BEREA: The Browns have denied former NFL guard John Moffitt’s claim that they declared he failed their physical and voided a trade for him in August because he refused to take less money.
Moffitt made the accusation Tuesday during a radio interview with 710 ESPN Seattle. He called the Browns “terrible” and said, “the way that they did me in that front office was so dirty.”
The Browns responded Thursday morning with the following statement: “The only reason John Moffitt is not a Brown is because of our concerns about his health. Any claims to the contrary are not true.”
The Browns shipped defensive end Brian Sanford to the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 19 in exchange for Moffitt. A day later, Moffitt spoke to reporters at the Browns’ headquarters and was on the field for the beginning of practice before coach Rob Chudzinski escorted him back into the facility. The Browns announced that evening that they voided the trade because of concerns about Moffitt’s health.
The rights to Moffitt, 27, went back to the Seahawks, and they immediately traded him to the Denver Broncos in exchange for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga. Last week, Moffitt announced his retirement, citing a loss of passion for football. His base salary this season was $625,000, and he was scheduled to make $752,500 next year.
A third-round draft pick in 2011, Moffitt started the first nine games of his rookie season before suffering torn ligaments in his left knee that required surgery. He also had elbow surgery last year during training camp.
But Moffitt insisted he didn’t legitimately fail the physical the Browns administered.
“I haven’t said this publicly — they suck. Cleveland sucks,” Moffitt told 710 ESPN Seattle. “They are so terrible and the way that they did me in that front office was so dirty. They failed me on a B.S. physical. They took me in, they MRI-ed me, they ran me through their gamut, they flew me out there that night, and I saw the MRIs with the doctor. I went through all the slides with the doctor because I knew, I’m like, ‘I want to see this, right?’ So [the doctor] goes to me, he’s like, ‘You’ve got a little bit of arthritis, but for the knee injury, you’re fine.’
“So then they call my agent [Michael George], and [he’s] like, ‘[The Browns] want you to take less money. They want you to do a split or something like that.’ I’m like, ‘No. No, I’m on a basic contract. I’m not doing a split.’ And then my agent finally did some work and figured out that per the CBA you can’t do that on a trade. So now they just call me up to [their] office and they said, ‘We’re going to fail you on your physical.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, OK.’ I went in with the GM [Mike Lombardi], though, and talked to him, and they tried tell me, they tried to get the head trainer [Joe Sheehan] to tell me that my knee wasn’t right and they said that the slides were in there, basically trying to lie to me. I was like, ‘That’s great. Thanks. You guys really set me up here because you failed me on a physical [and] the whole league’s going to know.’ ”
After the Browns voided the trade, Moffitt passed the Broncos’ physical to make that deal official. He appeared in two games with the Broncos.
When asked Aug. 21 how Moffitt could pass the Broncos’ physical but not the one he took for the Browns, Chudzinski said, “Every organization is different. Out of respect for any player in the situation, I am not going to get into any details about that.”
Browns rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, is listed 20th in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s rookie rankings.
But the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) aren’t looking forward to facing Mingo when they host the Browns (4-6) on Sunday.
“I think Mingo continues to come into his own, which is not good for us,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s been the prospect everyone, and we, thought he would be.”
Mingo is second among rookies with four sacks, but in his rankings, Kiper wrote, “there hasn’t been much else.” And Mingo has only one sack in the past five games.
Browns CEO Joe Banner, though, isn’t disappointed with Mingo.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Banner said. “I think he’s working hard. The coaches are pleased with him, but you want to see your young guys continue to develop especially between year one and two and year two and three. That’s the point where you really know what you have. But I think when you evaluate what he’s done so far, you feel really good about it.”
The Browns won’t have to deal with the Bengals All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, whose season was ended when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 31. But it doesn’t mean the Browns’ offensive line will be getting a day off.
Brandon Thompson, Aktins’ replacement, is still a lot for an offensive lineman to handle.
“There’s not too much drop-off,” right guard Shawn Lauvao said. “Geno definitely possess a lot more — I mean they paid him obviously — so he definitely has that X-factor in terms of rushing the passer. But I feel like Brandon’s really good against the run and he does possess an ability to rush the passer.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said losing Atkins hurts the Bengals, but he also had high praise for Thompson.
“They’ve got so much depth on their defensive line that they can lose a lot of guys and they still have very, very talented players that they can put in there,” Thomas said. “We were watching film of his replacement, Thompson, and I think he’s going to be a heck of a player in this league. … The stuff he’s been putting on film really shows that he can be a star in the NFL.”
Calling his shot
Running back Willis McGahee believes the Browns can make a run in their final seven games.
“We not only have the chemistry to stay in the race, but we have the chemistry to lead the race. We got the coaches that have faith in us. They never gave up on us. I’ve only been here for a little while, and they have faith in these guys. We’re a very young team, but at the end of the day we’re very close together, and we don’t doubt it.”
McGahee added that the doubt of outsiders only fuels the Browns.
“I just think that it’s us against the world,” he said. “Nobody thinks the Browns can do it. Me, that’s how I look at it. I like to prove people wrong. That’s how I go about doing it.”
McGahee and undrafted rookie tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) were the only players on the Browns’ active roster who sat out practice Thursday. McGahee received his usual Thursday off to rest his knees. ... Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson wore a shirt that read “Swiss OB Knife” when talking to reporters, a homage to fullback and do-it-all player Chris Ogbonnaya, whose nickname is Obie. The shirt featured a picture of a Swiss Army knife with a “25” on the handle. Ogbonnaya wears No. 25. Each extension (knife, scissors, etc.) was labeled with a different position that Ogbonnaya plays or a unit he plays on, like “RB,” [running back] “FB” [fullback] and “KO” [kickoff team]. … Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he teaches his players to catch the ball on Hail Mary passes instead of knocking it down. On Sunday, Baltimore Ravens safety James Ihedigbo attempted to knock a Hail Mary pass down, but he popped it up, allowing Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to catch it for a touchdown that forced overtime. “That’s the proverbial thing — knock the ball down,” Horton said. “Well, half the time you don’t. I’ve seen [defenders try to] knock the ball down into the ground, and the guy catches it at his feet for a touchdown. So I don’t teach it.” … Horton’s daughter, Taylor, got married this past weekend.
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.