Will Baker Mayfield get needed reps in this offseason for Cleveland Browns?
This is an impossible question to answer, but how much practice is the right amount for an NFL team given the COVID-19 situation, and are the Cleveland Browns and starting quarterback Baker Mayfield getting a fair amount of practice? Or will teams like the Tampa Bay Buccanneers acquire a major edge by practicing against the wishing of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA)?
On one end of the spectrum is J.C. Tretter, who is the Cleveland Browns’ fine center and also happens to the be President of the NFLPA, who believes the NFL should follow the advice of the experts and abolish exhibition games for the year, as reported by Ted Crow, in Cleveland.com.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady is pushing the envelope the other way and is leading voluntary practices in the Tampa area. Perhaps a better question is whether Tom Brady is getting an unfair amount of practice, and if so, why wouldn’t other NFL teams follow suit? It’s a very complex issue with lives at stake in what is already a dangerous profession.
The moral, ethical, medical and political issues could be written about for months. Those issues will be resolved way beyond my humble pay grade. Thus the issue I want to raise is whether Tampa Bay is getting an advantage over the rest of the NFL by having these practices. And, in addition, does this situation create yet another disadvantage for our Cleveland Browns? The Browns have had enough disadvantages to play under over the years.
The NFLPA can hardly advocate a course of action that is certain to cause additional illness and even the risk of death. Hence they have advised their membership not to practice under current conditions, and have warned Brady and his teammates not to work out together. Yet the NFLPA has only given advice, not orders. No doubt Brady and crew appreciate the concern and had debated the issue at length, but ultimately they want to practice so that is what they are doing.
Cleveland, in a sense, is obliged to support the NFLPA because it’s a Browns teammate that is a major part of the leadership. Tampa has less concerns because they do not have the same institutional connection to the NFLPA, and may not feel morally obligated to carry it out.
Moreover, the high schools nationwide are for the most part practicing football right now. The teenage kids have made their own decisions and risk assessments. Although certainly COVID-19 is influencing the game at all levels, it appears there will be an attempt to persevere beyond the threats posed by the virus.
The Browns have to install a new offense yet again, with a new offensive coordinator and a new head coach. This is Mayfield’s fourth offense in just a little over two years with the team. An abbreviated pre-season is going to hurt teams like the Browns more than most teams.
Though not an expert, it seems to this writer that holding a practice with a limited group of people each day is probably safer than having an exhibition game which necessarily exposes each player to more potential carriers in the form of opposing players and coaches, officials, media, transportation professionals, fans, hospitality professionals etc.
Well, so how many receivers are able to work out with Mayfield, and is it comparable to the number that work out with Brady? Information has been difficult to come by.
Mary Kay Cabot reported in Cleveland.com that Mayfield has worked out with Rashard Higgins, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Damion Ratley and a few other teammates in Austin, Texas. The frequency and extent of the workouts is not known, nor is it know whether the workouts are ongoing. In fact, of the names just mentioned, Hooper is the only one that is likely to catch a significant number of passes from Mayfield this year.
Meanwhile, it would be remiss to fail to mention that OBJ has created another minor stir by working out with Patriots players this off-season. This is probably simply an accident of geography, but he always seems to have difficulties working out with the guy who actually throws him the pigskin (see his pre-Cleveland days as an example. He was actually practicing with Mayfield then, but employed by the Giants).
But is Mayfield entitled to make the same decision that Brady has made, i.e., to respectfully decline to follow the recommendations of the NFLPA, assuming that that is what he wants to do? Or have the Browns gotten themselves into the situation in which the other teams are going to have much higher numbers of repetitions than our team?
More importantly, will the Browns have similar practices compared to the practices being held with the division? What about Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati?
Brady is fond of saying that the Super Bowl is won in the offseason, and there is a lot of merit to that statement. So, are the Browns winning the offseason?