Carolina Panthers’ Baker Mayfield – No built-in animosity ahead of Week 1 game against former team Cleveland Browns
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Baker Mayfield has a reputation for being big on so-called “revenge” games, but the Carolina Panthers quarterback insists he doesn’t watch the game. Sunday’s opener against Cleveland that way, even though his time with the Browns ended ‘abruptly and unexpectedly.’
“It’s a great story,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “Obviously there is a story that preceded this week. [But] there are other NFL games the guys are playing (against) their old team. It’s just the excitement of Week 1 that’s creating that anticipation. It’s familiarity.”
Mayfield spent his first four NFL seasons with the Browns, who made him the top pick of the 2018 draft. He was traded to Carolina in July, nearly three months after Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson from the Texans of Houston.
“Any time you play against guys you know, it makes things more interesting, more fun,” Mayfield said. “You can talk to your buddies that you’ve been with for a little while. You know how to push and push and get the most out of it.
“I look forward to the opportunity.”
If he has any animosity toward the Browns, Mayfield doesn’t show it.
“I’m grateful for the time I spent in Cleveland,” he said. “I started my career there. The fans there, it’s a football city. As I’ve mentioned many times, it ended abruptly and unexpectedly, but here we are. now.
“Everything happens for a reason. I roll with the hits. I’m happy to be a Panther.”
Mayfield Wouldn’t Even Take Credit for His PR Team’s ‘Off the Leash’ T-Shirts went on sale last week ahead of Sunday’s game.
One shirt has a picture of Mayfield wearing a cowboy hat from his college days with the Oklahoma Sooners with a spiked dog collar and a broken chain underneath. Above his head are the words “Off the Leash”. The other simply has a picture of Mayfield in a running Panthers uniform with a cowboy hat that apparently flew off his head. There is a photo of a broken doghouse (Cleveland) and a stagecoach (Oklahoma) below him either side of his last name.
“Oh man, I wish I could say I invented t-shirts, but I got a team behind me,” Mayfield said. “They put some hidden messages, just my story, some subliminal stuff in there.
“I think people back home who have been following me for a long time like it. It’s just a fun thing to do.”
Mayfield is doing his best to ensure Sunday’s game is all about fun and a good start for the Panthers, who also tried to trade for Watson. Carolina guard Austin Corbett, who spent his first year and a half with the QB in Cleveland, likes this tactic.
“That’s what the media wants to see,” he said. “We’re not here to make a show about us. There’s another 16 games that come after this house.”
Wide receiver Rashard Higgins, who has spent the past four years in Cleveland with Mayfield, agreed, but has repeatedly suggested over the past month that the QB will eventually show the personality that defined his career.
“There’s no hate towards Cleveland,” Higgins said. “We were both happy there. It came down to what it came down to. We’re in this position now to help the Panthers win, and that’s the only goal.”
But Higgins expects Mayfield to excel like he has in other big games. He vividly recalled a 2020 game for Cleveland in which Mayfield started 0 for 5 with an interception against rival Cincinnati Bengals, then completed 22 of 23 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-34 win. .
“When he’s up, he plays well,” Higgins said, noting the offense watched footage of that game earlier Wednesday. “Let him eat, man, let him eat. Y’all remember that catchphrase, we all gotta eat? Man, let him do his thing. That’s where he gained his trust. . . . It’s going to be fun. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Mayfield hasn’t said anything derogatory about his former team since arriving in Carolina. But he dipped into his memory bank of past games against old teams, like 2015 at Oklahoma when he beat Texas Tech, the team that let him trade two years earlier. Oklahoma won that game 63-27, with Mayfield completing 15 of 22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
“Anytime you can recount your past experiences, good or bad, you can always learn from them,” Mayfield said. “Good or bad, you can still benefit from it. So I think it will help.”
While Mayfield admits he’s “all about winning,” his immediate desire on Sunday is simple.
“A big hug from Nicholas Chubb would be a very, very good gift,” he said of the Browns. “Just hearing him say a word would also be nice.”