O’HARA: Less is more for Calvin Johnson

Posted Aug 1, 2014

Even the greatest players can find room for improvement, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson is no exception.

Even the greatest players can find room for improvement, and Calvin Johnson is no exception.

Johnson has decided that less is more in his preparation for his eighth season with the Lions. Johnson has lost weight and lowered his percentage of body fat since the end of last season. That doesn’t mean that Megatron has turned into Micro-tron or that he's a candidate for The Biggest Loser, but the NFL’s most dominant wide receiver reported to training camp noticeably leaner than in recent seasons.

Johnson spoke briefly as he walked off the field at the end of practice Friday. He did not give his exact weight, or how much he has lost, but said he’s in “the lower ‘30’s,” meaning the light side of 230.

“Yeah, definitely,” Johnson said when asked about the weight loss. “It feels good. My weight goes up and down. The more I lift, the more I gain.

“I just feel better. It’s a personal thing to me – and it’s for endurance.”

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Johnson finding a way to be better is bad news for opposing defensive backs. Many people regard him as the NFL’s best player who is not a quarterback.

He was voted the NFL’s No. 2 player, behind only Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, in this year’s poll conducted by the NFL Network. Last season Johnson was voted first-team All-Pro for the third straight year and to the Pro Bowl for the fourth straight year.

As a rookie in 2007, he was measured and weighed at 6-5 and 239 pounds at the NFL Combine, but was still fast enough to record an official time of 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

More recently, Johnson’s “program weight” has been listed from 236 to 239 pounds in various seasons.

Coach Jim Caldwell was not surprised that Johnson worked in the offseason to improve his game.

“Consummate professional,” is how Caldwell described Johnson’s decision Friday afternoon. “He’s one of those guys who’s always looking for an edge. That’s why he’s able to play at the level he plays at -- because he’s so dedicated and focused in on trying to find a way to get just a little better in every single phase.”

The decision was strictly Johnson’s, Caldwell said.

“Nobody knows their body better than he does,” Caldwell said. “He knows his body and understands it extremely well. When you get to that level – an elite performer like that – they have a good feel for where they think they need to be.

“There’s always a collaborative effort, but with a guy like that, he knows what feels good to him.”

It’s likely that Johnson felt that playing lighter will take some pressure off his knee, which required surgery in the offseason. Johnson also had offseason surgery on a badly damaged finger, but the knee was a bigger problem. It troubled him most of the season. It drastically reduced his availability for practice and caused him to sit out two games – a loss at Green Bay in Game 5 and a loss at Minnesota in the final game of the season.

Johnson was active in the offseason workouts and has been as fast and dynamic as ever in the first week of training camp.

Despite his physical problems and the two games he missed last year, Johnson finished third in the league in receiving yards with 1,492 and tied for fifth with 12 touchdown catches. In the two games Johnson missed, the Lions scored only one TD – on a pass to running back Reggie Bush in the last game.