BEREA — The officiating continues to confound rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. After nine games in the league and six starts, he isn’t sure what constitutes a penalty when he gets hit in the head.
“They just have to find their consistency,” he said Wednesday. “With every ref it’s different, how they see it, how they’re seeing the plays, momentum with the whistle, when it’s blown, stuff like that. So as they continue to try to enforce the same rule, I think the consistency will grow. But right now, that’s why you’re seeing some confusion.”
On Oct. 21 against Tampa Bay, as he slid he took the vicious shot to the head from safety Jordan Whitehead that drew a $26,739 fine but not a penalty.
On Sunday, Chiefs safety Ron Parker made helmet-to-helmet contact with Mayfield after he had been wrapped up and driven backward by defensive tackle Chris Jones. No flag was thrown, but Mayfield was forced out of the game for three plays when an independent medical observer called for a concussion evaluation that he passed.
“It would be more frustrating if it hurt,” Mayfield said of the lack of a penalty. “I was more frustrated they took me out of the game, to be honest with you. But they’re protecting me. They’re doing their job. So ultimately what can I complain about?”
Mayfield didn’t want to leave the field and tried to wave off vice president of player health and development Joe Sheehan.
“I guess that’s the new rule,” Mayfield said. “I’ve got to come off the field for a checkup.”
He wants more clarity when it comes to what is going to be called. And less preferential treatment to other teams and quarterbacks.
“It’s very surprising,” he said of what’s called and not called. “It’s funny to see some of the referees chit-chat with guys on the field. I think as the years go on we’ll get better relationships and we’ll see as it goes and we improve as a team, too.”
He said the officiating consistency was better when he was at Oklahoma, he got along great with officials and it helped.
“I had a bunch of friends out there,” he said. “So it was good.”
Interim coach Gregg Williams wasn’t ready to name a starter at left tackle, calling every day an interview, but the feeling in the locker room was that Greg Robinson will make a second straight start. He filled in for undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison (illness) against the Chiefs and earned the support of Mayfield and left guard Joel Bitonio.
“He is physical. He did not hesitate whatsoever,” Mayfield said. “Greg, he needs people to support him. We believe in Greg. We trust he is more than capable of playing at this level and doing it at a very high level.”
Harrison returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday and said it wasn’t just a normal flu that sidelined him.
“I was messed up a little bit,” he said.
Bitonio said Robinson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2014, missed some run blocks but “protected his butt off” against the Chiefs in his first start of the season. He said they’ll spend the week working to improve communication.
Bitonio also feels a break will help Harrison, who’s struggled recently.
“He needs to take a breath, see where he is at the halfway point and that’s what you need to do to improve in the NFL because after a few weeks people have a game plan,” Bitonio said. “If he’s not handling the bull rush well, people are gonna be like, ‘bull rush him,’ or if he’s not handling the twist, twist on him. It’s the NFL, they have tape on everything, so to take a chance to regroup and really improve the fundamentals of the game will help him.”
Free safety Damarious Randall revealed he left the team last week to have his personal doctor check his groin injury and said he got “great news.”
Randall was back by Friday but didn’t practice and was held out of the game by Williams, who said he wanted Randall to get healthy after fighting injuries for six weeks. Randall, who said the week off won’t help, worked out on the field before the game but was made inactive.
“I was told before the game, way, way before the game that I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I was just doing my own little just kind of staying in shape type of deal.”
Randall said he felt ready but thinks Williams didn’t play him because he hadn’t practiced or attended meetings because of the trip to the doctor.
“He made his decision, and I just have to respect it. I’m on to the next week,” Randall said.
He returned to practice Wednesday, was limited and expects to play.
“Getting him back,” Williams said. “He is a tough guy.”
Former Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant, who flirted with the Browns in August, agreed to a one-year deal with the Saints on Wednesday.
Bryant visited the Browns during training camp, earning a spot on “Hard Knocks.” The sides were far apart on contract terms and a deal never happened.
“As an organization, at that time, didn’t feel like it was the right fit,” former coach Hue Jackson told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd on Wednesday. “Also, in fairness to Dez, I didn’t think he felt like it was the right fit, at that time. Both sides have to come together and it’s got to work for everybody. And at that time, it just didn’t work out.”
The Browns claimed cornerback Phillip Gaines off waivers from Buffalo, safety Jermaine Whitehead off waivers from Green Bay and signed cornerback Juston Burris off the Jets practice squad.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey (hamstring) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion) were placed on injured reserve and cornerback Denzel Rice was waived.
Whitehead (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) was cut by the Packers after he was ejected from a game Sunday night for slapping Patriots offensive lineman David Andrews. He’s in his third season and played in 19 games with the Packers, including two starts this year.
Gaines (6-0, 193) was a third-round pick of the Chiefs in 2014, when Browns general manager John Dorsey had the same role with Kansas City. He’s made 22 starts in 48 games, totaling 126 tackles, 16 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception.
Gaines spent four years with the Chiefs before signing with Buffalo this year. He started six of seven games and had 30 tackles.
Burris (6-0, 212) was a fourth-round pick in 2016 and has appeared in 34 games with two starts, registering 28 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.
Williams wouldn’t say whether he has the authority to make changes on the coaching staff, but said firing special teams coordinator Amos Jones hadn’t crossed his mind.
** Cornerback Denzel Ward (hip), linebacker Jamie Collins (ankle) and center JC Tretter (ankle) didn’t practice but were expected to play.
** For the Falcons, receiver Mohamed Sanu (hip) and kicker Matt Bryant (right hamstring) didn’t practice.
** Cornerback Arrion Springs was signed to the practice squad, and offensive lineman Jake Eldrenkamp was released from the practice squad.