Baker Mayfield visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' headquarters on Monday to officially sign his one-year deal with the team and hold his first press conference with the local media. It was March 20, four days after the Buccaneers officially announced that they had agred to terms with Mayfield but still almost a month before team will begin its offseason program for players. He doesn't plan on waiting until mid-April to start preparing for his first season in Tampa, however, with the thought that it might not be his last if he seizes the opportunity.
"Dive in headfirst," said Mayfield of his intended approach to to learning the system that new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales will be installing this spring. "It's the only way I know how to do it. I'll be here enjoying the process of getting to know everybody. To me, that's what makes football the best team sport on earth. It's so much more than the X's and O's on the field – you have to trust your guys, you have to know them in and out, know what their family situations are like, get to know why they're wired a certain way.
"That's what's so special about the quarterback position – you've got to know how to push people, you've got to know how to relate to them. If somebody needs a little kick in the butt then do that, or put your arm around them – everybody is different and that's what I love about it. My approach is to just dive headfirst and just go all in and enjoy the process."
There's hard evidence that Mayfield can accelerate an acclimation process when he puts his mind to it. When he was claimed off waivers by the Rams in early December of last season, he arrived in Los Angeles late on a Tuesday night. Less than 48 hours later he was thrust into a Thursday night game against the Las Vegas Raiders after Head Coach Sean McVay pulled starter John Wofford one series into the contest. All Mayfield di was throw for 230 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, lead a 98-yard game-winning drive and earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
In contrast, learning yet another offense – something he has plenty of experience doing over his first five seasons in the NFL – over the span of five months should be no problem.
"I think fortunately for me, I've had to learn a lot of new playbooks so it's great," he said. "Any time you get to learn from somebody else that's had different systems, to me it's an opportunity to pick successful tips and pointers that they have and you get to also relate it to things that you've been through. I'm excited about that. To me, it's not about leveling the playing field – [it's about] what can I do best in the system and how can I showcase my talents and leadership skills as well?"
Mayfield will compete for the Bucs' starting quarterback position with third-year player Kyle Trask, a former second-round pick who has played in just one regular season game so far. It is a true head-to-head battle that will reach its peak in training camp and the preseason, and that's something Tampa Bay hasn't had at the quarterback position for at least a decade.
"I'm excited for it – to me, competition brings the best out in everybody," said Mayfield. "I've always believed that. That's true for all sports – it teaches you how to compete, it teaches you how to win and lose the right way, and there's learning processes along the way. I think Kyle and I are going to push each other no matter what happens and I think we're going to make the most of it."
Both quarterbacks will be starting at ground zero in learning Canales' offense. Mayfield has only spent a brief amount of time with his new offensive coordinator so far, but he has come away impressed. Canales only joined the team in mid-February, so he is surely still working on translating his offense to the coaching staff so they'll be ready to instruct the players when the offseason program does begin. Most importantly, in Mayfield's mind, Canales is the sort of coach who is going to tailor his system and his play calls to what he learns that his playmakers do best.
"To me, that speaks volumes," said the former first-overall pick in the 2018 draft. "You find a lot of guys that want to just run their system without really trying to play to the attributes of their players and that's not Dave. I'm excited about it – he's eager to see how his philosophy is going to affect the guys around here and that's the best part about it. This is the time for growth and to learn what type of team you're going to be – then when you put the pads on, it really comes to fruition. I'm excited and he's open-minded as well."
Mayfield neither expects nor wants anything to be handed to him now that he's a Buccaneer. He knows the coaches mean it when they say it will be a true competition for the job. But, of course, he's also confident in himself as that battle looms.
"To me, to be at the top of your game – whatever industry you're in – you have to be wired internally to believe in yourself and sometimes trick yourself that nobody else believes in you," he said. "I enjoy looking at some of the greats in all sports and how they've prepared and that's how you do it. You've got to believe in yourself. Unfortunately I was a late bloomer growing up, so I didn't have a lot of recruiting coming out of high school, so that helped wire me a certain way to only have that self-confidence. I've carried that on since and that's the infectious part about me that I try to have my other teammates feel as well."