TAMPA — The new face of the Bucs at quarterback arrived Monday with his trademark smirk and an arched eyebrow, exuding confidence and cool.
Baker Mayfield, 27, had just joined his fourth team since July after signing a one-year contract with the Bucs a couple hours before his introductory news conference at the AdventHealth Training Center.
But there was something different about the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma and No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft: His perspective.
After four years with the Browns, Mayfield was traded to the Panthers last summer. In December, he was claimed off waivers by the Rams, with whom he finished last season.
The Bucs provide Mayfield with a new start, and he hopes a better ending than the past year. His 24.5 quarterback rating was the lowest of his NFL career. But he had a resurgence in the final four games of the year, completing 63.6% of his passes for 850 yards and a 4-2 touchdown to interception ratio.
“It’s not how I drew my career up by any means,” Mayfield said. “If I was to tell you how it would go based on a plan, I wouldn’t have said that I put on three different uniforms in year 2022, but that’s how it happens.
“It’s important to me to be in a place that’s stable and knows how to win, knows how to do it properly. ... I want to go somewhere that we can win right away. And this is that place.”
Mayfield said he’s learned a lot of lessons along the way. Now, it’s time to put them into practice.
Remarkably, after spending less than 48 hours with the Rams in early December, he entered a Thursday night game against the Raiders for starter John Wolford after one series and passed for 230 yards and one touchdown, leading a comeback from a 16-3 deficit with a 98-yard game-winning drive.
Mayfield has embraced the fact the starting job will not be handed to him. He will compete with Kyle Trask and believes it will make everyone better.
“I have not spoken to Kyle yet,” Mayfield said. “I’ve just watched him over the years through the college stuff, and I’ve always been a big fan. I thought he was really talented coming out and, yeah, I’m excited for it.
“To me, competition brings the best out of everybody. I’ve always believed that, and that’s just true for all sports. You know, it teaches you how to compete, it teaches you how to win and lose the right way, and there’s a learning process the whole way. I think Kyle and I are gonna push each other no matter what happens, and I think we’re going to make the most of it.”
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Mayfield plans to stay in Tampa this spring and begin learning the system under new offensive coordinator Dave Canales. It’s a good fit for Mayfield. Canales’ system is expected to be similar to that of Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who brought principles of the Rams’ offense to the Seahawks.
“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,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said he also will likely organize a passing camp with Bucs receivers in the summer prior to training camp.
First, he has to get the lay of the land. He lost his only game here as a rookie with the Browns. He said he didn’t know the New York Yankees trained across the street from Raymond James Stadium. “I know we’ve got a good hockey team here in Tampa,” he said.
Mayfield says he has much to learn about the area with his wife, Emily. Soon they will move to the area with their ‘Goldendoodle Irish setter named Fergus. He runs our life. ... He’s a rescue. He was supposed to be 40 pounds, now he’s 80.”
Mayfield looks forward to meeting his teammates and coaches, and said he is committed to gaining the trust of everyone. How will he approach it?
“Dive headfirst. I mean, it’s the only way I know how to do it,” he said. “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’ve got to know how to relate to them. If somebody needs a little kick in the butt, then you do that or put your arm around them.”
It won’t be easy. Mayfield is replacing Tom Brady, who led the Bucs to a Super Bowl 55 championship, two division titles and three playoff appearances.
“Listen, I’m never gonna be Tom Brady,” Mayfield said. “There’s a reason he has won so many Super Bowls, and he’s is the greatest of all time. ... And I’m not going to be Tom. I’m going to be me.
“But that’s what makes this league so special. Everybody puts their own touch on it. Yeah, it’s an honor to follow up somebody like that and definitely the people that have played with him around here, I’m going to pick their brains about the things he did. There’s no doubt about that. So, I’m excited.”
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