BEREA — The most obvious change for quarterback Baker Mayfield from a year ago is that he’s taking all — as opposed to none — of the snaps with the starters.
Buried behind veteran Tyrod Taylor on the depth chart, Mayfield wasn’t given a chance to win the starting job as a rookie.
That stifled feeling carried over to his role as a leader.
“That was probably the trickiest part last year was not having the immediate same vocal leadership that I had for years,” he said Tuesday during mandatory minicamp. “This is the time that I have been looking forward to being that guy.
“I’ve got to earn that respect with everybody. We are going to have new faces in this locker room and I have to continue to work every day. It is not like I am just that guy now. I have to continue to work every day and continue to show people that I have that same mindset.”
It’s not in Mayfield’s personality to hide his feelings or bite his tongue. That was obvious again Tuesday when asked about running back Duke Johnson’s declaration he still wants to be traded.
“You’re either on this train or you’re not, it’s moving,” Mayfield said. “You can get out of the way or you can join us.”
Mayfield is in lockstep with coach Freddie Kitchens’ mantra that “if you don’t wear brown and orange, you don’t matter,” and the public message to Johnson was an example of his leadership style. He carried the sentiment throughout the interview.
“It is just the way he has handled it. It can be a stir-up in the media,” said Mayfield, the No. 1 pick out of Oklahoma. “But if somebody wants to be here, they will be here in that situation. You have guys within our locker room that are dying to get playing time and that are dying to be here.
“I get it, Duke has been here for years and I respect that, but it is about what are you doing right now. The past is the past.”
When cornerback Denzel Ward, drafted three picks after Mayfield, was asked about team leaders during organized team activities, he didn’t hesitate in naming Mayfield. That’s just how Mayfield likes it.
“Obviously the quarterback position, there is a certain leadership role that comes with that, but I expect myself to have a much bigger role than just positional leadership,” he said. “To be able to be that guy for everybody that can count on me when it is crunch time or just off the field, be around me, be relatable and be that same guy for them.
“Yeah, that is quite the honor to hear that from a defensive guy, but I have to continue to grow and earn that respect with everybody.”
Kitchens wants a team full of leaders and is glad to have Mayfield front and center.
“Everybody has to have a focal point, and I think the quarterback is naturally that guy,” Kitchens said. “When he can be that guy, that is advantageous to you. When he is not that guy, you are probably not a very good team. We are fortunate that Baker can lead and he is in a position to lead.”
Mayfield was runner-up to Giants running back Saquon Barkley for Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing an NFL rookie-record 27 touchdown passes. He added a Browns rookie-record 3,725 passing yards, a 63.8 completion percentage and 93.7 rating.
The starting job and the team are undoubtedly his. Quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley wants the offense to join that list.
“He needs to speak out,’’ said Lindley, who hopes to visit Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley to get a better feel for his offensive system and how he develops quarterbacks. “He’s a smart, cerebral guy, so this is his offense for the next 10-15 years, so it needs to be his. He needs to put his stamp on it and he needs to basically have input on how we do things.”
Mayfield isn’t shy about giving his opinion.
“We talk about it every day within install — the stuff we are doing throughout the day and how I see it, and how they see,” he said. “That is why we are team-oriented right here. We have to be able to communicate how we want to get it accomplished and go about it that way.”
Landry watched how Mayfield handled life behind Taylor and was impressed.
“His approach never changed and I think coming out here and watching him over the last few weeks of OTAs, it’s still the same,” he said. “He’s still focused, he’s still set on trying to become a better quarterback, a better leader and he always sees that as a place to grow. That’s one of the things I respect.”