For the first time in about a year, life slowed down for Baker Mayfield this past week.
Since New Year’s Day, when Mayfield played his final game at Oklahoma, it’s all been a whirlwind. He’s been a man in demand, and the Browns have put plenty on his shoulders since naming him the full-time starter four weeks into the season.
The bye week put all of it on pause. Now, he’s refreshed and ready to roll as the Browns eye the final six games on their schedule.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Mayfield, who reflected on the journey that got him to this point and looked ahead to a very optimistic future.
CB.com: How’s the body feeling after the bye?
Mayfield: It feels pretty good, pretty good. Just a much-needed break to be able to step away from it for a little bit. The timing of it was pretty nice late in the season.
CB.com: It’s been 10 straight games, and you’re coming from college where you usually have a break before that. Is that one of the bigger adjustments you’ve had to make in the NFL?
Mayfield: Yeah, it’s been non-stop for the most part. Went from straight after the college season, training and prep for the combine, pro day and straight in after the draft to rookie minicamp and all that. It’s kind of felt non-stop and to me. This was kind of the first time to be able to get a little breather.
CB.com: It certainly helps you guys are coming off one of the best performances this team’s had in a few years. What did that mean for you going into this rest period?
Mayfield: It was definitely a good way to leave. There’s a lot of good things we did. For us, it’s about kind of reeling that back in and building on it. We had talked about building on the good things we had been doing for the past couple of weeks and then we finally had that game we’ve all been waiting for. Now, we need to continue that and be consistent.
CB.com: Did part of you almost want to have a game the next week?
Mayfield: Absolutely. You always want to be able to play right away and keep the momentum going. It’s also good to have a week off for health reasons.
CB.com: Are you surprised your post-game comments about “feeling dangerous” have gone so viral?
Mayfield: Yeah, it blew up pretty quickly. I was a little bit taken aback. I was walking around during the bye week and somebody asked me how I felt. I felt obligated to continue that on and say I was feeling dangerous.
CB.com: What prompted it? You were saying it on the field, too.
Mayfield: I had been saying that for years. Anytime one of my family members asks me how I’m feeling, I’ll say that in the morning, but I hadn’t released that out and let people know that. Some of the guys on the team knew it was a joke with me. It’s just a mindset come game day that you have to flip the switch.
CB.com: Are there some games where you feel it even more heading into it?
Mayfield: Absolutely. We were building on so many good things from the week before that. We were just waiting to put it all together. You had that feeling going into that week that we were so close and were going to go out and do it. It was one of those days.
CB.com: List off some of those things this offense has been building toward.
Mayfield: Running the ball first and foremost. That imposes our will on different teams. Being able to run the ball, establish that, be physical and then on top of that it opens up the pass game. Right now we’re protecting the quarterback and protecting the quarterback better than anybody. That’s a good thing. You take care of those two things and you can have a great offense.
CB.com: You got the ball in the hands of nine different guys against the Falcons. Do you like games like that?
Mayfield: Absolutely. We’ve got guys that are able to make plays. Now it’s just about me doing my job and putting it in their hands. They’re here for a reason, so they’re playing really well. We just need to continue that and keep getting the ball out.
CB.com: Going behind the scenes, what was it like with Freddie Kitchens taking over as offensive coordinator?
Mayfield: It obviously could have been a very, very difficult time, but he’s made it about as easy as possible. Between him and Drew Stanton, two of them having experience together in the past and just the communication with Freddie has been the best part. We’ve been very honest with what we want accomplished, talked about it, made it very clear what our goals are as an offense. To have a team that’s successful, you need to be open about what you want to get done. There needs to be no questions, no doubt and he does that.
CB.com: When you’re more involved with picking the plays like you’ve mentioned, do you take even more ownership of the offense?
Mayfield: Oh, absolutely. If I’m going to put my job on the line and say, ‘hey, I really want to run this play,’ I better go do it the right way. He wants to call plays we’re comfortable with. That’s where the communication comes from. If we’re able to do that, the trust just grows and we’re able to make some pretty gutsy calls down the road in clutch moments.
CB.com: You were mic’d up against the Falcons and the highlights have been all over social media. They make you seem like one of the most laid back guys on the field. Where does that come from?
