QB Mayfield starting for Panthers in Week 1 against Browns

Aug 21, 2022, 9:14 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2022, 12:33 am
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) gestures during the first half of a preseason NFL ...

Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) gestures during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers are turning to quarterback Baker Mayfield to lead their offense.

Coach Matt Rhule announced Monday that Mayfield will start Carolina’s Sept. 11 regular-season opener against his former team, the Cleveland Browns — a decision that had been anticipated for several weeks.

Mayfield, acquired in a trade with the Browns earlier this offseason, beat out incumbent starter Sam Darnold for the starting quarterback job.

“When we started this process, we were looking at three things,” Rhule said. “Number one, mastery of the offense, number two, situational football excellence, and number three, moving the ball and getting guys involved. That’s been our focus all along. Baker has made a lot of improvement, a lot of growth in all three areas in a short amount of time.”

Mayfield was known as a fiery competitor during his four years with the Browns, and said Monday the chip on his shoulder “is back.”

“I feel extremely healthy, so I’m ready to go,” Mayfield said. “I’m loving football again and a fresh start is great for everyone every once in awhile. I am just going to take this opportunity and make the most of it and not take it for granted.”

Rhule said he’s been impressed with how quickly Mayfield has picked up new coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense after joining the team on July 6.

“It’s not easy what he did — between the verbiage and the checks and all of the options that we give him. We think he’s a really smart guy,” Rhule said. “As he stays in the offense he will grow and grow and grow and get better and better and better.”

Both Mayfield and Darnold came into the league as the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in the 2018 draft, but Mayfield has enjoyed more success.

Mayfield is 29-30 as an NFL starter with 92 touchdown passes and 56 interceptions; Darnold is 17-32 as a starter with 54 TD passes and 52 INTs.

Mayfield led the Browns to an 11-5 record in 2020 and a first-round playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But Mayfield struggled with a shoulder injury last year, and the Browns decided to go in a different direction by trading for controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Cleveland’s pursuit of Watson essentially marked the end of Mayfield’s career in Cleveland.

“Obviously there is a lot of attachment there and I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and say that it doesn’t mean anything. It will,” Mayfield said of the season opener against the Browns. “But right now all that matters is me continuing to improve until the regular season starts.”

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski didn’t know Mayfield had been selected as Carolina’s starter until being informed by a reporter.

“I didn’t see that,” Stefanski said. “I think we’ll wait to talk about Carolina until we get there. I’m still in the Week 3 of the preseason mode.”

Darnold’s future as the starter in Carolina seemed on rocky ground when the Panthers tried to land Watson. When that fell through, the Panthers turned their attention to the disgruntled Mayfield.

A deal was brokered only after Cleveland agreed to pay $10.5 million of Mayfield’s contract this season. The Panthers are paying him $4.8 million.

Rhule said he still has tremendous confidence in Darnold, and added that he handled the news like a professional.

Darnold said he felt as if he was given a fair chance to win the job.

“I really did go out there every day and give it my all, and it just didn’t go my way,” Darnold said.

For Darnold, the decision leaves his career at a crossroads — although he said he’s not going to dwell on that now.

“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie,” Darnold said. “But it is what it is.”

But Darnold went to say, “I’m going to do everything I can to support Baker and get him ready to play a game.”

Rhule originally said the Panthers would keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but that was before rookie third-round draft pick Matt Corral suffered a Lisfranc ligament tear in his left foot in a preseason loss to the New England Patriots.

___

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs (1) celebrates with tight end Cameron Latu (81) after scoring a t...
Associated Press

AP Top 25: Tide retakes No. 1 from UGA; Kansas snaps drought

Alabama reclaimed No. 1 from Georgia in The Associated Press college football poll in one of the closest votes in the recent years, and six teams — including Kansas — made their season debut on Sunday. The Crimson Tide received 25 first-place votes and 1,523 points in the AP Top 25 presented by Regions Bank, […]
1 day ago
Manchester City's Erling Haaland holds the ball at the end of the English Premier League soccer mat...
Associated Press

Ronaldo spared as Man United humiliated by rampant City

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — So complete was the humiliation of Erik ten Hag’s first Manchester derby that he chose to protect Cristiano Ronaldo from enduring the shame of being associated with such a performance. A 6-3 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday flattered United, with substitute Anthony Martial firing twice late on […]
1 day ago
FILE - Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris watches players prepare for an NFL foot...
Associated Press

Defensive coordinators play big role in Rams-49ers rivalry

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The play-calling head coaches get lots of the attention around the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. But the success that Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan have had as coaches in Los Angeles and San Francisco has had as much to do with the play of their defenses. Those […]
1 day ago
Indonesian soccer fans chant slogans during a candle light vigil for the victims of Saturday's socc...
Associated Press

Soccer world reacts to disaster at Indonesia stadium

MADRID (AP) — A minute of silence was observed before soccer matches around the world on Sunday in honor of victims of the disaster at a stadium in Indonesia that claimed at least 125 lives, and top players, coaches and leagues sent condolences and messages of support. Most of the victims were trampled upon or […]
1 day ago
Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) kicks a field goal in the fourth quarter of an NFL m...
Associated Press

Vikings hang on for 28-25 win over Saints in London

LONDON (AP) — Greg Joseph kicked a 47-yard field goal with 24 seconds left and the Minnesota Vikings hung on for a 28-25 win over New Orleans on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when the Saints’ Wil Lutz’s 61-yard tying attempt hit the left upright and then the crossbar as time expired. Vikings star receiver […]
1 day ago
FILE - Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) is shown before an NFL football game against ...
Associated Press

J.J. Watt says he’s playing 4 days after atrial fibrillation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt says he had his heart shocked into rhythm after going into atrial fibrillation this week, and he still plans to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year tweeted Sunday, “I was just told somebody leaked some personal information […]
1 day ago
QB Mayfield starting for Panthers in Week 1 against Browns