SPARTANBURG, SC — The six-game suspension Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was given Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy didn’t draw a big reaction from the quarterback he replaced.
Baker Mayfield, traded from Cleveland to the Carolina Panthers four months after the Browns acquired Watson from the Houston Texans in March, said the ruling by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson was “none of my business.”
“I’m paid to play quarterback and lead this team, not to make decisions on anything other than that,” Mayfield said after Carolina’s first padded practice of training camp.
Mayfield asked for a trade the day before the Browns made the deal for Watson, who at the time faced 25 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct.
“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN at the time. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interest of both sides to move on.”
The Panthers attempted to trade for Mayfield prior to and during the April NFL draft, but only if the Browns were willing to pay the majority of Mayfield’s 2022 salary of $18.9 million.
That finally happened in early July, with the Panthers agreeing to pay $4.85 million of Mayfield’s salary and the Browns $10.5 million, with the first pick of the 2018 draft agreeing to convert the remainder of his deal into incentives.
That landed him in an “open” competition with Sam Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft that the Panthers acquired last year in a trade with the New York Jets.
“Honestly, it’s none of my business,” the often-outspoken Mayfield said of the Watson suspension that didn’t include a fine. “I don’t play against the other quarterback. I know it’s the most cliché thing to say, but that’s just the truth.”
But Mayfield is preparing to possibly face the Cleveland defense in Carolina’s opener on Sept. 11 at Bank of America Stadium.
“If I’m playing or not, I’m trying to help this team win,” Mayfield said. “That’s my mindset going into it. I’m not focused about Week 1 right now. I’m working on each day’s install and trying to get better.”
Mayfield opened practice Monday working with the second team while Darnold worked with the first team. They will flip roles Tuesday as they have been doing since camp began last week.
While coach Matt Rhule has been pleased with Mayfield’s progress in the new offense being installed by coordinator Ben McAdoo, he remains adamant no decision on who will win the starting job is close.
“We’re not looking at any one day for this,” Rhule said after Mayfield threw three touchdown passes against the second-team defense and Darnold none against the first team in red zone drills Monday. “It’s over time. …Both guys are doing a good job with that.”
Rhule declined to comment on the suspension of Watson, a player the Panthers aggressively pursued before he settled on the Browns. The coach also declined to comment on the pursuit of Watson, a player league sources said at the time the team was comfortable going after despite the accusations against him.
“I hope you understand, I’m not going to comment on somebody else’s team,” Rhule said. “Everything we did was first class from the top on down, everything that we’ve done. I’m focused on the guys we have here right now.”
And Mayfield is focused on the team he’s on now, noting he’s starting to feel more comfortable in the system after one week.
“From teammates and everybody, it’s been completely awesome,” he said of the transition from Cleveland to Carolina. “Zero complaints; players, staff, everybody has been so welcoming.”