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No Awkwardness In C-Town

Folks everywhere are riding with the Browns.

June 05, 2019 - 9:38 am

There is so much buzz around the Cleveland Browns right now that it’s hard not to get punch drunk on it... There isn’t just talk about the playoffs, there’s talk about the Super Bowl. And it’s not sarcastic or ironic. That’s how good America’s Team is. Folks everywhere are riding with the Browns, and looking to jump on that already overcrowded bandwagon.

Well, everyone not named Duke Johnson. Because after skipping workouts last month, the Browns running back was at minicamp yesterday, but don’t think that means that he wants to be there.  Quote… “Nothing has changed. The only difference between last week and this week is this is mandatory and I’m here.”

In other words, to quote a famous poet, I’m here so I won’t get fined. He doesn’t want to get fined, but he’s also not exactly sure about his future in Cleveland. He’s made that pretty clear for a while. And underlined it again yesterday.

“I only want to be somewhere I’m wanted. At the end of the day, that’s all this is about, being somewhere you’re wanted. In my case, the moment I’m not wanted anymore, I think it’s best that we find a middle ground and we do what’s best for the team. If you don’t want me here, there’s no need to keep me or force me to be here if you don’t want me here.’’

That doesn’t sound great.  I’m not saying you have an Antonio Brown style showdown coming. Because while he’s a nice player, Johnson isn’t Brown. I don’t think we need to worry about him turning the camera around, glossing himself Mr. Big pecs and dying his facial lettuce blonde. It’s not that bad. He even reiterated he wanted to be there. And that he won’t be a disgruntled employee. Two things Mr. Big Chest never said when he forced his way of Pittsburgh. Johnson seems to be saying if you don’t want me, fine, just move me and lets’ be done with it. Remember when the team signed Kareem Hunt, and John Dorsey said does that make Johnson expendable, and Dorsey said  he wasn’t quote, “expendable yet.” Clearly, he’s still bothered by that. And isn’t sure he wants to commit to them if they’re committed to him. 

Of course, the media went to q.b. Baker Mayfield with it to get his take on Johnson.  Generally, most guys in this situation, don’t discuss their teammate’s situation. But Baker Mayfield isn’t most guys. He’s not just your qb 1. He’s not just the face of that franchise.  He’s America’s quarterback. And made it pretty clear: either you’re with us or you’re not.  The train is pulling out of the station: either you’re on it or you’re not, (quote)>

“That’s something that we’ve been dealing with for a while. If we have guys that want to be here, they’ll show that, they’ll voice that. 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. You can get out of the way or you can join us. So it is what it is.’’

That is strong, strong statement from a young q.b. But again, this is not your typical young q.b: this is a dude who is putting in work, making plays, winning games, leading from the front; and saying, we’re building something unbelievable here, either you want to be a part of it or you don’t. But make up your mind. And then when asked if comments like that might make for an awkward situation, again, Baker did not back down:

 “It’s not awkward. It’s self-inflicted. It is what it is. It’s not awkward, for anybody else in this building.”

I.E. it’s as an awkward as HE is going to make it; I’m not making this awkward; neither is anyone else. We’re here doing our work. And Mayfield hopes Johnson will too, quote:

 “He’s got to do his job. He said he’s a professional, I hope he does his job.’’

And again, when most teammates would never say something about their teammate’s situation, there was still more from Mayfield, quote: “I wouldn’t say I’m not happy about it. It’s just the way he’s handled it. It can be a stir-up in the media, it can be however it wants, but if somebody wants to be here, they’ll be here in that situation. You’ve got guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time, that are dying to be here, and I get it.

“Duke’s been here for years and I respect that, but it’s about ‘what are you doing right now?’ The past is the past. My rookie year, I’ve got to learn from it, I’ve got to move forward. It’s about right now and what we’re going to do.’’

That is a second-year quarterback handling that situation and I could not be more impressed. There are guys with 10 years in the league who wouldn’t handle a situation that well. And Baker is doing it like a boss. Again, leading from the front. Trying to keep everyone on the same page, working for the same goal:

And speaking of bosses, how about Freddie Kitchens to NFL Network.

Hell yes. I love that. Here’s the thing, I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s a media-driven controversy, but you can certainly cherry-pick the quotes from everyone and make it sound a lot worse than it is.

You can pull Baker’s quote and make it sound like he’s absolutely crushing Duke, or you can see it as a guy who’s making it clear that we have a certain way of doing things around here and we need everyone on board. 

Or you can look at Duke Johnson and say, he feels like they tried to trade him, he’s not wanted and he wants to be where he is wanted. But in the meantime, he’s not going to be a disgruntled employee, causing scenes. In other words, he’s not intending to go all Antonio Brown with it and start Facetiming from his cardio machine. And the coach is saying, the player is still here, and the only reason it’s an issue is because the media is making it one, not us. 

And let’s go back to the one big rap against the Browns: one that I don’t accept but one that a lot of you believe: that they will implode under all the expectations. The expectations are crazy, they have too many combustible personalities, and a first year head coach, and there’s no way they’ll be able to handle the distractions, expectations and the heats when things inevitable do go sideways. They’ll rip part and implode. That’s now how I see. 

For a team that hasn’t been in the spotlight and a quarterback and head coach who haven’t dealt with a situation like this before, that was handled professionally.

At this point, not only does this feel like it’s not going to rip the Browns apart, but I’m actually feeling even stronger about them than ever.

America’s qb handled that just fine. So did America’s coach. So did America’s disgruntled back, who wants out: hell, better than fine. That’s why he’s America’s coach, he’s America’s q.b. And they’re America’s team. They’ve got this. So let me say it again to those of you who still are not with the Browns: this freaking train is pulling out: either you’re with us or you’re not: get onboard or get the hell out of the way. Make up your mind. Seats are limited and we don’t have time for anyone who doesn’t want to be a part of this.