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.

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.

PRO FOOTBALL Hall of Famer and former Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung sued equipment manufacturer Riddell Inc. on Thursday, saying football helmets that he wore during his professional career in the 1950 and ’60s failed to protect him from brain injury.

Attorneys for the 80-year-old Hornung filed the civil lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, naming the Rosemont-based company as the defendant. It seeks unspecified damages.

Hornung suffered multiple concussions as a running back for the Green Bay Packers and has been diagnosed with dementia, the lawsuit says. It said that the neurodegenerative disease has been linked to repetitive head trauma.

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).

CBS BROADCASTER James Brown has won the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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.

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.