Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield playing through partially torn labrum
BEREA — As Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield likes to say about his upbringing, "Mama didn’t raise a wuss."
Mayfield has been playing through a partially torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder for the past few weeks, two league sources confirmed Thursday morning for the Beacon Journal.
NFL Network first reported the exact nature of the injury, which occurred when Mayfield's left shoulder popped out and back in Sept. 19 during a 31-21 win over the Houston Texans as he attempted to make a tackle on an interception return.
The injury has not caused Mayfield to miss a snap, and he has repeatedly refused to use it as an excuse for his recent accuracy problems.
The Browns (3-1) listed Mayfield on their injury report for only one week after the Texans game. He is not on the injury report this week in the buildup to Sunday's road game against the Los Angeles Chargers (3-1).
It's too early to tell whether Mayfield will need offseason surgery, one of the sources said.
All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin said he didn't even know the extent of Mayfield's injury prior to Thursday's news.
"Baker is day to day, the same way he is every day, and you wouldn’t know if he’s hurt or not," Conklin said. "He’s a straightforward guy and just plays hard and doesn’t show it on his face. That’s for sure."
Three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio said Mayfield hasn't let on that the injury has bothered him in games.
“I think there's no doubt in any of the players' minds that he's one of the tougher guys out there," Bitonio said. "He's going to go and he's going to battle and he's been hit and beat up before, and he just keeps coming back. You're going to have to do a lot more to get him out of games than whatever is going on with him now.
"He's just focused on trying to get better each week and trying to be the best quarterback for this team. We're trying to rally around him and protect him and put him in the best possible positions.”
No one with the Cleveland Browns is using quarterback Baker Mayfield's injury as an excuse
Mayfield lamented the accuracy woes he experienced Sunday in a 14-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but he did not blame the injured shoulder.
“It's attached,” he said in his postgame news conference. “I'm all right.”
Mayfield went 15-of-33 passing (45.5%) for 155 yards without a touchdown or an interception as the Browns (3-1) relied on dominant performances by their defense and rushing attack to defeat the Vikings (1-3). Mayfield posted a passer rating of 59.5, rushed twice for 11 yards and took three sacks.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Mayfield was not listed on the injury report in the week preceding the Week 4 game.
Asked after the game whether the injury had anything to do with his accuracy issues in Minneapolis, Mayfield said, “Nah, it's my left shoulder. Throw with my right.”
On Monday, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said via Zoom he did not believe Mayfield's injury had been affecting his accuracy.
“I don't think so," Stefanski said. "Based on what I see at practice, I don't think so.”
However, Mayfield conceded Wednesday the shoulder injury has forced him to wear a harness.
Asked if the harness is affecting his throws, Mayfield said, “It shouldn’t, no.”
Cleveland Browns assistant Alex Van Pelt doesn't believe Baker Mayfield's injury has made the QB inaccurate
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, a Buffalo Bills quarterback from 1995-2003, said Thursday he suffered a torn labrum in each of his shoulders during his NFL playing career. Van Pelt's torn right labrum was a season-ending injury and required surgery. He said he never had his left, non-throwing shoulder repaired "because I was done playing."
Van Pelt echoed what Stefanski said earlier in the week — he hasn't detected Mayfield's injury interfering with his accuracy in practices.
“I don’t see that on the practice field. I don’t," Van Pelt said. "I see the accuracy as it usually is on the practice field. Obviously, it does bother him. It’s sore, I’m sure. Sleep is probably something that’s tough on the left side, but it’s part of the deal. It’s part of playing in the NFL. A lot of guys at this time of the year and during the course of the year get nicked up and have to play through it.”
But Van Pelt also said a torn left labrum can affect the throwing of a right-handed quarterback.
“Yeah, I mean, anytime, it doesn't matter if your right knee hurts or your left knee hurts, it's all part of the mechanics," Van Pelt said. "But, again, I have not seen it affect [Mayfield's] throw in practice, and I wouldn't say that game [in Minneapolis] was a result of an injury at all.”
Van Pelt said he believes Mayfield simply had an off day against the Vikings, resulting in what the QB called a "piss-poor performance" in his postgame news conference.
"The game — he said it first in the press conference — wasn’t up to his standards, and that happens in the NFL," Van Pelt said. "You don’t roll out of bed and have a great day every day. I’ve seen some great quarterbacks have a rough day, and that’s part of the deal in this business. But I’m expecting him to bounce back this week.”
Mayfield reminded the public in an Instagram post Wednesday night he has overcome adversity throughout his career and "winning is the top priority for me." Mayfield knows he needs to play better for the Browns to reach their Super Bowl goals. His eligibility for a contract extension is also in the backdrop, particularly because meaningful talks between the team and his camp have yet to begin.
Van Pelt said he has never worn a harness, but he doesn't think Mayfield's drop in accuracy is caused by an equipment issue.
"Yeah, everything's an adjustment, really," Van Pelt said. "Anytime you're wearing something different, it takes adjustment, but he wears it in practice, and I see him throwing accurately in practice, so I don't attribute any of that to the injury as much as just having an off day."
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. commends Baker Mayfield for the quarterback's toughness
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he doesn't know whether Mayfield's injury has affected the location of his passes.
Beckham, though, revealed he does know exactly what it's like to deal with a torn labrum. OBJ said he has been playing through a torn left labrum for 10 years going back to his college days at Louisiana State University. It further explains why Beckham said his shoulder popped out and back in Sept. 26 in a 26-6 win over the Chicago Bears.
Beckham can throw a football extremely well — and far. Asked if a torn labrum in a non-throwing shoulder could affect Mayfield's passing, Beckham said, “I tell you, that s*** hurts, so he’s tough."
"You would expect [Mayfield to play]," Beckham added. "He’s not going to sit there and complain about it and do all these other things. He’s just going to go out there and play. I know it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
Trouble with Mayfield's ball placement emerged against the Bears and became glaring against the Vikings. His completion percentage through the first four games this season is as follows: 75 in Week 1 vs. Kansas City, 90.5 in Week 2 vs. Houston, 61.3 in Week 3 vs. Chicago and 45.5 in Week 4 vs. Minnesota.
Regardless of the numbers, Mayfield's teammates, including on the defensive side of the ball, respect his effort.
"I'm not going to do my [Terrell Owens impression] — 'that's my quarterback' — but for real, that's how I feel," linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. said. "Him sucking it up every day for us, as a quarterback, can take a hit every play or has to throw the ball in so much pain ... when you have a quarterback like that, a leader like that, it makes you want to play a little harder."
“Baker’s tough, man," safety Grant Delpit said. "I love my quarterback. I know Cleveland loves their quarterback. So we’re behind him every step of the way.”
Mayfield will continue to push through the injury.
"I don't really think there is a worry at this point," Van Pelt said. "It is what it is. A lot of people have played through it."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cleveland at Los Angeles Chargers
Time: 4:05 p.m. Sunday