TAMPA — Baker Mayfield never expected to be handed the Bucs’ starting quarterback job.
After offensive coordinator Dave Canales said the competition between Mayfield and Kyle Trask was heating up earlier this week, the former Heisman Trophy winner said he’s always expected he’d have to prove himself to win a job.
“I had to win the job at Texas Tech as a walk-on. When I got to Oklahoma I sat out a year and still had to compete for a job,” Mayfield said Thursday morning after the workout at the AdventHealth Training Center. “And then in Cleveland, when I got drafted, Tyrod Taylor was still the quarterback. So I’ve had to compete my whole life. Nothing new to me.”
Mayfield was brought in this season on a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million partly because he was familiar with the style of offense that Canaels was installing. A week into training camp, Trask has caught up quickly.
None of the Bucs quarterbacks, including John Wolford, had any interceptions Thursday, but Mayfield, who has had five picks in camp, admitted he hadn’t been that sharp previously.
“I think (Thursday) was better than the previous two,” Mayfield said of his performances. “I think when you get the pads on for quarterbacks, it’s still bodies flying around. So you just go through your reads and take care of the ball. You’re taking chances and trying stuff out there at camp. But it still comes back to taking care of the ball. So (Thursday) was a better day for the offense overall and better for me as well.”
Mayfield, who had a nice pass to Mike Evans down the sideline Thursday, has proven to be more mobile and made some big plays. Trask has been more efficient and better at protecting the ball.
Coach Todd Bowles singled out Trask’s ball protection earlier this week but was not tipping his hand about the competition. He said it is “still too early” to say who will start the preseason game against the Steelers at Raymond James Stadium on Aug. 11.
“It’s been tight and that’s a good thing,” Bowles said of the competition between Trask and Mayfield. “Obviously, you want players to compete for a spot. You don’t want anybody getting their spot. You want to earn your spot year to year. Both guys are having healthy competition. We’re just looking forward to the game.”
As far as Mayfield sees it, despite being the Browns’ overall No. 1 draft pick in 2018, being in tight competition for a job is the status quo for him.
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“Just heightened awareness on your own details. Calm in the chaos,” Mayfield said. “It’s just making sure I’ve done the little things right. Like I said last week, I know I’m here for a reason, but just do my job. Don’t try and do too much.
“We have a great team around me. Just being able to distribute the ball. The competition to me is just how well can I do little things. You look at the greats in every single sport and they never get bored with little details. And so just continue to hone in on that.”
Mayfield spent four seasons with the Browns, where he threw 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions before they dealt him to the Panthers for a conditional fourth-round draft pick. He ended up with the Rams, where he learned a system similar to Canales’ and had some success. In four games, Mayfield threw for 850 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions.
Trask, the Bucs’ second-round pick out of Florida in 2021, spent his time in the NFL learning behind Tom Brady.
No matter where they’ve come from, Mayfield feels the competition makes the Bucs better.
“It’s great for everybody, to be honest with you. When the quarterback room is having success, it shows what this offense can be capable of,” he said. “We’re distributors within this system — just getting the ball out, it’s not like we’re trying to hone in on one guy. Yeah, there will be specific plays where we want to get a guy open, but for right now it’s taking what the defense gives you.
“The past few days, yeah, (Trask and Wolford) have had great practices of just doing that — going through the system, getting the ball out and making the reads. I think people are starting to see what we’re going to be capable of, and obviously, as we get used to pads more and more, the run game will get going as well. It’s just slowly coming together.”
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