tough as nails.”

The Lions are out of the playoff picture, but Stafford isn’t interested in sitting out the last two games if he feels he can play.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think he’ll let that happen,” Bevell said. “These guys are true competitors. There’s a sense of pride that you need to be there, you want to be there for your teammates.”

Detroit was forced to close its practice facility on Tuesday after two members of the organization tested positive for the coronavirus. Bevell isn’t sure how much the team will be allowed to practice this week.

“Just got to play that by ear,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Jun 5, 2018; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions logo on the front of a podium before practice at the Lions Headquarters and Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Lions close facilities in wake of positive COVID-19 tests

The Detroit Lions closed their facilities in Allen Park, Mich., on Tuesday after learning of two positive COVID-19 tests within the organization, the team announced.

The identities of the two individuals were not known as of Tuesday morning.

“Earlier this morning, we were informed of two positive COVID-19 tests within our organization,” the Lions’ statement read. “As a precaution, the team practice facility is currently closed and our players and coaches are conducting meetings remotely today.

“As we adhere to our Intensive Protocols and conduct contact tracing, we will continue to communicate closely with the NFL and its medical staff and gather more information.”

The Lions (5-9), who are eliminated from postseason contention, will look to snap a two-game losing skid on Saturday (1 p.m. ET) when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5).

–Field Level Media