Baker Mayfield knew exactly what to expect when he stepped onto the practice field for the first time Tuesday for his first practice with the 2021 edition of the Cleveland Browns.
For Mayfield, the theme of the offseason has been all about familiarity. He'll be surrounded by the same coaches, nearly all the same players and will play under a near-similar playbook that helped him achieve one of the best seasons of his career in 2020.
Mayfield and the rest of the offense still have plenty of details to iron out in minicamp and training camp, which starts in six weeks, but the foundation and basics have already been laid.
And that has made life much easier for the Browns' QB1.
"The more times you're around these guys and explaining the thought process, and the communication when it comes to your team, is so important," he said Wednesday in a video call with local reporters. "The more we're doing that, as time goes on, it's going to get better for all of us. I feel really good about where I am and where we are hitting the ground running right now."
Check out exclusive photos of minicamp
For now, Mayfield and the rest of the offense aren't doing anything too strenuous. Several moments of Tuesday's practice consisted of players jogging through drills and simulating reads and routes of the playbook. Mayfield wasn't tasked with making throws during each play — just surveying the field and ensuring his footwork placed him in position to make a throw.
Those are all standard procedures during minicamp, but the comfort of Mayfield and the rest of the returning players on offense was still evident.
Nobody on the Browns had opportunities to bond on a football field last season due to the pandemic. Now, players are embracing the time together to an even fuller extent and enjoying the opportunity to practice on the same field.
"The combination of the lack of OTAs and minicamp last year and to be able to get those live reps and work those new schemes, combined with the footwork, and to talk through those things right after the reps with (offensive coordinator) Alex Van Pelt and (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski)… It's the combination of all of those things that just take repetition to be able to grow and get comfortable in it," Mayfield said. " I think that's why you saw our offense only get better as the year went on, especially on my front. I expect to continue that, to continue to grow and get better."
Stefanski can see the growth, too. With Mayfield in particular, Stefanski is confident the added comfort in going through another offseason with the same schemes and similar playbook will help Mayfield make reads a bit faster — which can make a massive difference in the efficiency of a quarterback.
"We learned a lot about him, and he learned a lot about us," Stefanski said. "You hope to build off that. So having him in-person here like you mentioned and having him work with (Van Pelt) and the drill work … I think all of it is valuable. I think, like all the players here, he's getting better."
Mayfield doesn't view the comfort, though, as a reason to feel complacent. Chemistry with wide receivers still has to be built again, which will come into a sharper focus come training camp. The same can be said about making reads at the line of scrimmage and ensuring everyone knows their assignments before the ball is snapped.
Those steps always take months to complete, so while Mayfield feels comfortable with the continuity, he won't take it for granted once the Browns return to Berea again for training camp.
"There's a lot of work to be done," he said. "The chemistry when it comes to being able to say, 'Hey, am I wrong or right here? Tell me if I am wrong. Tell me if you need something out of me.' That is vital, and I think that is what we've been working on the most.
"That is what a good culture is all about, and when it comes back down to it and we hit the ground running for training camp in late July, that we don't miss a beat."