Erik Coleman played nine years in the NFL – the same number as Calvin Johnson – and spent his final two seasons in Detroit in 2011-12. Coleman, 33, got to know Johnson quite well during his time with the Lions and isn’t all that surprised that Megatron might be calling it a career.
“I’m happy for him,” Coleman said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “He’s accomplished a lot in this league – one of the best players I’ve played with. He was one of the hardest workers on our team and one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. I know he made the right decision for himself and his family, and I’m really happy for him.”
Coleman hasn’t spoken to Johnson about his decision but assumes much of it is health-related.
“Guys want to use football as a vehicle to make that next step in their life,” Coleman said, “and Calvin was able to do that. He made a lot of money and put himself in a great position to thrive after his football career. I think he’ll be in a great situation. His parents, his family, are great people.”
Coleman, who was a productive safety in the NFL, said transitioning out of football was tough. He was 30 years old when he retired – the same age Johnson is now.
“I went through about six months of just being depressed, just being around the house moping around,” Coleman said. “I’d be having a good day, someone would say something about football and I would go dark. But my faith helped me get through it. My wife helped me get through it.”
Eventually, Coleman opened a medical practice in New York that offers hormone-replacement therapy. That keeps him busy. So does staying in shape.
Indeed, Coleman’s body was beyond beat up when he retired. He has a torn labrum in both shoulders and arthritis in his ankles and knees.
“If I continue to work out, then I feel pretty good,” Coleman said. “I ride the bike, I do low-impact stuff. I’m not able to go out and run or play basketball or anything like that, but as long as I keep myself fit, I feel pretty good.”
Coleman said he had “three or four” concussions during his career and is “absolutely” concerned about his long-term mental health.
“That’s probably my biggest fear,” he said. “My mental health is the most important. I can go with the knee replacement. I can still function in life. I can go play with my kids and have a relationship with my wife. But when your brain goes, it’s scary, and after watching the movie ‘Concussion,’ it makes it even worse. I have some friends who are affected by brain trauma. It’s a very scary thing. I just continue to pray and do whatever I can to keep my mental health sharp.”