Starter or not, Mayfield still wants to be a leader
BEREA (AP) — Baker Mayfield intends to conquer, not divide.
Although drafted by the win-starved Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick to be their quarterback of the future, Mayfield said Friday he plans to be a leader from the outset even if he doesn’t start as a rookie.
Tyrod Taylor is the team’s presumptive opening-week starter against Pittsburgh, and while Mayfield intends to compete for the job in training camp, he won’t allow personal ambition to get in the way of team goals.
He won’t step on any toes.
“It’s not about individuals,” Mayfield said as the Browns opened their three-day rookie minicamp. “They brought him and I in because we’re both team-oriented guys. He’s the starter, and all I can do is help us out. So it’s not going to be something that separates the locker room. We’re not going to be fighting over who’s the man in the locker room.
“I’m a team-oriented guy and I just want to win.”
Mayfield’s leadership and drive were part of the self-assured Oklahoma quarterback’s appeal to the Browns, who believe — in time — he can turn around a team that has gone 1-31 the past two seasons.
The plan for now is for Taylor to start and Mayfield to learn while watching a quarterback who led the Buffalo Bills to their first playoff appearance in 18 years last season. The Browns traded for Taylor in March before they reached a consensus on taking Mayfield, who won a Heisman Trophy last season while losing some fans for objectionable on-field antics.
But Mayfield’s a pro now, he claims more mature from his mistakes, and he’s got a clean slate and a new set of priorities. At the top of his list: earning the trust of his teammates.
To do that, Mayfield intends to be himself, which means he’ll go at it full throttle.
“I’ve got to continue my strengths, and leadership is one of them,” he said. “So when you talk about that, it’s earning the respect of the veterans in the locker room. The guys who have been doing it for a while, I have to earn their respect. You can’t talk about it and earn their respect. You have to go to work. You have to put the time in. You’ve got to learn the playbook, and then when you get your opportunity, you’ve got to show that you’re there for a reason.”
Mayfield said he met Taylor when the QB stopped in while he was in quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese’s office. Mayfield has been impressed with Taylor’s commitment and openness.
“Everything I’ve heard, even when I went on my visit at the Bills, they said the same things about him, he’s just an unbelievable guy,” Mayfield said. “You see that and then you see him up here, how often he’s actually here, it’s very transparent who he is.”
Mayfield knows he has a lot to learn. He’s been digging into Cleveland’s playbook, so the X’s and O’s make sense when he’s on the practice field. He intends to be physically and mentally fit by the time training camp opens in July.
In the meantime, he’s learning about Cleveland while Cleveland learns about him.
On Thursday night, Mayfield and the team’s other rookies had dinner with some Browns alumni, including Hall of Famer Jim Brown, quarterback Bernie Kosar and others. They were told about what it’s like to play for a fan base longing to see the Browns win again.
“The one thing I keep hearing about is the loyalty of the fans,” Mayfield said. “I think about how they deserve a team that’s winning, a team they can rally behind and that’s what they’ll do no matter what. This franchise is built on winning, they’ve been winning in the past and some of those guys set the tone. So right now we’re trying to get back to that.”
NOTES: The Browns said their trade on Wednesday with Kansas City, swapping tight end Randall Telfer for Chiefs defensive end Dadi Nicolas, has been voided. The team did not provide any further details. Cleveland waived Telfer, a 2015 sixth-round draft pick.