Megatron: Nerve damage messed with grip

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — When Calvin Johnson drops a pass, the automatic reaction is: “What’s wrong with Calvin?”

Johnson uncharacteristically dropped balls against Seattle two weeks ago and also the game before that against Chicago.

The problem, it turns out, could go back to two big hits he took in Week 4 from Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway and safety Harrison Smith.

“I had some nerve damage that was kind of messing up my grip a little bit,” Johnson said Thursday. “Not to blame it on that, but . . . I think maybe the concussion could have had something to do with some of that damage I had going on.

“Taking those hits, they were real violent. They definitely have a lot of lingering impact, whether it be your neck or your head. It can do a lot of stuff.”

Asked to elaborate on the nerve damage, Johnson described what is typically referred to as a “stinger” in football.

“Stuff shooting down your arm, stuff like that,” Johnson said.

Although the Lions say doctors determined that he did not suffer a concussion on the hit to his helmet by Greenway, Johnson has maintained that he did. Coach Jim Schwartz reiterated Thursday, “He wasn’t concussed.”

Johnson said the lingering nerve problems have improved.

Johnson, also hampered lately by an injured left knee, bounced back to make seven receptions for 129 yards in last Sunday’s victory at Jacksonville.

He didn’t practice again Thursday because of the knee, but he expects to be ready for Sunday’s game at Minnesota.

“Definitely doing better than it was at this point last week,” Johnson said. “That’s a positive. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff in the weight room, just to strengthen the muscles around (the knee), to get it so that it’s firing correctly and be as best as I can be on Sunday.

“I don’t want to be out here not practicing. But at the same time, I do know what I need to do by Sunday. Experience helps with that.”

EXTRA POINTS

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was voted the league’s dirtiest player for the second straight year in a midseason player poll by the Sporting News.

The irony: Suh has been called for one 5-yard penalty — that for being offsides — in eight games.

… Cornerback Chris Houston missed Thursday’s practice because of flu-like symptoms.