CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns will take the field for their first training camp practice on Thursday morning, but on Wednesday head coach Freddie Kitchens and general manager John Dorsey answered some questions about the season ahead. These are 5 things we learned today.
1. Someone will have to make a good offer to get Duke
With the uncertainty of running back Duke Johnson’s role with the team lingering, Dorsey and Kitchens made things a little clearer, saying a trade doesn’t appear to be in the near future. When asked about Johnson’s requests for a trade, Kitchens reaffirmed that the running back is a part of the Browns organization and will be treated as such. “Duke is a Cleveland Brown,” Kitchens said. “He’s gonna be here. He’s gonna have a role in our offense and he’s gonna have a significant role in our offense.”
The plan is to keep Johnson around and get him some playing time. “We’re not giving away good players. We want good players, and if John can get more good players, I’ll take them,” Kitchens said. “Don't’ worry about the ball, we’ll find enough balls for him.”
2. Expect a physical and competitive training camp
“Our job as coaches sometimes is to create adversity,” Kitchens said. “You try and make it competitive, you try to see who wilts under fire.” Kitchens has always been about playing physical football, and that, he said, begins at training camp. “Part of what I’m looking for in a football team is to be the most physical football team on the field,” Kitchens said. “I think you create that with the way you practice, how you go about your business, from the meeting room to the practice field and then once you get on the practice field you have to practice being physical and we will practice being physical.”
3. 'We’re not the Cleveland Browns yet'
We saw many players that quickly became favorites among fans lose out on roster spots during HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last season, and of course it’s no different this year. “This is the only business in the world that you hire 90 guys to fire half of them,” Kitchens said. “We’re not the Cleveland Browns yet, we’re a bunch of individuals trying to get jobs, but during the course of getting jobs you see who’s going to be able come together and create the Cleveland Browns and when we walk out on to the field we want everybody to be proud of the product that’s out there."
4. Players will be allowed to be themselves
Kitchens and Dorsey want Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the team to be themselves. After jokingly calling Twitter “Tweeter” and Instagram “Instaface,” Dorsey said how important it is that the players are able to express themselves and use their social media platforms, but there will be some accountability. “We just have to educate them to make good decisions and make sure they understand the consequences of certain actions,” Kitchens said. “If they're willing to deal with those consequences, whether it be financially, friendship-wise or team-wise, then they’ve made that decision. We just want guys around us that are here to be a Cleveland Brown.”
Mayfield stirred some controversy with his comments about Johnson wanting to be traded, but Kitchens and Dorsey said it’s a non-issue and that Mayfield is just being himself and there’s no worries about his stance among the team. “He’s a little bit more mature than your average 24-year-old man,” Dorsey said. “Wherever he’s been, his teammates have always galvanized around him.”
In related news, Beckham has a YouTube channel.
“Hopefully he invites me on sometime,” Kitchens joked.
5. The bar is high
The Browns have set the bar higher than they have in more than a decade, and with talk about making the playoffs and even winning the Super Bowl circulating, the expectations are putting the pressure on. Kitchens, however, just wants results. “Our goal here with the Cleveland Browns, as long as I’m here, will always be to win the Super Bowl. You don’t do that by talking about it and you don’t do that by outside expectations,” Kitchens said.
The coach doesn’t want the team to shy away from being confident. “I don’t ever want to be scared to talk about what our goal is because if we don't have 53 guys here at the end of this thing, that that's their goal, then they're in the wrong business, and they’re doing us and the Cleveland Browns a disservice. I want them to have that goal, but I want them to understand how they get there, and it’s not by talking about it,” Kitchens said. “If you’re not going to jump out of the airplane, don’t put the parachute on.”