Last week, with the Cleveland Browns carrying out their mandatory minicamp, they welcomed back a couple of players who had not at that point shown up before…though ‘welcomed’ might be too strong a word for one of them. The headliner was Odell Beckham, Jr., the All-Pro wide receiver for whom they gave up first- and third-round picks and a starting safety.
The other was Duke Johnson, the running back who has been with the team since he was drafted and who was chronically underutilized in spite of the fact that he has posted very efficient numbers with limited work over the course of his career.
Johnson formally asked to be traded some time after the Browns signed Kareem Hunt. The running back said that he was essentially already on the trading block before he requested the trade. His concern is his playing time, which has remained in decline in spite of the fact that the team gave him an extension last year.
The team’s second-year quarterback, Baker Mayfield, was less than impressed with how he handled it. When he was asked about Johnson, he said, in part, “you’re either on this train or you’re not. It’s moving. You can get out of the way or you can join us. So it is what it is”.
Of course, Johnson is trying to get out of the way but the Browns have been very clear that they are not concerned with his request to be traded. Nor have they appeared in any way to address his concerns about playing time, which might alleviate his interest in being traded.
According to Michael Silver, a number of veterans on the team did not like the way that Mayfield handled discussing Johnson and his situation, and spoke to him in the locker room one day about it. While the quarterback is regarded as the leader of the team, he is still young and can learn a thing or two.
Contrast it to what veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who was traded for just last season, said of Johnson: “I hope he understands and feels that guys are here for him, whether he is here or not, that the relationship goes beyond the player, the person as well, so I definitely hope he understands that and knows that there are guys that are here for him”.
While I don’t expect that this will manifest into a problem, Mayfield has so far early in his career displayed a propensity to speak off the cuff and from a state of emotion, something that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are probably familiar with. It will be interesting to see how that evolves as the Browns rise in stature.
I wonder of Cleveland fans are asking if Mayfield has spoken to Todd Monken yet.