The start of Cleveland Browns minicamp has been rough for Duke Johnson Jr. — to say the least.
After quarterback Baker Mayfield delivered some choice words about Johnson’s trade request, head coach Freddie Kitchens gave his two cents.
“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.”
Johnson — a third down specialist and lethal pass-catcher 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.
But Kitchens has been pretty consistent on his stance that Johnson will have a role in the offense, especially with Hunt suspended for the first half of the season.
“I don’t know why it’s assumed that we’re going to trade Duke Johnson,” Kitchens said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com in March. “I don’t know why we would ever want to voluntarily give up a good football player. Duke Johnson is a good football player. Duke Johnson will have a role on our football team. All these guys that are here will have a role.”
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 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.”
Kitchen later refuted the claim that Johnson was ever on the trade block.
“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.”
If things were not awkward before, it’s hard to imagine they’re not now.