No one LIKES uncertainty. I think I can speak for the vast majority when I say that we all prefer to know where we stand whether the answer is “yes” or “no”. Aziz Ansari had a bit in one of his specials1 where he asked the audience if they would prefer to know if the person they just had a date with was interested in them going on another date. The answer was a resounding yes, as one would expect. While, certainly, there are times when the anticipation of not knowing can be a high, living in that limbo is not healthy for anyone. Living with that answer, whatever the question may be, is easier once it is given. Smash cut to Duke Johnson and the situation currently unfolding at mandatory minicamps yesterday. Let’s look back at what has transpired so we can see better where we are:
With the NFL draft come and gone, it appeared the time to get rid of Duke had gone with it. Knowing Hunt was going to be missing the first half of the season, Johnson’s spot on the roster was secure: he would be backing up Chubb, playing as the third down back, a role he had been playing well enough in for years. Then Tuesday happens and at Johnson’s press availability, he doubled down on the trade request. Holding firm, Johnson reiterated that he wants to be somewhere he is wanted, and only requested a trade after he was put on the block by Dorsey in midseason.
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) June 4, 2019
Reporters grabbed those sound bytes and shuttled them around other players and coaches availabilities, with the majority of those asked hoping the sides come to some sort agreement, one way or the other. Head Coach Freddie Kitchens was succinct, saying Johnson is a Brown, he’s here, that they have a plan for the player going into 2019 and that he expects him to be a professional. When asked about Johnson, quarterback Baker Mayfield was a little less friendly and made a point to say that the situation is self-inflicted on Johnson’s part and that he doesn’t feel awkwardness toward the player or situation. He reiterated Kitchens main stance: Johnson is a professional, and that he hopes he does his job.
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) June 4, 2019
At this time, the coaching staff and players have made it known that Johnson is wanted on this roster, that plans are or already have been made to utilize the player for this season. Is Johnson’s ask reasonable? Of course. He was and still is under the impression that the general manager and front office were no longer in need of his services and felt like a middle ground of his talents being taken elsewhere was needed. But the time is now. Johnson is needed on this roster, as any running back signed or brought in would be behind, and relying on Chubb to weather eight full games of workload until Hunt’s help is received seems foolish. Johnson has been a good solider to this end, as he has made known: he weathered the 1-31 stretch and re-signed with the team. He also has to know that the combo of his lack of production in 2018, as well as his salary, lowers the return and leverage the team has in trade talks. While I am all for player rights and the want for more control over their destiny, Johnson should see that this team is poised to be something special in 2019.
Alas, players get put on the block on and off for years. This is not the first time and will likely not be the last that Johnson is bandied about in trade talks. Now is the time for Johnson, Kitchens, Dorsey, and whoever else to put aside the hurt feelings and let’s play ball together. You have your answer Duke, now you have to live with it.