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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield: "I Will Always Have a Chip on My Shoulder" 

As the quarterback competition continues for the Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield is focused on approaching every day with the same intensity

Baker Mayfield Story July 27

Now that training camp has arrived and Tom Brady's historic ride as a Buccaneer is a thing of the past, the club enters into a pinnacle moment: an open competition for the starting quarterback role. This is the first time during General Manager Jason Licht's tenure that the Bucs have had a battle at the position. The engrossing scenario has already taken control of headlines, sparking debate. 

The two contestants are third-year holdover Kyle Trask (second-round pick in 2021) and free agent acquisition Baker Mayfield, the former first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Since the arrival of Mayfield in Tampa Bay and the understood battle for QB1, storylines surrounding the two candidates have become synonymously linked to anything Buccaneers-related in 2023. 

"I have always said the franchise will go as the QB room does, how they jell, how they communicate, how they get everybody on the same page, and how they lead," Mayfield described on Thursday. "Right now, I am going to approach each day the same, no matter what position I am in. I am going to try to get everybody better. I am still going to be me. I am going to work my tail off to start. That is the goal, but so is to get everybody else better around me, to raise that competition level and that standard.

 "I have been off social media for almost two years now. I am wired different. I don't need anyone on the outside to tell me what I can or can't do. I know what I am capable of. Yeah, I mean I got hurt in Cleveland. That is why my run ended there. Then last year, it was what it was in Carolina. Everything happens for a reason. I am here now, and I am ready to go. This team, you talk about skeptics and what the narrative is around this team, I think it speaks to our veterans and the people that were a part of the run to the Super Bowl and the success that they have had recently, more so than me. I will always have a chip on my shoulder. That is how I approach every day, but it is good to be around a room and a group who has had that success and continues to have that mentality as well. It is a good fit, but we are going to write our own story. You cannot carry on anything from the past years. You might internalize and think about it, but nothing translates to the next year."

Mayfield, 27, signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers back in March. He was traded to the Panthers last July and started six games before being released. A few days later, Mayfield signed with the Rams and started four games in place of an injured Matthew Stafford. Just days after being claimed off waivers by the Rams, Mayfield was thrust into action when John Wolford suffered a neck injury in the first quarter against Las Vegas, and he threw for 230 yards and a touchdown in a 17-16 Rams victory. Two weeks later, Mayfield threw for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 51-14 trouncing of the Broncos. Overall, Mayfield has started 69-of-72 games played over five NFL seasons, throwing for 16,288 yards and 102 touchdown passes.

His best season came in 2020 when Mayfield led the Browns to an 11-5 record – the team's highest win total since 1994 – and Cleveland's first playoff win in 26 years. That season, Mayfield threw 26 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions, earning a career high 95.9 passer rating. In his first career playoff game, he completed 21-of-34 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, recording a 115.2 passer rating.

There are many physical elements that the Bucs' brass will weigh in the decision-making process, but the mental aspect holds just as much merit. The ability to react under pressure on the fly based on different coverages is a skill that the coaching staff is monitoring closely. 

"Throwing the football is just part of it, the mental part and that aspect of the game and the adjustment part and the audible part and the command part and the things you have to do on the field is a huge part of it, too," Todd Bowles said. "It's not just who threw a touchdown, who didn't, who went 10-for-14 and who went 6-for-15, it's about how you do it. Sometimes you've got to be smart and throw the football away, you're not going to get every play. You've got to know when to have guts and when to not have guts and that's just a [feeling]. You see that over time. We understand that and we're just taking it day by day."

Whoever wins the starting role will take the reins of Dave Canales' new system in Tampa Bay. The Bucs have resisted setting a timetable on when the starter will be disclosed, but Todd Bowles and co. have a plan laid out to cultivate a detailed and comprehensive evaluation, with an emphasis on un-scripted, situational football to mimic the unpredictability of live-action games. 

"When you get into a game you can have transitional periods, you can have turnovers, and things like that," Mayfield stated. "You can be thrown into different situations that you are not going to be in control of, so you have to be able to react. That makes people start having to critically think on the field, eliminating, and being able to process information quicker. I enjoy that a lot … That is also why Coach [Todd] Bowles is putting us in situations to have call-it periods instead of scripted. We have been doing that since the spring. It is learning for both me hearing how he [Dave Canales] is going to call the play, the feel of what he is going to do in certain situations, and what he really likes. It has been great so far. Obviously, it is always a work in progress, but that is why it is training camp. We have had a ton of work in those situational periods so far and it has only continued to get better."

Mayfield will look to rejuvenate his career in 2023 with the Buccaneers and training camp provides a pivotal audition for the lead role. Going up against Bowles' attack-styled, penetrating defense every day has fostered growth with blitzes and pressure packages aimed to deceive. Mayfield certainly adds intrigue with underrated arm-talent, moxie, fiery competitiveness and effectiveness when he breaks contain. A new chapter begins for the former Heisman Trophy winner in Tampa Bay. Mayfield is blocking out the noise and has shifted his attention on gaining command of the huddle and elevating the play of those around him. There will undoubtedly be twists and turns in the next few weeks as the Buccaneers take an exciting step towards building the foundation of the future and Mayfield is one to keep an eye on.

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