By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: The fallout from the Trent Richardson trade continued to weigh on the Browns on Friday.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas held court in the locker room after practice and explained why he believes all of the players on the roster, except for rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, could be dealt by the new regime.
CEO Joe Banner and coach Rob Chudzinski responded to former Browns President Mike Holmgren’s scathing comments about the trade.
And former Browns linebacker Scott Fujita wrote a column for FoxSports.com questioning whether Richardson bought into the organization and lamenting how some of his former teammates and close friends are stuck in “what seems like a forever rebuild.”
Although Thomas has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first six NFL seasons, he’s convinced that he is expendable.
“Nobody on any team is untouchable,” Thomas said.
When the new regime traded Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round pick in next year’s draft Wednesday, Thomas’ belief was reinforced.
“About the only people safe are the ones that came here this year in the first round that were drafted by the guys that are making the calls right now,” Thomas said. “That’s the way it is. I’ve been through four coaching staffs right now and GMs. And if you’re not drafted by them, there’s no safety in this business.”
But it doesn’t seem realistic that the Browns would trade Thomas, one of the best in the NFL at a premier position.
“On Tuesday, if they would’ve said, ‘We were going to trade for Trent Richardson,’ would you think it was unrealistic?’ ” Thomas said. “You’d be surprised [if they traded me], I’m sure, but anything can happen.”
Holmgren couldn’t believe the Browns shipped Richardson to the Colts, and he ripped the new regime for doing it.
“It’s just too wild,” Holmgren said Thursday night during an interview with Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle. “This sort of thing doesn’t happen, and it happened.”
Last year, Holmgren and former Browns General Manager Tom Heckert traded selections in the first (No. 4), fourth (No. 118), fifth (No. 139) and seventh (No. 211) rounds to the Minnesota Vikings, so they could move up to No. 3 spot and pick Richardson, who starred at the University of Alabama.
Holmgren said if he were in Chudzinski’s shoes, he would leave the Browns because of the trade.
“Philosophically, if I’m the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, said, ‘We’re going to do this,’ my response would be, ‘Fire me or I’m going to quit or we’re both going to go into the owner and talk about this and then we’ll see who’s standing,’ ” said Holmgren, a Super Bowl-winning coach. … “I’d shake hands and walk. I would quit on the spot.
“They aren’t coming right out and saying it, but they are preparing for next year and next year’s draft. If I listen to [Chudzinski], who said, ‘We want to be competitive,’ they don’t know who’s going to be the running back this week. How do you make your team better by trading your best player? He’s their best offensive player. He’s a valuable, valuable guy. To me, they are putting all their eggs into next season. They started off 0-2 and they couldn’t score any points, and I think it was a knee-jerk reaction.”
In response to Holmgren’s criticism, Chudzinski stressed he was involved in the trade talks all along and emphasized the importance of getting his players ready for their road game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2).
“I love Cleveland,” Chudzinski said Friday after practice. “I love these fans. I love this team. I feel strongly that I absolutely agree with our plan, what we’ve done to this point, in bringing a winner to Cleveland. I’m focused on this game and playing in Minnesota and getting our guys ready to play and win and focused on that alone.”
The Browns went 12-31 during Holmgren’s tenure. After Jimmy Haslam bought the team last year, he replaced Holmgren with Banner. Holmgren spent his last day with the organization Nov. 30.
“Mike’s entitled to his opinion,” Banner said Friday morning on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike. “He ran the team for three years and was able to do what he believed in. It’s our turn trying to do what we think is right. Obviously, we wouldn’t have done this if we agreed with his comments.”
Banner defended the trade by explaining that the new regime reconstructed the defense in its first offseason, and now it’s laying the groundwork to do the same with the offense next year. With 10 draft picks, including two in the first, third and fourth rounds, the Browns have ammunition to assist in their expected pursuit of a quarterback.
Fujita, who spent last season with the Browns before retiring, believes the team might have gotten a little worse in the short term, but their future is “a whole lot brighter” after the trade.
Fujita also suggested Richardson’s attitude might have been a factor in the deal.
“I can’t speculate about what’s in any one person’s head, but when a player enters the league wearing headphones incessantly, shows up late for [medical] treatments, and makes little effort to engage with his teammates, he can quickly develop a reputation for being insular and high-maintenance,” Fujita wrote.
Fujita wrote his sense tells him that the Browns sent a message by making the trade — “If you don’t buy in, you don’t belong on this team.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.