Baker Mayfield has a shoulder injury, but he’s not listed on the Browns injured list ahead of the team’s Week 5 matchup against the Chargers.
An injured player who’s not injured. Yep, that’s about right these days.
OK, Mayfield’s practicing in full, meaning he doesn’t have to go on the injured lists, but with the former No. 1 overall pick coming off the one of the worst games of his NFL career, the alarm can be heard in Berea, all the way to Browns’ Backers clubs in England and Guam.
The Browns insist the injury to his non-throwing shoulder isn’t affecting his play. That has to be the case, otherwise there’s no explanation as to why how or why coach Kevin Stefanski would dial up a run-pass option and have Mayfield run, leading with the left shoulder, as he didn’t against the Vikings.
So, what the heck is going on out there? I’m not sure we want to admit the answer.
The injury is reminiscent of Mayfield’s rib injury in 2020 when he led the Browns into Pittsburgh for game No. 6. That might be the worst game of his career (10-19, 155 yards, 1TD, 2 INTs). The Browns lost 38-7. It was never close. Following the contest, you’d have thought McDonald’s brought back the McRib because the Cleveland sports media landscape started and finished each day gnashing their teeth over the quarterback’s injury.
What happened next? Mayfield went into Cincinnati the following the week and was spectacular, throwing for five touchdown passes in a 37-34 shootout. He connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones on a spectacular game-winning throw that is one of the top five highlights of the season.
Something else happened that game…oh, right. Odell Beckham Jr. left early with an injury. Whoops. Not going there.
Mayfield’s rib must’ve been touched by an Angel because that cracked bone was never heard from again as Cleveland went on to win four-of-their next five en route to a playoff berth.
The fourth-year veteran has been up front about putting the onus on himself to make better decisions and hit on his throws, but it is strange how we’ve all become labrum specialists this week.
The offense is stalling, Baker couldn’t hit Odell standing five yards away playing catch at a picnic, and time’s running out. Mayfield has to play, and play better. The money is on the line, and there’s a reason the Browns have extended the player we all hope is the franchise quarterback.
Mayfield’s the best quarterback the Browns have had since returning in 1999, but you can get an idea why the analytically oriented front office might be spooked about giving him Josh Allen-type money.
Then there’s this: Mayfield’s been under center for 12 career games when the Browns have trailed by one possession or less in the last four minutes, according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd. His performance in crunch time? Five interceptions and a quarterback rating of 66.8.
As each game ticks by, Mayfield gets closer to free agency, and he’s yet to do the one thing that’s fair to ask of franchise quarterbacks: Be consistent. The shoulder isn’t a problem, so we’ve been told by everyone who knows. We’ll see.