Mayfield: Laid back or half crazy, I don’t know which one it is. I just love playing ball. Anytime you get out there during a game day, you work so hard for it, you work all week and then you only have that 60-minute period where you get to play. It’s pretty important for me to be able to have fun with it and be able to relax and go do my job.
CB.com: What makes you capable of not letting the magnitude of the moment eliminate your love for the game? Not everyone can do that.
Mayfield: I’ve been doing it for a while now. Yeah, I’m in my rookie season but to me, I look at it as if I’ve been doing this for years. I’ve done these things. I’ve done the reps during the practice, I’ve seen a lot of different looks so I need to be able to realize it’s not all going to be new to me. I just relax and realize I’m here for a reason.
CB.com: Do you still feel like a rookie?
Mayfield: Not anymore. At first, a little bit, but now that I’ve let my personality show and let it all out there, just put it all on the line, I don’t feel like that anymore. It feels like home.
CB.com: Do you have to lead differently with a group of guys that can be as old as their mid-30s as compared to when you were in college and everyone’s the same age?
Mayfield: It’s a little different. The past two years at Oklahoma, I was one of the older guys on the team and everyone kind of looked up to me. Now, it’s different. You’ve got guys that are grown men and have kids, families, so it’s just different. You’ve got to be able to relate to everybody because there’s just a different range of age and age is personality, so you’ve got to be able to relate and get the best out of people. To me, that’s the most important thing about playing quarterback.
CB.com: When you got here, you immediately started talking smack to Gregg Williams. Now, he’s the coach. How has that relationship grown or changed?
Mayfield: One thing, it hasn’t changed. The smack talk is still there and you want to see that. He’s always been the same guy. He’s just brutally honest and if you don’t like that, he doesn’t really care and I respect that. There’s trash talk, he’s a defensive mind so the back and forth at practice always happens, but I think that’s how you get the competition and get the best out of people. You have the competing factor as we do here. It’s been good but Gregg is still the same guy as he was when he was defensive coordinator. Now he’s able to affect more people with his leadership skills.
CB.com: How have you seen your teammates respond to him? Was it a wake-up call?
Mayfield: It definitely could have been handled worse than it was. Everybody in the locker room stuck together. They used it to come together. Gregg’s message was we didn’t need anymore distractions. We used that as motivation. We’re all we have and we need to play for each other. They handled it really well and I think Gregg did a great job making sure that was the message.
CB.com: With the way things shook out during the bye week, you guys are still hanging around with a chance to make a run. What’s the mentality going into the final six games?
Mayfield: For us, we have three very, very important division games left in the season. We have to take it one week at a time. To get to where we’re in the hunt/playoff type of race you have to take it one week at a time because right now it’s very important we take care of business each week. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s why I’m excited about getting a division game this week.
CB.com: The Bengals have a familiar guy helping the defense now. Does Hue Jackson being there change how you approach the game?
Mayfield: No, absolutely not. I’ve always believed you can let people know what you’re doing but if you’re able to out-execute them, it doesn’t matter. It is what it is. It will be fun to play against somebody I’ve worked with.
CB.com: Does the chemistry you’ve built with your running backs and receivers make you confident this team is capable of executing on that level?
Mayfield: Absolutely, and that’s what I was talking about with building on the positives we’ve had. The chemistry has been there, the timing has been better, understanding where we want the routes to be run, why certain concepts are getting called, that’s the type of stuff we need to continue. The trust and chemistry is only going to continue to grow.
CB.com: You notice anything different with division matchups intensity-wise?
Mayfield: It’s physical. AFC North is a physical division. We’ve played the Steelers twice and Ravens once. Those games have been a physical battle, not very high scoring. We have to be able to go out and execute and make the plays when we need them.
CB.com: You’re one of three rookies on this team who have won Rookie of the Week. What does that tell you about the future of the Browns?
Mayfield: Very high hopes. Probably higher than anybody else in the building just realizing what we’re capable of and what we can potentially be. That’s why I’m harping on the consistency is the most important part of the game right now. We have to be able to do it every week. Yeah, we have guys doing great individual efforts each Sunday but we need to be able to put it all together. That’s the good thing is we can do that and when we do, it’s pretty fun to watch.