Browns RB Johnson still desires trade, where he’s ‘wanted’
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Duke Johnson came to Browns camp and made his feelings clear.
“I want to be somewhere I’m wanted,” he said.
Johnson doubled down on his demand to be traded Tuesday, saying he felt betrayed by Browns general manager John Dorsey, who began shopping the running back to other teams shortly after signing free agent Kareem Hunt.
The 25-year-old Johnson skipped the team’s voluntary offseason programs in protest, but reported for the Browns’ three-day mandatory minicamp. Moments after the team completed a morning walk-through, Johnson addressed the media for the first time since requesting his trade.
He didn’t pull any punches.
“I’m big on loyalty,” said the versatile Johnson, whose role was reduced last season following the arrival of rookie Nick Chubb. “I’ve felt as I’ve been loyal to this organization through it all, and the moment that I no longer have loyalty — and that’s even in my personal life, friends, family, the moment the loyalty stops, it stops on both ends. It’s not a one-way street. It stops on my end.
“Will that stop me from doing my job? Of course not. That’s not going to stop me. Me being upset and me being still wanting to be traded is not going to stop me from coming out here and performing at a high level.”
The Browns signed Hunt in February, taking on the controversial back who will serve an eight-game NFL suspension for physical altercations. Johnson’s agent asked Dorsey to trade him in March upon learning the team was already trying to move him.
“I was put on the trade block a month before I requested a trade,” said Johnson, who had a career low in carries (40) and receptions (47) last season. “That’s essentially my biggest issue. Again, my role since I’ve been on this team hasn’t been big for four years, not just last year. It hasn’t been for four years, and, again, I didn’t ask for a trade, didn’t complain, just came out and did my job.”
Johnson didn’t look distracted on disgruntled during Tuesday’s two-hour practice, which included the return of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. “He ran hard, made some catches and looked like the same player who has caught at least 47 passes in each of his four seasons.
Early in practice, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens put his arm around Johnson and the two had a quiet conversation. A year ago, Kitchens was Johnson’s position coach.
Kitchens doesn’t think Johnson’s play will suffer.
“Duke practiced today, and he practiced hard,” Kitchens said. “I expect Duke to be a professional, and I think he will be. He’s never been anything but a professional. Whatever his personal feelings are, those are his personal feelings. I’m not going to dictate someone’s feelings. Duke’s a part of the team. All the other stuff is just hyperbole.
“I don’t know inventing. I don’t know imagining, or thinking or reacting or something like that. Just because we signed another good player doesn’t mean somebody else has to get traded. I mean, I love good players, and we’ve got some good players. Now we’ve just got to come together as a team, and I have a good feeling Duke will do that.”
Although he may be at odds with the front office, Johnson, who endured 1-15 and 0-16 seasons, vowed not to be a distraction to his teammates.
“I was here when we were 0-16,” said Johnson, a third-round pick in 2015. “I was all-in then. Nothing changes now. At the end of the day, I’m a professional, and again, since I’ve been here, you’ve not once heard about me not wanting to be here from coaches, players, anyone or just my attitude and being disgruntled.
“Last year, I was frustrated, at most, but as far as just being upset and not doing my job because of my feelings, you never heard of it, and you probably never will. I’m here to do a job, and I’m going to do that job for as long as I’m here.”
Johnson feels he has the support of his teammates.
However, quarterback Baker Mayfield doesn’t seem to be in his corner.
“Obviously, he’s going to handle his stuff how he wants, but you’re either on this train or you’re not. It’s moving,” Mayfield said. “You can get out of the way or you can join us. So it is what it is.”
Mayfield disagreed that Johnson’s situation is awkward.
“It’s not awkward,” he said. “It’s self-inflicted. It’s not awkward for anybody else in this building. He’s got to do his job. He said he’s a professional. I hope he does his job.”