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Herman Moore: Lions will feel the loss if Johnson retires

Herman Moore was on the 1999 Detroit Lions team that saw superstar Barry Sanders abruptly retire before the start of training camp.

Moore said he and some of Sanders' closer teammates knew it was potentially coming, but it still sent shockwaves through the organization.

That 1999 team did a pretty good job absorbing the blow, however, and managed to start off the season 6-2 and hold on to make the playoffs at 8-8, though they lost in the opening round.

Calvin Johnson, the best player the Lions have employed since Barry Sanders, is contemplating his own early retirement this offseason at the age of 30.

The two situations are similar in that both players could potentially leave the game on their own terms still as productive players, but are different in that the Lions are expecting a decision on Johnson before free agency and the draft begin, which could potentially help lessen the blow if he does indeed hang up his cleats.

But Moore said a team is always unprepared when a superstar leaves, no matter when it happens, and the 2016 Lions will feel the loss.

"I don't know if the Lions are prepared for that," Moore said during a break between interviews on radio row at the Super Bowl, where he was promoting Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers.

"Going out and trying to replace a talent like Calvin Johnson is going to take more than just one player, I think.

"You'll have to offset it with a good offensive line. You've got to get a good defense. He's going to affect, really, both sides of the football if he does in fact decide to retire."

Lions general manager Bob Quinn said last week at the Senior Bowl that he has plans in place for if Johnson returns or retires.

If Johnson goes through with retirement, Moore said he'll respect him and thank him for the memories, but wish he would have made the decision a couple years ago.

"So I'd still have all my records," he said with a laugh. "I'll give him a much smaller gift now that he decided to beat all my records."

Joking aside, Moore said that if Johnson retires he should be remembered for taking the receiver position "to a new level" and for changing the game in terms of a guy who was as big as a tight end, but could run like a wide receiver and play above everyone else.

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