Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Something new that Freddie Kitchens will deal with in his first season as head coach are the little brushfires – real and imagined – that may spring up.
Well, he fire-hosed two of them in his final media appearance of the three-day draft.
Kitchens was asked about running back Duke Johnson’s reported request to be traded and the absence of high-profile, new receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the recently concluded voluntary minicamp.
Kitchens promptly shot down both topics.
“Duke’s under contract. I’ve said this for a month now, I don’t know where all this trade talk started happening. People just assumed we would trade him because we signed another good football player [Kareem Hunt]. I like good football players, and I like as many as I can get.
“It’s our job to get him the ball and enable him in whatever role that is. Duke Johnson is on this football team and will have a vital role on this team and will help us win football games. Am I surprised he’s still here? No, not one bit. I have never said anything different than that.
On mending the fences possibly kicked down in a trade request:
“I don’t know the answer to that. I just shoot him straight and tell him what his role is and show him when he gets here. All the rest of that is up to him. My decision is not based on how he feels. My decision is based on what’s best for the Cleveland Browns and this organization.
“At this point in time, him asking for a trade doesn’t matter to me. He’s a Cleveland Brown. Duke’s the type of the guy who’s going to show up and he’s going to do his job and he’s going do his job well. That’s all I can ask for as a coach. His demands, I’m not impacted by that one bit.”
On Beckham, who has missed all the voluntary portion of the offseason program since reporting on April 1 and then departing:
“No [I’m not disappointed]. Of course, I’d rather him be here than not here, but I understand why. I talk to Odell every day. He knows what we’re doing offensively every day.
“Did you know, the defensive players of the year the past two years sat out all of training camp? Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald. No offseason program at all. Now, it’s better for us to have him here, us being a new staff, but if we can’t have them ready to play, they need to find a new head coach.
“He will be ready to play. Don’t you worry about that. I’m sure you are.”
When it was suggested that Beckham’s example is different because he’s joining a new team with new coaches and new teammates, and a new offense, Kitchens went into Bill Parcells anti-media mode.
“I’ll tell you this about Odell Beckham and Baker Mayfield, I think they have a pretty good relationship, they’ve formed a pretty good camaraderie. They’ve worked out for two summers in a row in California. I don’t see their camaraderie being a problem.
“I understand [the situation is new to him]. I also understand you guys are always trying to define and draw lines in the sand between coaches and players and players and players. That’s not happening here.
“There’s no problem with Odell not being here. I’d rather him be here. He’s not here. It’s voluntary. He can decide to come or he can't. But under no circumstance am I gonna say I’m pissed off at Odell for not being here. He’ll be ready to play. That's the only thing I want. He will be, I promise you.”