A few hours after Duke Johnson expressed a desire to play elsewhere, Freddie Kitchens had his arm wrapped around him in the middle of the Browns practice fields.
Asked if there was a deeper meaning behind the conversation and interaction, Kitchens cracked a smile and delivered one of his trademark quips.
“No,” Kitchens said, “I just like giving hugs.”
Check out photos of the first day of Browns minicamp
Kitchens reiterated what he’s said repeatedly in the wake of reports about Johnson’s desire to be traded. Johnson publicly expressing those desires for the first time Tuesday didn’t change a thing.
Kitchens expects Johnson to be with the Browns this season and expects him to have a significant role on an offense loaded with playmakers at all of the skill positions.
“Duke practiced today and he practiced hard,” Kitchens said. “I expect Duke to be a professional and I think he will be. He’s never been anything but a professional. Whatever his personal feelings are, those are his personal feelings. I’m not going to dictate someone’s feelings. Just like I told you about other players in the past, whatever their feelings are, they’re free to voice whatever they want to say.
“Duke’s a part of the team. All of the other stuff is just hyperbole.
Johnson did not participate in any of the team’s offseason workout activities, which were voluntary, until Tuesday -- the start of mandatory minicamp.
“Duke is a Cleveland Brown,” Kitchens said. “It’s mandatory now. He’s here. Before it was not mandatory, so he didn’t have to be here. But he’s here now. He’s a part of the team, we’re going to have a plan for Duke and I expect him to have a good year.”
Johnson, who is entering his fifth season, is one year removed from signing a contract extension. The former third-round pick is coming off a 2018 campaign in which he rushed for a 201 yards and caught 47 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, Johnson has 1,286 rushing yards, 235 receptions, 2,170 receiving yards and a combined 13 touchdowns.
“I won’t be causing scenes and losing focus on what’s really important,” Johnson 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.”
Despite the trade request, Johnson maintained he’d be a professional while practicing and playing for the Browns.
“It’s about being a professional,” he said. “There’s a lot of things at your job that you don’t like and you’re not happy with, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do your job. You still do your job.”