One constant for the Browns over the last four years – a hint this story isn’t about losing because that has been going on for eight straight years – is the relentless way Johnson Bademosi plays on special teams.
“Baddy,” as he is known by his teammates and his coaches, is an alternate as a special teams player in the Pro Bowl this season. That means Bademosi will be playing in Hawaii on Jan. 31 if Matthew Slater of the New England Patriots or Justin Bethel of the Arizona Cardinals bows out, and because one or both could be playing in the Super Bowl, there is a good chance Bademosi will be playing four weeks after the Browns’ season ends on Jan. 3.
“I’d be honored,” Bademosi said in the Browns locker room on Dec. 24. “I’m grateful to everybody who voted for me from the coaches to the players in the league and to the fans. My teammates have been an instrumental part in all this.”
Coaches, players and fans each count for one-third of the Pro Bowl voting. Players can’t vote for their teammates and coaches cannot vote for their own players. That makes Bademosi’s selection even as an alternate quite remarkable because he plays on a 3-11 team that gets very little national exposure for doing anything right.
Word gets around, though. Bademosi led the Browns in special-teams tackles each of his first three years in the league and he is leading again with two games left.
“Johnson is a guy that has improved each and every year,” special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said. “Since he’s been in the league, he’s in either the top two or top three in (special-teams) tackles.
“There are going to be things that maybe the common fan wouldn’t see – all the little things he does with regards to blocking and where his hands are and the subtle things he does to influence a player to do other things. He’s playing at a high level. I’m real pleased with him, and we’re going to need him this week (against the Kansas City Chiefs).”
Bademosi landed with the Browns as an undrafted rookie in 2012 when Tom Heckert was general manager. Bademosi played safety at Stanford. He knew from the first day of spring practice that if he was going to make the 53-man roster, he would have to impress Tabor as a player who would not only run fearlessly down the field to cover kicks and punts, but also as a player that could block and help spring long returns.
“I wasn’t drafted, so I knew I had to do pretty much anything to make the team,” Bademosi said. “In simplest form, I was willing to do the dirty work. I was willing to split the wedge and do anything I had to do to be part of this club.”
Johnson said he got his work ethic from his mother, Margaret. She was a home-care nurse and sometimes had to do unpleasant tasks to take care of her patients. Johnson said she worked multiple jobs to provide for him and his sister.
“That was kind of instilled in me,” Bademosi said. “Your work might not always be glamorous, but you do what have to do. That’s how I approach my job.”
Bademosi has played some cornerback this season, but his specialty is blocking and tackling on punts and kickoffs.
Bademosi is earning $1,542,000 on a one-year contract this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. on March 15 if he doesn’t sign a new contract with the Browns before them.
Considering the number of Pro Bowl votes he had to get to even make it as an alternate (the votes by coaches and players are confidential) he would probably be snatched up by another team by the end of March if the Browns drag their feet.
Click below for a short video highlight of Johnson dominating on Monday Night Football via @GonzagaTDC: