Baker Mayfield's toughness resonates with teammates after close loss

Baker Mayfield participated in stretching and warm-ups during Tuesday's practice in Berea, then stood by idly and watched as his teammates went through the session at the team's facility.

Just two days after a game in which Mayfield suffered a hip injury, the quarterback rested as his fellow Browns got back to work. Mayfield had already proven how much he's willing to sacrifice for this team, which currently stands at 2-4, when he gutted out the rest of Sunday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

His teammates were more than appreciative of his toughness in the days that followed.

"He is tough, man," guard Joel Bitonio said Tuesday of Mayfield. "He does not want to come out of the game and that is credit to him as a player, as a person and as a leader. It is just who he is, and you knew that before that. 

"You do not need to see him toughing it out. Obviously if you cannot do it, do not be out there. He thought he could play, he was fighting through it and I give him all of the credit. He took a weird hit and he keeps fighting for us. He has had some bad luck on some of the throws this year and stuff, but he keeps going out there and trying to will us to victory."

Mayfield did as much of that as he could, leaving briefly to be examined in the locker room before returning and playing through visible pain in the final quarter and a half of the game. He completed 7-of-12 passes for just 38 yards but helped the Browns get into scoring position twice, finding the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth before ultimately surrendering the lead.

"It means a lot. It just shows the team that no matter what, he's willing to go out there and put it on the line for his teammates," running back Nick Chubb said. "I respect him a lot. I was actually, after every play I was checking on him. I could tell he was in pain. He pushed through for us. Say what you want but Baker, when he went down, man, I was thinking I don't know what's going to happen next because he's such a crucial part of this team."

Mayfield's health was of paramount importance in the immediate moments after the game, in which he described his hip injury as tender but assured reporters he'd be fine. Head coach Freddie Kitchens reinforced Mayfield's assurance Monday, and explained he was giving his signal-caller rest during a week in which the Browns don't need to physically tax their players.

The bye week arrived at the right time for the second-year quarterback, who finished the game with a line of 22-of-37 passing for 249 yards, one touchdown (and one rushing score) and three interceptions. The last statistic is the most glaring, but as he rests physically, he'll be able to improve mentally in order to avoid future mistakes.

"It is either there or it is not. You know what, I think it is getting there," quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley said of Mayfield's in-game rhythm as the offense's engineer. "At the end of the day, when you look at where he was Week 1 and some of the stuff, and that was kind of what we have done this week, so you have to evaluate it and everything.  

"It is kind of a good time to have a break. Obviously, you would rather go into a bye week with a win, but I think for us to be able to evaluate, looking at, in the last couple of days, where he was Week 1 to compare to where he is now and there is improvement, there is vast improvement, it is just obviously not where we want him to be."

The next step toward Mayfield arriving at where the Browns staff wants him comes next week, when the Browns turn their full efforts to preparing for the New England Patriots. That will come after the players receive some much-needed time off, which should allow them to reset and rejuvenate mentally and physically before taking on the final 10 games of the regular season.

"He is going to be, physically, in better shape going into New England, yes," Kitchens said Tuesday. "He will be in a better place, mentally, too."

Check out photos of the Browns working during their bye week by team photographer Matt Starkey

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