Johnson benched in favor of Davis

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2003

BEREA - It took just four seconds for Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis to bench the team's leading receiver.

Kevin Johnson said that was the length of the conversation Monday when Davis told him backup Andre' Davis would be starting in his place Sunday at Kansas City.

Johnson said he didn't bother to ask why.

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''He's the coach, I'm the player and I respect his decision,'' Johnson said.

But that doesn't mean he agrees with the coach's call.

''I know I'm a starter in this league, whether it's here or somewhere else,'' Johnson said Wednesday. ''I know I can start in this league. I think my numbers speak for themselves.''

Johnson said he was hurt by the demotion, which has shaken up a Browns receiving corps that has just six touchdowns and has failed to perform up to expectations.

''It surprised me a lot,'' wide receiver Quincy Morgan said. ''K.J.'s a very good player. You can't help but be surprised.''

Johnson has led the Browns in receptions in each of his four seasons and leads them again this year in catches (40) and yards (378).

''I have one drop on the season,'' he said.

But it was a crucial drop on fourth down in the final drive of a loss to San Diego two games ago. Johnson also cut short a route that led to an interception and underthrew a pass that should have been a touchdown.

''Everybody has a couple bad plays here and there,'' quarterback Tim Couch said. ''K.J.'s been our most consistent guy over the last five years.''

Johnson has been Couch's favorite receiver since the two entered the league in 1999 as the first two draft picks of the expansion Browns.

Couch, who was benched in favor of Kelly Holcomb to start the season and will again back him up on Sunday, laughed when asked if he felt a kinship with Johnson in getting benched.

''We're just connecting in a different way now,'' Couch said smiling. ''We used to be on the same page on the field, now we're on the same page sitting on the bench.''

But Couch, who has handled his benching with humility, said he was a little shocked by Johnson's demotion and defended his teammate.

''Obviously he's upset, but he has a right to be,'' Couch said. ''Kevin has been the leading receiver on this team going on five years now. He's made play after play.''

Johnson said he doesn't want his situation to become a distraction to the team and has offered to help Andre' Davis prepare for his first start.

Davis, who was not available for comment Wednesday, is fourth on the Browns in receptions (18) and yards (196) but leads the team with three touchdowns.

''I'm here to support him,'' Johnson said. ''I have his back.''

Davis had two touchdowns against the 49ers on Sept. 21, including one with 29 seconds left that gave the Browns their first victory of the season.

But other than that game winner, the Browns' receivers - all second round draft picks - have failed to make big plays for the 3-5 team.

Johnson is on pace to match his numbers from a season ago. But Morgan, the Browns' other starter, has just 19 catches for 237 yards with one touchdown through eight games.

Morgan wouldn't discuss why his numbers are down from last season (56 receptions, 964 yards, seven TDs).

''People wonder why K.J. got benched and not me,'' said Morgan, who has articles from local newspapers critical of him hanging in his locker. ''Just because I don't have as many catches doesn't mean I'm playing bad.''

Morgan, who has dropped three balls this season, bristled at the idea that there have been too many drops among the receivers.

''Everybody drops balls. Some of the greatest receivers in the game drop way more balls then we do … Randy Moss, Torry Holt, you'll see them drop two or three a game. You haven't seen guys drop two or three balls here in a game since I've been here.''

Butch Davis said Wednesday that Johnson could see playing time Sunday in multiple receiver packages. He has not given specific reasons for sitting Johnson.

And Johnson has left it at that.

''He's made a decision,'' Johnson said. ''I'm not going be upset about it.''