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#Hey Tony: The Browns' deficient situation at wide receiver has made virtual unknown Charles Johnson an urban legend

Jun 14, 2014 -- 5:03pm

By Tony Grossi |



The Browns’ deficient situation at wide receiver has made virtual unknown Charles Johnson an urban legend. Fans are hoping he is a diamond in the rough. Coaches are just hoping to see him on the field.

Hey Tony: Charles Johnson is a height-weight-speed freak at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds with 4.39 jets. Do you think Johnson will compete for a roster spot in camp or is he still on the IR? Do you have any insider information on him? It would be nice to get lucky here.

-- John, Tampa, FL

Hey John: I know that GM Ray Farmer liked Johnson, and his opinion was one reason the Browns signed Johnson off the Green Bay practice squad last year. Because he arrived with a torn ACL, however, nobody has seen Johnson even practice, much less play. These new coaches have very little knowledge of Johnson and are waiting to see him on the field before projecting him on the roster. Pettine said the coaches looked at game tape of Johnson at Grand Valley State to get a picture of what he might bring to the team. The Browns hope that Johnson will be cleared to practice at the start of training camp.

Hey Tony: Why do unsigned rookies participate in OTAs and mandatory minicamps but then later refuse to report to training camp? It doesn’t seem to make any sense. If they’re going to refuse to play because they have not signed, why not apply their “holdout” status to the other offseason activities? What makes training camp different in this respect than the other camps/OTAs?

-- Xavier, Bulgan, Mongolia

Hey Xavier: Players can not participate in training camp without a signed contract. Unsigned players should not be regarded as “holdouts,” even though that term has been commonly applied. A truer definition of a holdout is a player who is under contract and decides to withhold his services as a form of protest.

Hey Tony: With the endless waiting to hear about what happens with Josh Gordon and the understanding that the NFL will not make an announcement unless a suspension is in effect, will the Browns eventually make an announcement if somehow the suspension does not come to be? It seems they need to know at some point that he is in the clear if that ever comes to be the case.

-- Tom, Chapel Hill, NC

Hey Tom: Most suspensions are announced seemingly out of the blue because the news doesn’t usually get out that the player had flunked a test. The fact ESPN reported Gordon flunked a test for marijuana has made his eventual fate a daily question. Ordinarily, the NFL wouldn’t announce if a player’s appeal of a failed test was successful. The NFL would only announce terms of a suspension. In other words, no news on Gordon is good news.

Hey Tony: Do you think the NFL is looking for a way to get Gordon off the hook because he is a rising star? Seems to me as a business, they would want to do everything possible to have their young superstars on the field rather than handing down suspensions.

-- Josh, Galena, OH

Hey Josh: No, the NFL can’t pick and choose the players it disciplines. Its attitude has to be: You do the crime, you do the time.

Hey Tony: Can you explain to me how Gordon is allegedly in Stage 3 when he has only failed one drug test while in the NFL, NCAA suspensions didn’t carry over for Pete Carroll why for Gordon?

-- Gerard, Cork, Ireland

Hey Gerard: The league does not announce when a player enters a new stage in the drug program. A player can be moved to another stage without an announced suspension. Again, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Hey Tony: I've been so impressed with Mike Pettine during his press conferences.  He comes across as a very knowledgeable, articulate guy who knows where he's going and he seems to have a plan to get there. As a long time Browns fan I have wanted them to settle on a coach and stick with him. Is the guy possibly Mike Pettine or is the jury still out because it's too early?

-- Greg, Middletown, OH

Hey Greg: I agree that the early returns on Pettine are extremely positive. But he hasn’t even coached a game yet. Not only is the jury still out, it hasn’t been summoned yet.

Hey Tony: You've been through more Browns minicamps than anyone. Setting intensity aside, how did the new coaching staff appear compared to the Chud and Shurmur crews?

