With Cleveland Browns mandatory minicamp getting started on Tuesday, the expectation was that the practice debut of WR Odell Beckham would be a headline-stealer. Instead, all of the attention centered around the return of RB Duke Johnson. He and his teammates didn’t hold back with respect to commenting on the situation, which makes for a bit of an awkward (or, as QB Baker Mayfield puts it, “self-inflicted”) situation.
Let’s start with Johnson, who spoke with the media right away and made it clear that he still wants to be traded. Why?
Duke Johnson Jr. explains his trade request & why he doesn’t feel wanted by #Browns anymore pic.twitter.com/EyRQ5MNiaY— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) June 4, 2019
Johnson doesn’t feel wanted any more, and he is putting the blame on the front office, saying that they put him on the trading block a month before he ever asked for a trade. He cited re-signing with the club after 1-15 and 0-16 seasons as reasons why he’s demonstrated that he wanted to be here, before the team made him feel otherwise this offseason.
His reason for continuing to ask for a trade is that he seems to think it is inevitable, and he’d rather have the opportunity to get reps and contribute to a team all season as opposed to what happened with Carlos Hyde in Jacksonville last year (an example that he specifically brought up).
He did make it clear that he’s still going to be a professional about everything — that as long as he is a member of the Browns, he is going to give it his all.
QB Baker Mayfield was asked if the situation with Johnson makes things awkward, and he didn’t mince words with his response. “It’s self-inflicted. It is what it is. it’s not awkward for anybody else in this building. ... He’s got to do his job. He says he’s a professional, and I hope he does his job.” Without exactly saying it, Mayfield implied that Johnson needs to get over it and focus on this year:
#Browns Baker Mayfield gives his views of Duke Johnson’s trade request. pic.twitter.com/p6as2J35w8— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham) June 4, 2019
The best response of all came from head coach Freddie Kitchens, who had his arm around Johnson as the team headed out to the field for the start of minicamp after interviews were over.
#Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens minces NO words w/ us on unhappy RB Duke Johnson: “He wants to be traded. I want to win the lottery. It doesn’t matter. He’s under contract. He’s a Cleveland Brown he’s going to be used to the best of his ability in what benefits the team.”— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) June 4, 2019
I think it could be a good thing that all of this was addressed on Day 1 of minicamp. From a public relations standpoint, it may have even strategicially been done that way — otherwise, why would the team select Johnson as one of the players to speak at the start of minicamp? We can only hope that this was Johnson’s ability to say what was on his mind before taking a, “That’s out of the way, so let’s go play football” mentality.
We’ll have a full recap of Day 1 of minicamp later today.