BEREA — Baker Mayfield felt the uneasiness that comes with national scrutiny for making a very public mistake.
Kareem Hunt experienced the isolation and helplessness of being punished and not knowing when he was going to play football again.
They’ve spoken with defensive end Myles Garrett and tried to help as he deals with the expansive aftermath of his violent outburst Thursday night.
“I’ve been in that moment. It was a smaller scale in college, you know my Kansas mistake, when you feel that weight, everybody crushing you,” Mayfield said Wednesday.
While playing quarterback for Oklahoma, Mayfield had his captaincy taken away and didn’t start the next game — he sat out two plays — after grabbing his crotch while shouting in the direction of the Kansas sideline.
“I wanted him to know that we have support for him and he can lean on us,” Mayfield said.
Garrett was at league headquarters in New York on Wednesday morning to appeal the indefinite suspension he received for ripping off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hitting him on top of the head with it. Former NFL receiver James Thrash was the appeals officer and is expected to make a ruling Thursday or Friday.
Hunt was cut by the Chiefs last November, then suspended for the first eight games of this season for two off-field altercations, including kicking and shoving a woman. Garrett’s trouble was contained to the field, but Hunt said he can relate to being banished from the game they love to play.
“I’ve been there, I’ve been in his position and it’s tough,” said Hunt, a dual-threat running back who’s been back for two games. “You’ve just got to take it day by day and be positive, even when you feel like it’s never going to end. I’m here now and finally got through the storm.”
Mayfield was placed in the eye of the hurricane in the moments after the brawl, which happened with eight seconds left in Cleveland’s 21-7 win over Pittsburgh. He did an on-field interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, earning praise for addressing Garrett’s actions and capturing the severity by calling them “inexcusable.”
Mayfield said Wednesday he’d convey the same message and that nobody inside the locker room objected.
“It’s an emotional moment that is unprecedented for us,” he said. “The things I said about it being inexcusable, that’s not to pile onto Myles, and he knows that. It’s about saying the standard, just in our game of football of protecting each other, and then from there on just setting the standard for us.”
“It was a tough spot for him, but I think he handled it like a leader,” left guard Joel Bitonio said of Mayfield. “We have Myles’ back. We understand the severity of the situation.”
Hunt said he talked to Garrett on Monday or Tuesday.
“I feel like he’s handling it,” Hunt said. “He’s ready to take responsibility … and that’s all you can do. Now just show everybody Myles is a good guy. He’s one of the best people I’ve seen. He’s a good person.”
The Garrett suspension creates several issues for the Browns. They will likely have to finish the season without arguably their best defensive player — the No. 1 pick in 2018 ranks tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 sacks — the trauma of Thursday night will linger and the Garrett story isn’t going away anytime soon, which creates the potential for distraction.
Mayfield believes his experience will help him lead the team through the adversity.
“Just the things that I’ve gone through a lot in my life of what do you do when adversity hits, it’s made me a little bit more knowledgeable with things like this,” he said. “Nothing specifically that I’ve done is exactly this moment, but I’ve had experience facing adversity, and a lot of these guys have, as well.
“It’s just about being that person every day that this team needs in the position I’m in, being a captain, showing the way, setting the standard. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m made for this moment. I think I was made to come here in Cleveland, to try and set the standard and the culture each and every day.”
For him, that means to “attack” each day and keep the “singular focus” he continues to stress.
“It goes throughout the week of practice, making sure we have guys in there knowing what they’re doing so we can play fast and not have hesitation,” he said.
Hunt and Bitonio acknowledged the loss of Garrett — along with defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, whose one-game suspension was upheld Wednesday — will put pressure on the offense to pick up the slack.
“Now we’re focused,” Bitonio said. “We’ve got to score as many points as we need to to win the game. That’s something we’re focused on each week but a little more heightened this week.”
The latest adversity to hit the underachieving Browns (4-6) could create discord or bring them together. Mayfield said “we’ll see come Sunday” if it made the team closer, but Hunt was optimistic.
“It definitely can because we know we’re the only people in this locker room who think we have a shot,” he said. “A lot of people are closing the book on us already.
“We’ve just got to stick together and go out there and make plays offensively and defensively.”