BEREA, Ohio — My, oh my, how things can change in one year’s time.
A year ago, running back Duke Johnson Jr. agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract extension with the Cleveland Browns, but now, he is requesting a trade, citing irreparable harm to the relationship between player and organization because the front office put him on the trade block.
“I only want to be somewhere I’m wanted,” Johnson Jr. said prior to Tuesday’s minicamp practice in Berea. “At the end of the day, that’s all this is about, being somewhere you 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.
“There’s no need to keep me or force me to be here if you don’t want me here. I’ve always wanted to be here, and I made it very clear, especially after going 1-15, then 0-16 and re-signing here. I made it very clear what my intentions were.”
By reportedly being put on the trade block, Johnson Jr. felt the Browns were being disloyal to him.
“To be fair, my thing is I’m big on loyalty,” Johnson Jr. said. “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, even with friends and family, the moment the loyalty stops, it stops on both ends.
“This is not a one-way street. It stops on my end as well. Will that stop me from doing my job? Of course not. That’s not going to stop me. Me being upset and me still wanting to be traded is not going to stop me from coming out here and performing at a high level.”
Johnson Jr. believes he proved his loyalty to the franchise when he agreed to sign a contract extension with a team coming off of the second-ever 0-16 season in NFL history and just one victory over a two-year span.
“I was here when we were 0-16,” Johnson Jr. said. “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 because at the end of the day, I’m here to do a job, and I’m going to do that job for as long as I’m here.”
Although unhappy with his current situation, Johnson Jr. promised not to be a distraction for a team with high expectations for 2019 and beyond.
“I won’t be causing scenes and losing focus on what’s really important,” Johnson Jr. said.
“I won’t do that, and the reason I waited until now to do a media interview is because I didn’t want to take away from the team while I was home and not here. So, I waited until I got here to do an interview because I didn’t want to be a distraction.”