BEREA — Baker Mayfield hadn’t practiced yet but he was already establishing himself as a leader.
That comes with the territory as a quarterback and the No. 1 pick in the draft last week.
“I’ve got to continue my strengths, and leadership is one of them,” he said Friday afternoon before the first practice of rookie minicamp. “So when you talk about that, it’s earning the respect of the veterans in the locker room. The guys who have been doing it for a while, I have to earn their respect. You can’t talk about it and earn their respect. You have to go to work. You have to put the time in. You’ve got to learn the playbook, and then when you get your opportunity, you’ve got to show that you’re there for a reason.
“So that’s how I do it with the veterans and with the rookies and everybody else here right now. I’ve just got to be that guy in the locker room, be that guy that gets everybody going and show them that we’re all here for a reason.”
Mayfield is in a bit of a tricky spot, because coach Hue Jackson has been clear veteran Tyrod Taylor is the starter. Mayfield said stepping on toes isn’t a problem.
“It’s not about individuals,” he said. “They brought him and I in because we’re both team-oriented guys. He’s the starter, and all I can do is help us out.
“So when you get a guy like that that helps out a locker room in just the best way possible, he’s a grinder. He comes in early, he’s the last one to leave, and I can only aspire to be like that. So it’s not going to be something that separates the locker room. We’re not going to be fighting over who’s the man in the locker room. I’m a team-oriented guy and I just want to win.”
Mayfield, 23, said he met Taylor when Taylor popped into the office of quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese. Taylor has been a constant presence during the offseason program as Mayfield gets situated in his new surroundings.
“Everything I’ve heard, even when I went on my visit at the Bills, they said the same things about him, he’s just an unbelievable guy,” Mayfield said. “You see that and then you see him up here, how often he’s actually here, it’s very transparent who he is.”
Taylor, 28, was acquired in a March trade with the Bills. Jackson has been adamant the plan remains for him to start the season but left the door open for Mayfield to make a push for the job.
Mayfield has backed off his comments at the scouting combine that he wouldn’t settle for being a backup, but he won’t fade into the background.
“Putting myself in the best position possible going into OTAs and going into camp to where I can stay healthy and that I’m ready to go compete,” he said of his plan for the spring and summer. “Right now it’s about leveling the playing field, I’ve got to catch up on the playbook, I’ve got to catch up on the mental side of this game so where I come into camp and it’s just about competing.”
The leadership qualities that attracted general manager John Dorsey and Jackson and secured Mayfield’s spot at the No. 1 pick are just part of his DNA.
“I think I was just born with it,” he said. “I think passion for the game. I love doing it. I love being the guy to help people out. If we win, it’s on my shoulders, but if we lose, it’s on mine, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I take that responsibility and I thrive on that.”