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Baker Mayfield Rips Teammate Requesting Trade: 'You're Either on This Train or You're Not'

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In sports, there’s no greater way to send a message of rejection to one’s teammates than to openly request a trade.

It’s a way of publicly saying that either your teammates can’t win or that the thrill of victory isn’t enough to overcome the misery of having to work with the people who you’re fighting with to achieve that goal.

So when running back Duke Johnson Jr. requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off a seven-win improvement in their record and look like legitimate contenders just two years after going 0-16, quarterback and team leader Baker Mayfield was blunt.

“You’re either on this train or you’re not,” Mayfield said Tuesday, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.

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Mayfield didn’t seem to care a lick about offending anyone in the locker room either, sending a message to his teammates that he’s there for those who want to be there with him, not for malcontents who want out.

“It’s self-inflicted,” he told reporters, referring to the situation with Johnson. “It is what it is. It’s not awkward for anyone else in this building.”

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Granted, Johnson’s trade request didn’t come completely out of the blue. He has his reasons for wanting out, and it’s easy for Mayfield to simply shoo him away, seeing as how Mayfield faces none of those same issues.

Johnson is part of a crowded Browns backfield that includes second-year running back Nick Chubb, as well as the newly acquired Kareem Hunt, who the Browns rescued off the scrap heap after an alleged incident involving a woman at a Cleveland hotel led to Hunt being kicked off the Kansas City Chiefs.

Before that incident, Hunt’s reputation was that of one of the rising young stars of the league and a pillar of the Chiefs’ explosive offense.

Combining Hunt’s talents with Cleveland’s already impressive-looking passing game could make Cleveland’s offense scary.

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All the same, it’s Johnson who said he wanted out, and for the with-us-or-against-us team leader, that was enough of a transgression.

When asked if he supported his teammate in the meantime, Mayfield said of Johnson, “He’s gotta do his job. He said he’s a professional. I hope he does his job.”

Granted, as good as Hunt is, Johnson was no slouch in 2018. Advanced stats guru Warren Sharp pointed out that Johnson has been among the league’s best running backs over the past few seasons.

Johnson is also a salary cap darling.

He’s under contract through 2021 with an annual cap hit that never exceeds $6 million and includes a base salary of just $1.8 million in 2019.

Cleveland has no incentive, financial or performance-related, to trade Johnson, and the Browns have thus far adamantly maintained they have no intention of doing so.

“He wants to be traded. I want to win the lottery. It doesn’t matter,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said Tuesday, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. “He’s under contract. He’s a Cleveland Brown. He’s going to be used to the best of his ability in what benefits the team.”

Complicating matters is Johnson’s valid complaint about his usage. He had 156 touches in 2017 but only 87 in 2018, meaning his yards from scrimmage dropped 1,041 yards to 630.

Still, Mayfield is trying to send a strong message to his team that unity is critical as the Browns try to put themselves in position to win their first playoff game since the franchise was restored in 1999.

Still, Mayfield’s tough-love approach is not shared by the entire Browns roster.

Rather than buy into the all-or-nothing approach Mayfield is using, receiver Jarvis Landry expressed support for Johnson’s situation.

“I hope he understands and feels that guys are here for him,” Landry said, according to CBS Sports. “Whether he is here or not, that the relationship goes beyond the player, obviously the person as well. I definitely hope he understands that and knows that there are guys that are here for him.”

If there’s one lesson sports has taught us, however, it’s that winning is the best salve.

If Mayfield and Johnson end up operating a combined-arms attack with plenty of yards and touchdowns on the ground and through the air, and translate those gaudy stats in wins, then team rancor could easily enough yield to enthusiasm.

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Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Birthplace
Boston, Massachusetts
Education
Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Nevada-Reno
Location
Seattle, Washington
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Sports




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