BEREA, Ohio — Browns linebacker Anthony Walker wasn’t ready to pull out his Terrell Owens impression on Thursday when Baker Mayfield’s partially torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder was brought up.
Owens famously defended his quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, in a tearful press conference in 2008, proclaiming, “That’s my quarterback.”
“For real, that’s how I feel,” Walker said.
“To see him out there every day, no complaints, nothing, just comes out to work every day,” Walker said. “When you have a quarterback like that, a leader like that, it makes you want to play a little harder.”
Meanwhile, Odell Beckham Jr. knows a thing or two about torn labrums. He said on Thursday he’s been dealing with one for 10 years in his left shoulder.
“I tell you, that s**t hurts,” Beckham said. “So he’s tough. It doesn’t feel good. There’s days where I woke up that first day after Monday I couldn’t certainly lift the arm.”
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has torn labrums in both of his shoulders. The one in his right throwing shoulder was a season-ender he had repaired. The other, he said, still affects his golf game. While Van Pelt never experienced wearing a harness like Mayfield is wearing, he can see how a non-throwing shoulder injury could impact a quarterback’s mechanics.
“Anytime, it doesn’t matter if your right knee hurts or your left knee hurts, it’s all part of the mechanics,” Van Pelt said.
Mayfield initially injured the shoulder trying to make a tackle against Texans safety Justin Reid after Reid intercepted a second-quarter pass during the Browns’ Week 2 win. Mayfield ran back to the locker room briefly, had his shoulder popped back in and returned without missing an offensive snap.
The shoulder has been a particularly hot topic this week after Mayfield, wearing the harness to protect it, completed just 15-of-33 passes for 155 yards and a quarterback rating of 59.5 in Sunday’s 14-7 win over the Vikings in Minnesota. He overthrew a number of passes and was as hard on himself as he’s ever been after a game.
The fourth-year quarterback refused to use the shoulder as an excuse for his performance on Sunday, saying it was still attached and re-iterating it was his left shoulder, and again on Wednesday he didn’t make excuses when he said the harness he wears shouldn’t affect his throws.
Wednesday night, Mayfield put up a long post in an Instagram story, saying, in part, “God blessed me with the mental and physical strength to not only make it through adversity, but to also grow through those trials that nobody else could handle.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio said he hasn’t seen Mayfield let on the shoulder was bothering him during games.
“He hasn’t let that on,” Bitonio said. “The only thing I saw was when the play initially happened. That was the only time when we weren’t exactly sure what happened. But, no, man, he’s all ball. He’s focused, and he’s seemed like he’s been ready to go when he’s out there.”
Right tackle Jack Conklin said he didn’t even know about the partially torn labrum until today.
“Baker is, day-to-day, the same way he is every day and you wouldn’t know if he’s hurt or not,” Conklin said. “He’s a straightforward guy and just plays hard and doesn’t show it on his face, that’s for sure.”
Van Pelt, when asked if he thinks the shoulder is affecting Mayfield, said it’s not something he’s noticed.
“I see the accuracy as it usually is on the practice field,” Van Pelt said. “Obviously, it does bother him. It’s sore, I’m sure. Sleep is probably something that’s tough on the left side. But it’s part of the deal. It’s part of playing in the NFL.”
He also indicated he doesn’t believe the harness had an impact on Mayfield’s struggles against the Vikings.
“Everything’s an adjustment, really. Any time you’re wearing something different, it takes adjustment, but he wears it in practice, again, and I see him throwing accurately in practice,” Van Pelt said, “so I don’t attribute any of that to the injury as much as just having an off day.”
Mayfield has been particularly durable throughout his career. He hasn’t missed a game since taking over just before halftime of the Browns’ Week 3 win over the Jets during his rookie season in 2018. He’s rarely missed a snap due to injury over his now 49 consecutive starts.
“I think there’s no doubt in any of the players’ minds that he’s one of the tougher guys out there,” Bitonio said. “He’s going to go and he’s going to battle and he’s been hit and beat up before, and he just keeps coming back. You’re going to have to do a lot more to get him out of games than whatever is going on with him now.”
“You would expect that from him,” Beckham said. “He’s not going to sit there and complain about it and do all these other things. He’s just going to go out there and play. I know it’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
None of this is to say there isn’t some impact from the shoulder, but Mayfield fighting through it is something his teammates have come to expect — and it’s life in the NFL.
“It’s what you signed up for,” Beckham said, referencing his labrum injury.
“It’s just discomfort,” Van Pelt said. “If you play quarterback in this league long enough, you’re going to have some labrum problems at some time.”
It’s the battle Mayfield has to fight right now, and it’s something his teammates respect in their quarterback.
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Browns teammates respect Baker Mayfield fighting through partially torn labrum; Odell Beckham Jr., offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt can relate