Duke Johnson Jr. did not change his tune at Cleveland Browns mandatory mini camp on Tuesday. That isn’t sitting well with his teammates.
When asked by the media about his trade request on Tuesday, the fifth-year back maintained his position that he wants out of Cleveland.
“At the end of the day, I understand the nature of the business,” Johnson said. “I understand (general manager) John Dorsey’s job and that’s to do what’s best for the team. If that’s getting rid of me for a bigger piece or a better piece, I’m OK with it.”
Johnson — a third down specialist for the Browns — requested a trade after Kareem Hunt was picked up in the offseason, seeing his role in the offensive shrinking to an insignificant size.
Johnson was a no-show for all of the Browns voluntary workouts this offseason. Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said he expected Johnson to show up this week at camp because it was mandatory and carried a fine of $80,000 had he skipped it.
Johnson was a fan favorite and stuck with the Browns through some tough years. He said that he was put on the trading block a month before his trade request, which led him to feeling “unwanted.”
“My trade request was to meet them at a middle ground,” Johnson said. “I’m big on loyalty. I’ve been loyal through it all. The moment I don’t have loyalty … the moment that stops, it stop on both ends. It’s not a one way street.”
Johnson did say he will do his job and not be a “disgruntled employee” at camp, but it seems like some of his teammates are having a hard time believing that.
“It’s not awkward. It’s self-inflicted,” Mayfield said. “I hope he does his job.”
“If someone wants to be here, they’ll be here,” Mayfield added. “You got guys in our locker room that are dying to get playing time and dying to be here. Duke has been here for years but it’s about what are you doing right now.”
Last season, Johnson had 40 carries for 201 yards to go with 47 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns, a little down from previous years. In his three previous seasons with the Browns, he had over 500 yards receiving, earning him a reputation as a lethal target out of the backfield.
Kitchens has maintained Johnson will have a role in the offense.
“Duke is under contract,’’ Kitchens said in April. “I’ve said this for like a month now, I don’t know where all this trade talk started happening. People just assumed that we are going to trade him because we signed another good football player. Me, personally, I like good football players and I like as many of them as we can get.”
Third string back Dontrell Hilliard has taken advantage of his time in the spotlight at the Browns OTAs, impressing his coaches, possibly making the Browns’ decision to deal Johnson a bit easier.
“Everything,” Cleveland running backs coach Stump Mitchell said when asked what he likes about Hilliard. “His mindset, first of all, that he belongs here, that he can get things done. His ability to run routes, his ability to catch the ball. Just being quite frank with him about where he needs to be mentally, he needs to reach the point where we see he’s at skill-wise. And I think he’s climbing that ladder.”