The news that Ben Johnson would stay in Detroit broke shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday. At that point, Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had already known for more than three hours.
On his “St. Brown Brothers” podcast with his older brother and Chicago Bears wide receiver Equanimeous, Amon-Ra shared details of a phone call with Johnson on Tuesday morning, where he could have been the first member of the Lions upon learning of the coordinator’s decision. .
The call came shortly before 9:30 a.m. and St. Brown, unusually, was still sleeping. Free from the daily obligations of football for the first time in months, he had stayed up well past midnight playing video games and didn’t plan to get up until 11 a.m. But the buzzing of his phone startled him awake, and when he saw Johnson calling, he shook off the cobwebs and answered.
The two exchanged small talk and Johnson revealed that he was calling to see if St. Brown had signed a jersey; a request three weeks ago from the coordinator’s wife. St. Brown had not, but he promised to come to the facility before leaving for the Pro Bowl on Wednesday.
Before hanging up, St. Brown asked for an update on Johnson’s status. The receiver understood that his coordinator was a hot commodity for head coaching vacancies and was looking to get information about Johnson’s plans.
“There was like a little pause and I said, ‘What’s wrong with you? You did the interview, are you leaving?'” St. Brown recalled. “He said, ‘You know what, I’m on my way to the facility right now.’ He said he couldn’t sleep last night, he was thinking about it, and he said there’s unfinished business, he wants to stay. The guys on the team, shoot, me, Jared (Goff), Frank (Ragnow), Penei (Sewell), (Taylor) Decker, all the guys, said his heart is in Detroit and he wants to stay. So he told me that on the way to the facility.
“He said he was going to call, probably tell Dan (Campbell) and everyone,” St. Brown continued. “He said he was going to talk to his agent, talk to Jared, tell everyone. I found out around 9:30. But I didn’t know if he was serious, serious. He was probably like 90%. He never “What’s going on?” “I saw on my phone that the commanders were in Detroit, or something, to interview them.”
According to multiple reports, Commanders brass arrived in Detroit on Tuesday with the intention of conducting a second in-person interview with Johnson and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. It is unclear when Johnson informed commanders of his intention to remain with the Lions prior to his arrival.
In his excitement, St. Brown didn’t wait and immediately texted Goff with the news. And then he watched as the world found out.
“Once it came up on Twitter, I already knew,” St. Brown said.
Detroit’s coaches will be off in the coming weeks after ending their season with a loss in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Johnson is unlikely to comment between now and then. There’s a good chance he won’t speak until the scouting combine, which runs from late February through the first week of March.
It was at the combine last year where he shared his feelings about withdrawing his name from consideration for other coaching jobs. Based on his comments to St. Brown, it appears that the melody remains the same.
“I want to be around football,” Johnson said last March. “I want to win football games. I want to be around good people. And when I finally had the opportunity to step back, take a deep breath and look at it, that was the most important thing.
“I love Dan Campbell,” Johnson continued. “I’ve known him for a long time. I believe in the direction of this organization, and that was really the biggest point of attraction for me coming back, was that what we have here, what we’re building here, is something I want to be a part of. “