Megatron’s left index finger under wraps

Megatron

My photo of Calvin “Megatron” Johnson at Lions practice on Monday morning. He didn’t take part. See the protective wrapping on left index finger.

 

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Calvin Johnson’s left index finger was kept under wraps Monday — as was the reason for it.

But Megatron insisted he’s fine.

The league’s highest-paid non-quarterback was dressed but did not participate in the Detroit Lions’ morning training-camp practice.

A black sponge protector of sorts covered his finger, secured by equally well colour-coordinated Honolulu-blue tape.

Nobody with the team would say if Johnson had injured the digit.

All Johnson told reporters after practice was, “The finger will be all right. It’s just football.”

He was in good spirits during the practice, and even shagged balls for one drill — once using both hands to snare a ball gently tossed his way from close range.

Megatron is on the cover of this year’s Madden 13 football video game. Past NFLers going back to Barry Sanders in 2000 have been jinxed by injury, team woes or even — in Sanders’ case — the urge to suddenly retire.

Is the Madden Curse at work again?

“No, no,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz told reporters. “It’s pretty much — not really a scheduled day, but an expected day off for him.”

In March, Johnson signed a contract extension worth $132 million over seven years — $60 million of it guaranteed.

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Ascending Lions are growing, maturing: Schwartz

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Some 30 police officers converged Monday on the Detroit Lions’ training camp.

No, smart alecks — not because more Lions players are in trouble with the law.

Rather, the off-duty patrol officers were on hand as guests, in a cool move by the club to honour some of Detroit’s Finest.

Still, after seven off-season player arrests for charges involving pot, DUI and guns, these kinds of shots are inevitable.

It’s a shame on a number of levels. From a football standpoint, this one:

The irresponsible, immoral conduct off the field by a handful of players — on the heels of a few infamous incidents of undisciplined play on the field last season, primarily by DT Ndamukong Suh — has taken the focus off just how far this franchise has come in three short years.

SchwartzIn 2008, the Lions went 0-16 — a laughingstock franchise in tatters. Under the tutelage of GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions since have strung together seasons of 2-14, 6-10 and 10-6, the latter good enough for a wildcard playoff berth.

In January the Lions hung with the Saints until their porous defence completely gave way in the fourth quarter, in a 45-28 NFC-playoff loss.

In an interview on Monday, Schwartz insisted the off-field controversy has had no impact on this year’s team, as it aims to continue its progression toward joining the NFL’s elite.

“It hasn’t been a distraction at all,” Schwartz told me.

“I think we’ve had some young players in the last year that have made a couple mistakes, and they need to show more maturity. And as a team, I think we’ve grown — but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

SuhRegarding the on-field issues of 2011, such as Suh’s two-game suspension last November for roughing up a Green Bay Packers lineman, Schwartz said he cannot control, nor worry about, whether any outsiders want to label the Lions the new renegades of the NFL.

“We’re certainly going to do anything we can to win, but we don’t want penalties,” he said. “We want to play tough, aggressive football — offensively, defensively and on special teams. They can brand it however they want.

“But we certainly don’t aspire to get penalties. And there is a line that you have to draw. There were some learning experiences last year, not just for Ndamukong but for the whole team … Some of them we responded very well to, others we didn’t.”

Until now, it had been more than half a century since the Lions possessed one of the league’s most dynamic passing duos. But they have exactly that in rising quarterback Matthew Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, probably the premier wideout in the game.

StaffordStafford threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TDs in ’11, while Johnson had 16 TD grabs and 1,681 yards.

Is Stafford now among the league’s foremost signal-callers?

“We’ll let the fantasy-football people and the other pundits worry about where he stacks up,” Schwartz said. “Matt’s job is to lead the team to victories (and) he’s very good at doing what it takes to win.”

The defence’s Achilles is in the secondary, and the release of projected starting cornerback Aaron Barry three weeks ago — after his second off-season arrest — hurts.

“We want to play well in all three phases,” Schwartz said. “We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team … There are a lot of things that we need to do better defensively. But the same thing is true of offence and special teams — I wouldn’t single those guys out.”

The Lions’ second preseason game is Friday night against the Ravens in Baltimore.

Stafford

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