Julio Jones turns 27 Wednesday.
Happy birthday to him.
And a sobering reminder to Falcons fans: The clock never stops ticking; the window never stops closing.
We were reminded once more of those immutable laws of time and physiology this weekend with the reports that former Georgia Tech receiver and current Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson was prepared to retire. At the age of 30. Just three years north of Julio Jones.
The talk was that Johnson had grown weary of playing with achy knees and ankles, and would turn his back on the nearly $68 million still owed him on a Lions contract that runs through 2019. He could also be on the hook for $3 million of the signing bonus that came with that contract. Ouch. If he actually does leave all that on the table, that would tell you far more about the physical toll of nine years in the League than any doctor’s note or full body scan.
Then there is the pain of playing for the Lions. They paired with the best receiver of his time, for a time, to accomplish shockingly little of substance. Seven of his nine seasons in Detroit were losing ones. They made two postseason appearances and bowed out without a victory. The season Jones set the single-season receiver record (2012), the Lions went 4-12. He had a 1,330-yard receiving season the year the Lions went 0-16 (2008). His Hall of Fame candidacy, whenever that does arise, will have to answer to that losing legacy.
It’s still hard to believe that Johnson would just close up shop, that this is not some maneuver to get out of the Motor City. But, then, Detroit is particularly adept at wasting singular talents – see Barry Sanders.
With a couple winning seasons to start his career, Jones has had it comparatively good. Still, for all this franchise has invested in him, the city will be met with many of the same regrets if the Falcons do not kick it in during his brief prime.
The Falcons receiver is built very much along the same lines as Johnson. His first five seasons in the NFL compare more than favorably with a similar span for Johnson – Jones holding the edge in catches (414-366) and yards (6,201-5,872). Johnson leads in receiving touchdowns (49-34).
And with a couple foot surgeries already behind Jones, there always looms the possibility of a career cut short. Who knows how the aches and pains will compound for Jones?
So, happy birthday, Julio. And keep outrunning time for just as long as you can.