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Notes: OC Alex Van Pelt says Baker Mayfield’s arrow still pointing up, wants him to protect ball, not listen to outside criticism

BEREA — Baker Mayfield meant it when he said he didn’t want to come out of the 38-7 loss to the Steelers on Sunday even though he entered with sore ribs and took a beating. He let coordinator Alex Van Pelt hear it — or not.

“Baker was not real happy. He did not talk to me for a little while after the game, either,” Van Pelt said Thursday. “He wanted to stay in.”

Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. explained Wednesday that being pulled early, even if it was to avoid injury in a blowout, was part of the frustration when he slammed his helmet to the ground.

“Those are the guys you want on your team — the fighters, the guys that want to finish the race,” Van Pelt said. “We had some guys that were injured that needed to get out of that game and get healthy for the long run. I do appreciate the fact that they want to play, and I love that about those guys.”

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Mayfield has been the object of sharp criticism from national media after going 10-for-18 for 119 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 54.9 passer rating against the Steelers. He said Wednesday he doesn’t “give a damn” what critics say, and that’s exactly what Van Pelt wants to hear.

“As far as the outside criticism, I hope he does not listen to that,” Van Pelt said. “I am sure there is a lot of pressure. One thing that I have told him, one of the biggest steps I made as a coach was not listening to anything and just trusting the internal criticism that you get from your coaches. Those are the ones that matter. Be tough on yourself, but turn off that outside noise.” 

Van Pelt was asked if that’s difficult given Mayfield has used criticism as fuel throughout his career.

“That is a tough one,” Van Pelt said. “I would hope that would not be what drives him. I think just playing good for your teammates and playing better for your teammates would be what would drive a guy, and I am sure he falls into that category.”

Mayfield, who was a full participant in practice Thursday, has completed 60.6 percent for 1,095 yards, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and an 84.3 passer rating in the 4-2 start.

“I think the arrow is up for sure,” Van Pelt said. “He is going to continue to get better. We are still very new in this system of what we are getting done.”

His biggest teaching point for Mayfield this week is protecting the ball. Both interceptions against the Steelers were avoidable, and they led to 14 Steelers points.

“Making great decisions is a big part of it,” Van Pelt said. “He got a little fooled on the coverage there on the first pick, and the second one was just a poor decision of trying to do too much. It is fundamental.”

HARD TO HANDLE

Receiver Jarvis Landry knows receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as well as anyone and appreciates how difficult it was for Beckham to be banned from LSU athletics facilities for two years. Sports Illustrated reported the school-imposed punishment Wednesday after Beckham improperly handed cash to players in January when the Tigers won the national title.

Landry was at the game, too, and was teammates with Beckham at LSU.

“I have no knowledge of the situation, but I know it is going to be tough for him being that he is so tied into that school and the history of the program,” Landry said.

Landry was impressed with Beckham’s sideline speech during the Steelers game, as he tried to inspire the offense to a better effort.

“He is a leader of our team,” Landry said. “Anytime he speaks, everybody is listening. I can only say that it was taken the right way, but we went out there and we were not able to put it together.”

Jarvis Landry reveals he’s playing with a broken rib, remains ready to make plays when given the chance

GETTING AFTER IT

The Browns were in full pads when they returned to practice Wednesday after being physically dominated by the Steelers.

“We went back to work. It was a normal work Wednesday,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “We went hard. We were in full pads hitting. Just getting back to that training camp-style practice.

“It was a good one yesterday, but we needed it. We needed to refocus, get back going and try to get back on the winning train this week.” 

INJURY REPORT

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Achilles) didn’t practice and rode the stationary bike. He was an addition to the injury report Thursday after practicing Wednesday, but it’s not believed to be too serious.

** Safety Andrew Sendejo (shin) was limited after sitting out Wednesday.

** Right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips (knee) again didn’t practice.

** For the Bengals, running back Joe Mixon (foot) and cornerback William Jackson III (concussion) missed their second straight practice.

TRUST FACTOR

As the NFL plays through a pandemic, it’s been forced to repeatedly shuffle the schedule, although the Browns have been spared. Center JC Tretter is president of the NFL Players Association and said he’s comfortable with the protocols the league follows to decide whether a game will be played.

“The NFL dictates the schedule but a lot of these things are protocol-based and going through the contact tracing and making sure that there is no further increased risk of transmission,” he said. “All we want is just follow the science.”

EXTRA POINTS

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said cornerback Denzel Ward was overeager thinking about an interception when he allowed Steelers receiver James Washington to beat him on a double move for a touchdown.

“Sometimes when it looks too good and feels too good, there is a problem,” Woods said. “That is what happened to him. He just had big eyes instead of keeping his eyes in the right place.”

** Stefanski said running back Nick Chubb, who’s on injured reserve with a knee injury, is on schedule in his rehab but doesn’t know when he’ll return.

** Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones will “more than likely” remain the returner. He’s averaged 21.8 yards on 12 kickoff returns and 6.0 on four punt returns.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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