BEREA, Ohio — Free safety John Johnson III said Thursday he’s hopeful that Odell Beckham Jr. can return to the Browns and believes the majority of the locker room feels that way.
Beckham was excused from practice for the second consecutive day while Browns General Manager Andrew Berry, Coach Kevin Stefanski and Beckham’s representatives discuss the three-time Pro Bowl receiver’s future.
Left guard Joel Bitonio, the longest-tenured Brown, said the players know about as much as the media on the situation. But Johnson made it clear how he feels.
“I feel like the majority of this locker room would love to have him in this building. Flat out,” Johnson said.
In what looked like an attempt to get his son moved before Tuesday’s trade deadline, Beckham’s father posted on Instagram a previously-made video of the times his son has been open and quarterback Baker Mayfield did not get him the ball. LeBron James, Beckham’s friend followed with a tweet that included “#FreeOBJ.”
But the Browns kept Beckham, still owed $8.3 million on his contract this season, as the deadline passed and told him to stay away from the building.
Johnson opened his media availability by saying, “What’s on your minds?” He said members of the defense know little about the situation, but he can easily check Twitter and see the drama continue to unfold.
“Just something that we’ve been dealing with. Hopefully we can get him back if that’s possible, that’s just my opinion on it and, if not, we’ve got to carry on, we’ve got a big game coming up, another division game, that’s what my mindset is, just get ready for this week,” said Johnson, acquired in March as a free agent from the Los Angeles Rams.
The Browns (4-4) visit the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) Sunday in a key division game.
Bitonio said if the Browns can reach a resolution with Beckham, his teammates will welcome him back.
“We think he’s a great player when he’s on the field, but we don’t know what the situation is. We don’t know what’s really going on. We probably know as much as you guys know from outside the building,” Bitonio said.
“But if he wants to come back and be part of the team, I’m sure we’d welcome him with open arms.”
Asked if players will pick sides, Bitonio said, “I don’t think so. I think you build relationships with people on the team and you care about people that you play football with. But from a professional perspective, you have to come out there and you have to perform at your best every week and I think that’s the mindset of the majority of the team. It’s like, ‘Whoever’s out there on the field with us, we have to do our best and we have to play our best each and every week.’ “