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Megatron's health long-term goal for Lions

The SportsXchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions believe the wide receiver's knee issues are a short-term nuisance. He said after the 22-9 loss at Green Bay on Sunday that he was "very close" to being able to play.

But Johnson has been battling soreness in both knees for the better part of the past two years.

"We signed him to a long-term contract," coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. "We certainly want to do what's in his best, long-term interest because those are also in our best, long-term interests."

The Lions gave Johnson a seven-year extension worth $132 million in March of 2012. He's 28 and Sunday was just the fifth game that he has missed in six-plus seasons.

But knee soreness kept him out of practice a lot last year and he missed most of training camp because of it. He played in just two offensive series in the exhibition season. Then he injured his left knee against Chicago and couldn't get it ready in time to play Sunday.

"We'll see where he gets this week," Schwartz said. "He's improving every day and if we can get him back, that'll be a big bonus for us for sure."

Johnson has not had major surgery on his knees. Thus far, there hasn't been any talk of surgery being considered on this injury. But that is the prevailing worry.

"We're not going to put him in danger," Schwartz said. "I think those questions might be a little more relevant if we had played him in this game. He wasn't ready to go, so he sat down and the next guy went up."

Schwartz reiterated what he said after the game, that Johnson's absence didn't cost the Lions the game. The game was lost due to poor execution by the players who did play. He made it clear the team would not be taking any shortcuts to rush Johnson back onto the field.

"We're certainly long-term on him," Schwartz said. "We're going to do whatever we can to put the best team on the field every week. We're not going to have any of our players sit out just to sit them out."

Monday was an off day for the players, though presumably Johnson took treatment on his knee. The team will have a light workout Tuesday and a full practice Wednesday. Schwartz wouldn't venture a guess on how much Johnson will be able to do.

"I really don't have any anticipation," he said. "We will just take it and see how it comes. We've been through that before with him. He set an NFL record last year and he had limited practice time for a significant portion of that. We will take it as it comes.

"If he can get out on the practice field, that's great, and if he can't then we'll wait until the next day."

--RB Theo Riddick, who has carved out a key role on special teams, suffered a concussion in the first half. He had a CT scan at a Green Bay hospital which read as normal. He will have to pass the league's protocol on concussions, which includes being cleared by an independent neurologist, before he can return to practice.

--RT Jason Fox, who returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a groin injury, left the game in the second half with a knee injury. "We're still sort of working through that one," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Too early to determine if he'll miss any practice time."

--TE Tony Scheffler was banged up near the end of the game, but Schwartz said he was available to finish.

--DE Ziggy Ansah had a sack, his third of the season, and two other hits on Aaron Rodgers and he forced a fumble.
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