Browns' Baker Mayfield dubbed 'Brett Favre 2.0' after gutting it out with shoulder injury
CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield's refusal to miss a snap Sunday after the Browns starting quarterback's left shoulder had popped back into place evoked memories of his idol.
Well, at least it did for Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett.
“The guy's tough," Garrett said of Mayfield. "Honestly, I wouldn’t say he’s a carbon copy, but he’s like Brett Favre 2.0. Less picks, though.
"Stuff rolls off his back. He doesn’t let the last play affect him whether it was good or bad — a touchdown or an interception. He just rolls with the punches and he always keeps on coming. He always stays the same, and we love that from him because he always brings that intensity that we expect from him.”
Mayfield hurt his non-throwing shoulder while attempting to make a tackle during an interception return in the second quarter of Sunday's 31-21 win over the Houston Texans in the home opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I was feeling it a lot — thanks for asking," Mayfield quipped. "It was all right. Played the rest of the game, didn’t we?
“I think [I've had a similar injury] a few times. I don't know. It's my left [shoulder], though. God gave me two.”
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Mayfield finished 19-of-21 passing for 213 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He rushed eight times for 10 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. He had a career-high 90.5 completion percentage and posted a passer rating of 105.
“He was really sharp," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Versus this defense and the zone that they play, you have to be disciplined with your reads, and you have to be accurate with your throws. I thought he did a nice job.”
The Browns (1-1) are now 16-1 when Mayfield produces a passer rating of 100 or better. One of the few blemishes in his statistical line led to the injury.
On third-and-13 at the Houston 45-yard line, Mayfield intended a pass for rookie wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, but Schwartz stopped short while running the route, and safety Justin Reid intercepted the ball. The interception wasn't all Mayfield's fault, either.
"Schwartz has made some plays for us already. He's going to continue to make big plays for us. But we would love to see a receiver go in there and at worst break up an interception and make an incomplete pass," Stefanski said. "That's a mistake that a young player makes, and he will not make it again."
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During Reid's 24-yard return to the Cleveland 47, Mayfield attempted to make a tackle and was hurt with 9:44 left in the second quarter. Stefanski said Mayfield was right to attempt to turn Reid toward the middle of the field.
“Obviously, not an ideal situation," Mayfield said. "[I was] trying to force [Reid] back inside. I think he realized it was me standing right there, so he put his head down and ran right after me. [My shoulder] kind of popped in and out, but I'll be good. Nothing too serious.”
Mayfield was examined in the medical tent on the sideline and ran to the locker room with medical personnel before quickly returning to the bench area to warm up with some throws.
When the Browns' next possession began with 7:06 left in the second quarter, Mayfield was in the game. He said there was no chance he would miss a snap.
The best part for Mayfield is he went 10-of-10 passing for 103 yards after the turnover, though the Browns leaned on their rushing attack the rest of the way. They finished with 34 carries for 156 yards (4.6 average) and three touchdowns. Running back Nick Chubb essentially iced the game by rushing for a 26-yard touchdown with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter.
"I did not want him to get hit," Stefanski said when asked if he changed his play calling after Mayfield's injury.
"He's sore, but he gutted it out."
Mayfield's teammates marveled at his grit.
"We all know Baker is super tough, and there was no doubt in my mind that he would be back," Chubb said. "I knew when he went to go get checked out that he would be back in eventually."
Mayfield brushed off the compliments, including Garrett's Favre comparison.
“I'm not doing it for any gratification or anything," Mayfield said. "I put in the work during the week and come out on Sundays because I truly love this game. Blessed to play it as a job.
"I'm not the only one dealing with injuries. By no means is that the case. Everybody is fighting through something. The healthiest you are the whole year is when you show up for camp. After that, it's all downhill. I'm going to tough it out because these guys are as well. I'm not getting hit every play, so when I do, let’s just go. Let’s roll with it.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.