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Browns QB Baker Mayfield says playing against Steelers ‘absolutely’ a possibility, shutting down for the season has not been discussed

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 10/27/2021 Dan Labbe, cleveland.com
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks to the sidelines after a turnover against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half. © Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks to the sidelines after a turnover against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half.

BEREA, Ohio — Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield practiced on Wednesday and the plan was to get him the lion’s share of the first-team reps leading into Sunday’s game against the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mayfield said playing is “absolutely” a possibility.

“We’ll see how he does at practice and we’ll take it day-by-day,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said before his team took the field for their first day of preparation for their division rival.

Stefanski said he expected Mayfield to do everything he normally would at practice and backup quarterback Case Keenum would get his normal share of first-team reps.

“(Mayfield) will get a bunch of (first-team) reps and Case will get some reps,” Stefanski said. “I don’t know the specific number. It will be like we normally do.”

Mayfield spent the portion of practice open to the media on Wednesday throwing mostly short and intermediate routes and it appeared he was wearing a slightly different harness on his left shoulder than the one he had previously worn.

Mayfield took all the first-team reps in practice last Tuesday, a session shortened because of the quick turnaround to a Thursday night game. The Browns announced the following day Keenum would start against the Broncos.

“As a backup in this league, you are expected to perform without reps and that’s kind of what Case did last week,” Stefanski said.

Mayfield told Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer before Thursday night’s game against Denver, which Mayfield missed, he has a broken humerus bone in his left shoulder as well as the fully torn labrum he revealed earlier in the week.

“Baker said the fracture is preventing his rotator cuff from firing,” Glazer tweeted.

Mayfield also told Glazer, “I need that fracture to heal for me to get back out there.”

“I’m not exactly a doctor, I don’t know how long it takes for those things to heal,” Mayfield said on Wednesday, “but it was mostly about the inflammation so I could get that range of motion and that strength back.”

Even though Mayfield practiced on Wednesday, it doesn’t necessarily mean a determination on his status has been made. He wouldn’t put a hard deadline on when he would need to know he’d be able to go.

“There’s not a certain number of reps that I specifically need,” he said. “You saw last week that Case on a short week got very minimum reps as well and did absolutely great. So I think there’s a lot of what ifs, but we’re just going to take it day by day.”

Mayfield reiterated something he’s said repeatedly over the last two weeks: that he wouldn’t go if he felt he was hurting the team.

Stefanski was asked if he feels OK with where Mayfield’s at and his quarterback not hurting the team if he’s playing at less than 100 percent.

“I really do and that’s based on my conversations with Baker and my conversations with he medical team,” Stefanski said.

Mayfield said the fall he took during the Browns’ loss to Arizona was a different fall than what he had previously experienced when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder attempting to tackle Texans safety Justin Reid in Week 2.

He said he wasn’t worried about making the bone worse if he gets back on the field too quickly and shutting down for the season hasn’t been discussed.


Video: Mayfield explains how he's approaching his shoulder injury ahead of Week 8 (NFL)

“People talk on the outside, they don’t know how I feel nor do they decide whether I can go or not,” he said.

As for surgery to repair the shoulder, he said it’s not a foregone conclusion.

“You can do certain things to repair the stuff inside the rotator cuff and strengthen it up,” Mayfield said. “If you examined a lot of people’s shoulders, you’d see a lot of partial tears in those labrums. So you can do things to I guess help with that, but we’ll evaluate that when the time needs.”

Mayfield’s streak of 51 consecutive regular season starts and 53 overall, the second-longest streak in Browns history, ended when he sat out the Broncos game. He didn’t want to entertain the idea of whether a normal week would have allowed him to play against Denver, but did say the extra time off, including a long weekend, helped.

“It definitely did,” Mayfield said. “Noticeable difference in range of motion and strength.”

Keenum completed 21-of-33 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown in the 17-14 win over the Broncos.

Mayfield started his fourth season scorching, completing over 81 percent of his throws and a 101.9 rating in the season’s first two weeks. In the four games since the injury, he completed 61 percent of his passes and his yards per attempt dropped from 10.9 in the first two weeks to 7.6.

If Mayfield does go against Pittsburgh — and it appears to be trending that way — he will face a formidable defensive front featuring linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cam Heyward. Watt’s seven sacks are third in the league behind the Browns’ Myles Garrett (9.5) and Tennessee’s Harold Landry III (7.5). Grading website Pro Football Focus gives Watt their seventh-highest pass-rush grade among edge rushers.

Heyward, meanwhile, is eighth in the league in pressures among qualifying defensive tackles and carries PFF’s highest overall defensive grade among defensive linemen.

“They’re game changers,” Mayfield said, “so those are the guys you try and neutralize and make sure they’re not wrecking the game.”

It could help that Mayfield should have all five of his starting offensive linemen back for Sunday’s contest. Right tackle Jack Conklin and left tackle Jedrick Wills both practiced again on Wednesday after practicing Monday as well. Conklin has missed the last two games with a knee injury while Wills returned against the Broncos after missing the two games prior with an ankle injury.

“That’d be great obviously, but I think you look at the last time we played the Steelers, the last two times, we’ve had makeshift starters and different guys plug and play, so I trust those guys no matter who’s in there,” Mayfield said.

For Mayfield and the Browns coaching and medical staff, the next few days will be about trusting what’s in Mayfield’s left shoulder is in good enough shape to help get them a win in their first AFC North game of the year.

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