-- Rob, Cleveland Heights, OH

Hey Rob: Pettine scores high marks in communication and organization. I can’t analyze how the other coaches and their staffs compared at this point. Remember, the only thing that matters is wins and losses, and Pettine is 0-0 at this point.

Hey Tony: Haven't heard much about the Browns’ new look uniforms.  Has it all been just rumor or is the organization keeping it all "under the cuff"?  Thanks and GO BROWNS!!

-- Angelo, Punta Gorda, FL

Hey Angelo: The Browns’ new uniforms will be introduced some time before the 2015 draft. Until then, they are keeping the NIKE-produced uniform samples under wraps.

Hey Tony: Your talk of Jordan Cameron's contract situation got me thinking of who else is entering their final contract year. Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine, Ahtyba Rubin, Brian Hoyer and Jason Pinkston are all in their final year. It seems to me that the Browns have to sign Cameron and Sheard before potential breakout seasons. Skrine and Ahtyba should be high priorities in the offseason but not right now since there is depth at their positions. Pinkston likely would be allowed to leave via free agency if he isn’t able to make an impact this season and win the starting RG spot. I am sure the Browns are planning to franchise Hoyer if he plays well so that they can trade him which raises the importance of extending the contracts of Cameron and Sheard so they have the tag available for Hoyer. Does this sound right? Have you heard any contract talks for Sheard or any other players? Which players do you expect will be here next year? Most importantly do you think the Browns will trade Hoyer even if he plays well in order to clear the way for Manziel?

-- Este, San Francisco CA

Hey Este: The Browns will not use the franchise tag on Hoyer. It’s too costly for a quarterback without a proven record. I predict they use it on Cameron if a new deal can’t be reached because it’s much cheaper for a tight end and Cameron will have two good years under his belt when the decision is made. There is some indication that negotiations with Sheard are underway..

Hey Tony: I saw your tweet last week about no 'A Football Life' on Paul Brown.  There's also a good article on MMQB this week about 'Paul Brown and Football's Forgotten Dynasty'. Paul Brown was an innovator and pioneer and his Browns were a powerhouse. With NFL Network's recent features on the 1960s and 1970s, why such little (or no) attention given to Paul Brown and the Browns of the 1950s? Is it just Browns karma ... wrong place at the wrong time?

-- Matt, Poughkeepsie, NY

Hey Matt: I’ve always been puzzled why the NFL glamorized Vince Lombardi and other coaches yet give Brown such short shrift. I think some of it has to do with the perception the NFL has come to disregard league history prior to the invention of the Super Bowl following the merger with the American Football League. Since Brown doesn’t have a “Super Bowl championship” on his record, his place in the sport’s history seemingly has diminished. Sad.

Hey Tony: Love your column and long time suffering Cleveland fan in Las Vegas here. My question is, any idea on the situation on the signings of the two first round draft picks since only 12 are unsigned and the Browns have two of them?

-- Scott, Las Vegas, NV

Hey Scott: Fear not. They will get signed before training camp.

Hey Tony: You have mentioned a few times that the Browns will decide whether to keep Tyler Thigpen or Connor Shaw. Why not keep Thigpen as the third QB and assign Shaw to the practice squad? That gives Shaw a chance to grow as a QB in the system and the Browns a veteran presence in Thigpen should the third QB be called into action.   

 -- John, Woodbridge, VA

Hey John: It may very well turn out the way you suggest. But let’s get a closer look at Thigpen and Shaw before making roster predictions.

Hey Tony: A hypothetical but I think probable scenario: After three pre-season games Hoyer has the higher QB rating, consistent play, good TD to interception ratio in other words has been a very good game manager. Manziel has suffered picks and inconsistencies but has also had several spectacular plays for key TD and/or third down conversions. They both post victories. Who would you prefer to see as opening day starter?

-- Bill, Centerville, OH

Hey Bill: Trust your eyes, not the statistics. It’s impossible for me to answer your question without actually seeing them perform.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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