The Browns have moved on from Duke Johnson, trading him to Houston on Thursday. But Browns coach Freddie Kitchens defended the running back against questions about whether Johnson’s hamstring was really hurt or more so his feelings.
“Do not question Duke’s professionalism,’’ Kitchens said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Duke had a pulled hamstring. As an organization, you do not want him come back on a pulled hamstring, and [if] he pulls it again, he is out for a month.’’
Johnson’s injury had sidelined him since the third day of camp, and he recently underwent an MRI that determined he needed more rehab time.
“We were trying to get him ready for the season,’’ Kitchens said. “We weren’t trying to get him ready to play tonight. I would not question Duke’s professionalism if I were you.”
Johnson, a third-round choice in 2015, asked for a trade in February. After insisting they weren’t trading Johnson, the Browns dealt him after the Texans offered a conditional fourth-rounder in 2020 that easily could become a third-rounder. If Johnson is active for 10 games, the Browns get the higher choice, according to Cabot.
“Duke was a good football player,’’ Kitchens said. “It’s hard to let good football players go, but we did what was best for the organization and the Cleveland Browns. What [General Manager] John [Dorsey] did felt like what we needed to do. It truly did. Duke was drafted in the third round, so it was a good opportunity to help us out down the road in the future. We wish Duke nothing but the best.”
Baker Mayfield, who criticized Johnson during the June minicamp, was matter of fact after the trade, saying the Browns have a “next-man-up” mentality.