Browns Running Back Duke Johnson: I'm Always Worried About Josh Gordon

Duke Johnson wants the best for his friend and teammate, Josh Gordon

Tiki and Tierney
October 30, 2018 - 8:15 am

USA Today Images

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to the team Saturday, this after missing more than three weeks while tending to his mental health.

Cleveland running back Duke Johnson dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss Gordon, as well as the team’s upcoming season.

“I’m kind of always worried about Josh,” Johnson said on Tiki and Tierney. “Mental illness is something we don’t talk about enough, and it gets swept under the rug and no one wants to be diagnosed as mentally ill, regardless of how big or how small it may be. For Josh, he needed time away to get himself together. For me, I definitely appreciated that because . . . he wants to be the best Josh Gordon he can be on and off the field.”

Key word being off.

“Off the field, to me, is most important because you have to live with yourself every day,” Johnson said. “You have to look at yourself in the mirror and you have to go home with yourself every day. For me, it was a big moment to see him do that and live up to it and do whatever he needed to do to make sure that he was okay.”

Gordon, 27, led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013 – despite missing two games. Last year, he had 18 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown in five games.

Johnson believes Gordon, who missed all of 2015 and 2016, can get back to playing at an elite level.

“Definitely,” he said. “I definitely think he can. I watched him every day when he was practicing with us. You could see the potential. You could see what he could be. You wanted to make sure he was right and make sure that his mind was (right) coming back – and now he’s back. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Many fans and analysts, meanwhile, look forward to seeing what the Browns do in 2018. Cleveland is 1-31 over the last two seasons but retooled its roster in the offseason. While there is pressure on Hue Jackson to significantly improve the win column, Johnson hasn’t seen a change in his head coach.

“I think he’s the same person every day,” Johnson said. “I think we, as players, have just as much pressure to perform. We have the talent. We know what we’re capable of doing. It’s just going out there and doing it. I think we have a lot of pressure because we know what we could be.”

The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick this year, but Tyrod Taylor is expected to start Week 1.

“Regardless of who’s job it is to win and who’s job it is to lose, I think those guys go out there every day to compete against each other, but also to make each other better,” Johnson said. “You hardly ever see a quarterback make a mistake and the other quarterback isn’t coaching or trying to help him out or trying to figure out what he could have done differently. It’s about the team at the end of the day. But each quarterback is taking strides, and they are pushing each other. I think that’s the biggest thing for this team. The best quarterback will play, and the quarterback behind him is pushing him and helping him to try to compete.”

Johnson has been impressed with Mayfield, who last year won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.

“He’s been himself, but at the same time, he’s taken something from each of the veteran quarterbacks to learn and to grow as a young quarterback,” Johnson said. “I think I’d be comfortable with (any quarterback) on this roster starting. Because at the end of the day, we support who’s behind the center. Regardless of who’s out there come day one, we have their back as a team.”

The Browns open the season at home against the Steelers on Sept. 9. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.