"It would certainly be difficult," Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders told the Detroit News. "[Johnson has] given a lot to our organization and our team and he's such a great player and one of those guys you just love having in your organization. Hey, it would be devastating, no question about it."
Sanders retired shortly after his 31st birthday following 10 seasons with the Lions and fresh off a 1,491-yard campaign. Johnson, who just posted a 1,214-yard season, is contemplating retirement after nine seasons with the Lions. He'll turn 31 in September.
"I feel like I'm stunned a little bit like most people," Sanders said. "I feel like around June, we'll give him until June or so, and then we should start knocking on his door."
Lions president Rod Wood told reporters in San Francisco earlier this week that he has spoken with Johnson "a couple times," as well as chatting with Johnson's agent, Bus Cook, as Johnson contemplates his decision whether to retire.
"Some guys are sort of on the fence, and maybe you can talk them out of it and so we'll see what happens," Sanders said of Johnson.
Information from ESPN Lions reporter Michael Rothstein was used in this report.
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