ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Coming off an All-Pro season with 96 catches, 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns, there's not a lot on paper Calvin Johnson can improve.
Don't tell him that.
The Lions wide receiver has made a name for himself as the best at his craft. Gliding through the air through double, triple coverage, he's made catching passes an art.
Johnson said his goals are his own, but shed light on a new standard he's setting for himself in 2012.
"They're my personal goals, but it's always to do better than the year before. I feel like I can put up 100 yards every game. That's kind of a benchmark for me," he says.
In three of the last four football games he played in during 2011, he amassed over 200 yards. When he sets goals, he reaches them. For Johnson, it's not entirely uncanny for him to surpass them.
Setting a new set of goals each year. Does he worry about a bar too high even he won't be able to reach it?
"No," he laughs. "You always got to put in work for it. The more work you put in, the less likely you are to give up on reaching those goals."
With success, comes attention. Johnson has been in the spotlight since he was a blue-chip high school student in Tyrone, Georgia, but his 2011 season brought the 26-year old to the forefront like never before.
The nation voted him to the be the cover boy for the famed EA Sports Madden 13 video game. He announced the Lions first-round pick at Radio City Music Hall during the 2012 NFL Draft. He is on the front of ESPN the Magazine's NFL preview issue, the first Lion to do so. Oh, and he joins teammate Matthew Stafford on the regional cover of Sports Illustrated's NFL issue.
Admittedly disenchanted by the media, Johnson has become more comfortable with the attention.
"Comfortable, yeah, but I just really don't like all the time it takes. One thing I like to guard is my time, especially because you don't get a lot of it. During the season, you try to take care of the things you really need to do."
Most people look at the opportunities in front of Johnson as a prime chance to grow a brand, to be thrust into everyone's living room on multiple platforms. He views it another way.
"I can describe it perfectly. I am paid to play football. People want you to do the magazine shoots and stuff like that. The only reason I'm doing that is because of the things i do on the field. I gotta take care of my priorities first."
He can't help but see the results of the media frenzy that surrounds him. His teammates talk about it, his friends talk about it.
"Sometimes I wish I took a little more time to do that, because I'm constantly trying to move forward. At the same time, when you take a chance to look back at some of these things, that stuff
The spotlight won't shine any less. Not with the standards Johnson has set. Fortunately, he won't have to throw the ball to himself every game. (Although if he wanted to, he probably could.) Johnson's expectations have a lot to do with his 5,000-yard quarterback.
Johnson admits there was some growing to be done in the on-field relationship between himself and Stafford since they started working together three years ago. Now that the initial growth is in the past, the results have shown the Lions offensive duo is one of the league's most dangerous.
"The good thing about it is Matt can put me anywhere. He can change the plays himself at the line of scrimmage. It's great because we all understand the whole entire offense now."
"It's not just us, it's Nate (Burleson), (Tony) Scheffler, and (Brandon) Pettigrew. We've been here awhile and over time, those things add up to be real good."
Johnson values the preseason. It's all about "getting his legs back," but his excitement for the regular season is at its breaking point.
"I'm geeked right now. I can't wait. Once we get started with the season, everything starts rolling so fast. It's extremely fun to play on this level, and to play with your fellow teammates, there's nothing like it."
Watch the Lions Tailgate pregame show on WXYZ Thursday night at 6:30 pm, for Johnson's one-on-one interview with Brad Galli.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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