BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Baker Mayfield understands the weight on his shoulders.
Last year it was too much to bear.
This offseason, Mayfield prepared himself to be able to carry that weight, physically and mentally.
“In a much better state mentally. Obviously physically I put in the work,” Mayfield said Friday before taking the field for the first official practice of training camp. “Just ready to roll, attack and get back to where I need to be to be the leader for this team and for this franchise.”
A year ago, Mayfield and the Browns were the preseason darling of the NFL.
By the time the end of December hit, anther head coach and GM were fired, and another offseason of change commenced following a disappointing 6-10 finish meaning another step back with a new system to learn instead of progressing forward.
Mayfield admitted he “absolutely” doubted himself at times when things were not going well, especially last season that saw him throw five fewer touchdowns and seven more interceptions than his rookie year. But that is all behind him now.
“Having success all through high school and college and having that standard so high and then the past couple years have been a roller coaster of emotions and not nearly as much success as I am used to,” Mayfield said. “I would say I lost myself not having that success, not finding out what was working. I tried different ways of trying to have that success, and I didn’t find it.
“I lost myself in that, and I wasn’t able to be who I am for these guys on the team.”
Mayfield is a confident player. Some might say cocky. But his swagger and confidence are what helped him earn the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after winning the Heisman at Oklahoma where he walked on.
“You have to find that belief and you have to find that confidence within yourself,” Mayfield said. “That is what I have based my whole story on and my whole career on is confidence in myself and taking those chances.
“There were times — and these guys know that everybody has their moments — you can’t just hold onto yourself. You have to have people to lean on, and we have those guys here.”
After reflecting on what went wrong in 2019, Mayfield took the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic this year and turned them into advantages.
He worked out at home and changed his diet with the help of a dietician. The result: better body mass.
“My emphasis was definitely cutting out the bad body weight,” Mayfield said. “I just think with the long offseason, I was able to get my body healthy and ready to roll.”
Mayfield is on his third offense and head coach in as many years.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski’s February visit to his home in Texas ended up being more valuable than first imagined at the time.
“I think I've seen a guy that has taken this job seriously and making sure he's ultra-prepared for the job,” Stefanski said Friday. “I really like where Baker is at from a schematic standpoint, a physical standpoint and definitely a mental standpoint.”
The addition of two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper and right tackle jack Conklin as well as selection of Jedrick Wills 10th overall to fill the left tackle slot filled the critical holes remaining on Mayfield’s side of the ball.
“I think it's an unbelievable opportunity for everybody in this building right now with the moves we've made,” Mayfield said. “Our guys are ready to get out there and prove what we've been doing this offseason. We have a new team, new staff and we're ready to roll.”