Trent Green can relate to what Baker Mayfield’s going through with a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder. And Green knows from experience the painful injury to the non-throwing shoulder has the greatest impact on go routes, deep crosses and other passes that require extra power.
“You still need that left side. It really comes more into play on the deep throws where you’ve really got to put a little oomph into it … or if there’s a corner and a nickel and they’re squeezing the coverage and I’ve got to zip it in between them and you’ve really got to use that left side to fire it through, to drive it through,” Green told The Chronicle-Telegram by phone Thursday.
Green, who went to two Pro Bowls in a 12-year NFL career as a quarterback, never had a torn labrum but separated both shoulders and had sprained AC joints, which he said is similar.
As an “NFL on CBS” analyst, Green has called many of Mayfield’s games. He never saw Mayfield more inaccurate than last week when he went 15-for-33 (45.5 percent) for 155 yards in the 14-7 win over the Vikings.
He didn’t know exactly what Mayfield was dealing with until it was revealed Thursday that the Week 2 tackle attempt had caused the partial tear that has Mayfield in discomfort and a harness. And he thinks Mayfield uses more of his body than most quarterbacks in his natural throwing mechanics, so it would make sense if his accuracy is more affected.
Mayfield has downplayed the impact of the injury — “It’s my left shoulder. Throw with my right,” he said after the Vikings game — and coach Kevin Stefanski and coordinator Alex Van Pelt said his accuracy hasn’t suffered at practice.
“Early in the game if all of a sudden he takes a couple of hits on it, then that would definitely have an impact, because during practice nobody’s touching him,” said Green, who will call his second straight Browns game Sunday against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
The injury can have other side effects.
“There’s a lot more physically, emotionally, mentally, because you’re rehabbing, you’re doing treatments, you’re trying to recover, you’re trying to study,” Green said. “It just becomes a longer day.”
Mayfield’s teammates appreciate him toughing it out, and expect nothing less.
“The guy has shown that multiple years in his football career, not just in the NFL,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “He’s tough, and he’s not going to let anything hold him back unless he can’t walk.
“I know he’ll go out there and do his thing. Whether we attack them with the run game or he airs the ball out, the offense will be just fine with all the talented skill players we have.”
Green liked how Mayfield acknowledged right away in the postgame interview how poorly he played even in a win, and he expects a strong bounce-back against the Chargers.
“He owned what his performance was,” Green said. “So I would think just knowing the competitor that he is that he’ll respond accordingly this week. It doesn’t mean all of a sudden he’s gonna come out and complete 80 percent because the Chargers are a good defense. But I would think he would bounce back in terms of completion percentage and decision-making and with his accuracy. I think that’s probably been eating at him all week and he’s going to want to try and be quite a bit more sharp.”
Green also predicts Mayfield will have greater success throwing to receiver Odell Beckham Jr. the more game reps they get.
“They’re both too talented for it not to come together,” he said.
Mayfield’s numbers are pedestrian after a strong first two games. He’s 22nd in the NFL in passing yards (935), 18th in completion percentage (65.5), tied for 31st in touchdowns (two), 17th in interception percentage (1.8) and 23rd in passer rating (89.7).
Chargers coach Brandon Staley is most impressed by Mayfield turning the Browns into a winner and ending their 17-season playoff drought last year. Staley also gushed about Mayfield as a thrower.
“He’s a really exciting player,” Staley said. “He can really create offense for you when there’s not a lot of offense to be had. I think he’s a real engine for an offense. He’s been a fantastic player for them. He’s a guy that we respect a lot.”
Staley grew up a Browns fan, went to Perry High School and coached at John Carroll. He referenced Oklahoma’s win at Ohio State when Mayfield celebrated by taking the OU flag to midfield.
“This guy is a ‘plant-the-flag’ type of player,” Staley said. “He’s a guy that really breeds confidence in your football team and can really bring the best out in the people around him because of how he plays.
“Every quarterback has a unique style, but I think his style is that of confidence and fearlessness. He’s a very powerful guy. He can really drive the football and can throw it off-platform. Just as a pure passer, he does not get enough credit for how good of a thrower of the football that he is.”
The backdrop to every pass is a contract extension yet to be negotiated between the Browns and Mayfield’s agent. While the Browns have made it clear repeatedly they believe he’s the quarterback for the long term, questions will linger until the big-money extension is signed.
Green would do it if he were running the Browns.
“Last year they made the playoffs and then they won a playoff game. He was willing to adjust his style of play to what Kevin Stefanski wants,” he said. “I think he’s made a commitment to put the statistical part to the side and do what’s best for the team. So I think he’s made that from a maturity standpoint, from a growth standpoint.
“I think he’s done enough.”