T he Cleveland Browns learned that Deshaun Watson will be suspended six games to start the year, which means he won’t be on the field when his team takes on Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers in week 1.
Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson announced the six-game ban for Watson for violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy on Monday, bringing to close another chapter of drama in what has been a very busy offseason for the Browns.
Part of that was the team’s divorce with Mayfield — their former starter and No. 1 overall pick. After acquiring Watson in March, Mayfield remained with the Browns until early July, when the Panthers finally pulled the trigger on a deal.
If named the starter, Mayfield will see his old team in Week 1 but did not have anything to say about the Watson ruling. Josina Anderson of CBS Sports asked Mayfield about the news during his training camp press conference and he made it clear that it’s not something he’s thinking about.
“Honestly it’s none of my business. I don’t play against the other quarterbacks. It might be cliche to say, but it’s the truth,” Mayfield said. “I’m game-planning against their defense. If I’m playing, I’m trying to help this team win, so I have to keep getting better. But I’m not focused on Week 1 right now. We’re working on this stage of the install and continuing to get better. We’ll handle it when it comes but for now it’s about getting the Panthers better.”
Anderson followed up trying to coax a response from Mayfield but the outspoken QB wasn’t interested in delivering a soundbite.
“I’m paid to play quarterback and lead this team, not make decisions on anything other than that,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield Said He’s ‘Circled’ Matchup With Browns
Mayfield has been a notorious grudge holder in his football career and getting to see his old team in Week 1 sets up quite the revenge opportunity. While he’s said mostly all the right things since being traded, he admitted during his initial interview with the Panthers that he’s looking forward to the matchup.
“I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and tell you that’s not one I’ve marked on the calendar already,” Mayfield said in an interview posted July 12 on the Panthers’ team website. “One, that’s not who I am. To me, it’s about winning games. Whoever we have marked on the schedule, I’m going to try to win. Obviously, this one has a little more history and personal meaning, but for me, it’s about winning and setting the tone for the rest of the year, and however I can help this team do that, I’m going to do.”
Mayfield is in need of a bounce-back year after he completed 60.5% of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. While he was inconsistent during the 8-9 campaign, at least part of it can be attributed to a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, which he suffered while trying to make a tackle in Week 2 against the Texans. He’s currently competing with Panthers incumbent starter Sam Darnold for the starting gig in Carolina.
Browns Have Wished Mayfield Well With Panthers
For Mayfield to have success in Week 1, he’ll have to deal with the Browns pass-rush duo of Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett, who will be hungry to rack up some sacks to start the year. However, both Garrett and Clowney have been complimentary of their former QB.
“We are just going to try to get out there like we do every team. That’s how it go. That’s still my boy,” Clowney told CBS Sports during a one-on-one interview. “Bake my boy. I wish him the best of luck over there. Much success to him the rest of his career.”
Kevin Stefanski also weighed in on the possibility of facing Mayfield in Week 1 but noted that’s not a certainty yet.
“I wish him well. I think he’s in a really good spot,” Stefanski said from camp on July 27. “I’m not going to speak for coach Matt Rhule and who plays for them. We’ll have time to talk about those type of things.”
The Browns — who will likely start Jacoby Brissett at QB — are currently a 1-point favorite for the matchup.