Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/27/13
Dallas receiver Dez Bryant thinks he “can do whatever he can do.” NFL analyst Cris Carter refused to count him among the league’s six best wide receivers two years ago. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman changed his own Twitter handle to Optimus Prime. The list goes on and on. The slings and arrows, the quips and japes and jabs come often and from everywhere. This is what it’s like to be Calvin Johnson these days. This is what it’s like to be the best receiver in the NFL. With the exception of doubts from the delusional, few would question that the Lions receiver is on top of the mountain of the league’s pass-catchers. And from his perch, Johnson regularly and stoically endures challengers nipping at his heels like dull-toothed puppies nibbling on the alpha dog. Dominic Raiola, the Lions’ feisty center, just laughs at the onslaught Johnson constantly faces. “Words that I live by: Don’t hunt what you can’t kill,” Raiola said with a chuckle. Indeed. Johnson’s predators have mostly turned to prey after they’ve poked the bear a little too hard. “Nobody really talks too much trash,” Johnson said. “Players — the guys you play, they’ve got to play you. So it’s like, you’re going to talk trash then you just turned me up some. You’ve done made your bed.” Johnson has never publicly responded to any criticism he has received. He might let on that he’s not pleased, but he has always held his tongue publicly. “If you respond,” Raiola said, “no matter what, even if you beat the guy during that game, I think the bigger thing would be not even responding and letting your play do the talking. He’s the king of that.” Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, no stranger to criticism, said he could not recall a single instance of anguish on Johnson’s face about criticism. “I’ve never seen him react negative, period,” Pettigrew said. “He’s just an all-around good guy. There’s nothing bad I can say about him.” Steady? Even-keeled? Forget about it. Johnson’s demeanor could have kept the Titanic afloat. “I don’t think he ever gets too worked up about anything,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “But he’s a competitive guy, just like everybody else.” Yes. That he is. Johnson doesn’t let on too much. But he does admit that there is a fire within him and that several things, including criticism, can stoke it. “I just use it all as motivation, really,” he said. “If it gets through.” Johnson said he learned to tune out the prattling that sometimes goes on in the media when he was at Georgia Tech. “I remember in college somebody took something I had said — and I said this, but it was not in context,” Johnson said. “So (the reporter) took the words and dot, dot, dot and made them look a certain way. “So they made me look like an (expletive). So I was like, ‘OK, I ain’t gonna to talk to the media no more in college.’ ” To his credit, Johnson did not carry that grudge to the NFL. As a professional, he has always been available to reporters, even if it doesn’t exactly come naturally.
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