NFL Notes: Calvin Johnson Says Painkillers Used to Be Handed Out Like ‘candy' to Players

DETROIT -- Calvin Johnson says NFL players could get painkillers like they were "candy" during the first half of his career with the Detroit Lions.

Johnson's comments were part of a wide-ranging interview on ESPN's news magazine E:60 that was scheduled to be broadcast Thursday night.

The record-breaking receiver retired earlier this year, leaving the Lions at the age of 30 after nine seasons. Johnson says in the interview it would have been hard to "let go" if the Lions would have been a contender. Detroit was 7-9 last year, its seventh season with a losing record with Johnson on the team.

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He had 731 career receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. Johnson broke one of Hall of Famer Jerry Rice's records in 2012 with 1,964 yards receiving.

NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung sues helmet maker Riddell
CHICAGO -- Pro football Hall of Famer and former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung is suing equipment manufacturer Riddell, saying its helmets failed to protect him from brain injury. 

Attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 80-year-old Hornung in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago on Thursday. It names Rosemont-based Riddell as the defendant. 

The suit says Hornung suffered multiple concussions as a player and that he has been diagnosed with dementia. It says the neurodegenerative disease has been linked to repetitive head trauma. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Hornung won the Heisman in 1956 while at Notre Dame. The Green Bay Packers selected him a year later. He was the NFL MVP in 1962 and he played on four championship teams (1961, '62, '65 and '66).

Riddell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

CBS broadcaster James Brown wins Hall of Fame Rozelle Award
CANTON, Ohio -- CBS broadcaster James Brown has won the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The award recognizes long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football."

Brown will be presented with the award at the hall's enshrinement ceremony Aug. 6.

Brown hosts "The NFL Today" on CBS, and "Thursday Night Football," aired on CBS and NFL Network. He's a three-time Emmy Award winner. He also is a special correspondent for CBS News and contributes to programs such as "60 Minutes" and "CBS This Morning."

The award is named for former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

All 17 NFL referees return for 2016 season
NEW YORK -- All 17 NFL referees are returning for the 2016 season, including Walt Coleman, who will enter his 28th year in the league.

Three new officials were hired among the 124 the league will employ: side judge Alan Eck, who was in the Big 12; umpire Ramon George, who was in Conference USA; and head linesman Jerod Phillips, who also was in the Big 12.

The NFL announced its roster of officials Thursday.

Five officials will not be assigned to crews and will be "swing" officials, working with different crews throughout the season. The league also will do more rotating of officials among crews in hopes of getting more consistency.

Two former players will work games. Steve Freeman, who played 13 NFL seasons as a defensive back, is a field judge. Phil McKinnely, an offensive lineman for seven seasons, is a head linesman.

There will be three father-son combinations. Coleman's son, Walt IV, is a side judge. Referee Ed Hochuli's son, Shawn, is a back judge. Freeman's son, Brad, is a field judge.

Line Sarah Thomas remains the only woman official.

For the 2015 season, the NFL employed 122 officials. One of them, head linesman George Hayward, has retired.

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