In his media availability before practice on the second day of minicamp, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield mentioned the open and honest friendships the team has built that allow teammates to talk to each other in a productive manner, which harkens back to the efforts the team put in last year in virtual meetings during the pandemic.
Mayfield was asked about what he wants to accomplish during the six week summer vacation the team will have. Unprompted, he brought up this element of brotherhood and the bonds the team has forged.
“I feel good with where I am right now, but obviously like I said, there is a lot of work to be done. That is not to say we will not continue that even though we will not be together. Those lines of communication will always be open when it comes to all of us getting on the same page.
That is the good part about this team is we have built relationships and friendships now that the communication is very open and honest. That is extremely important. The chemistry when it comes to being able to say, ‘Hey, I am wrong right here. Tell me if I am wrong. Tell me if you need something out of me.’ That is vital, and I think that is what we have been working on the most. That is what a good culture is all about, and when it comes back down to it and we hit the ground running for training camp in late July, that we do not miss a beat.” - Baker Mayfield
Last year, when the team was unable to get together due to the pandemic, the Browns used the opportunity to try to tear down walls and bring the team together. Not only was the pandemic an approaching threat, but it was a year that featured significant challenges to civil rights.
The organization led by general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski turned into the skid and used it as a way to improve understanding from people with so many different backgrounds. Differences in race, geography, politics and socio-economic realities.
The team used this as a forum to allow players to communicate their feelings. And a huge credit to the players, they embraced the opportunity and that openness and vulnerability allowed teammates to not only understand those viewpoints, but to care about those players.
It's a bond that seemed to carry over into the season. The team was more talented than many previous versions of the Browns had been, but they also seemed to have more resilience. So often in past years, including with players on the current team, the Browns would find excuses to fall short and lose.
In 2020, the team didn't let mistakes define them. They kept playing, picked each other up and found a mental toughness. Unlike the 2019 team, which was genuinely unlikeable between distractions, personal fouls and just a toxic environment that was pervasive, the 2020 team was easy to love before they stepped onto the field.
Players were empowered to use their platform and their voice. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham were part of a group that forced NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to admit the league's failures on issues that related to race in the past.
Myles Garrett was adamant about violence and riots, paying for funerals of both civilian and law enforcement fatalities that were all too often.
Baker Mayfield used his voice to speak on behalf of Julius Jones, a convicted murderer who is on death row. Mayfield not only wants Jones to be taken off of death row, but believes he is innocent of the crime.
The Browns overperformed during the season. They held onto leads, they came back from behind to win games and were able to gain strength throughout the year. In both playoff games, the team rallied at points and were able to win in Pittsburgh against the Steelers and then push the Kansas City Chiefs further than anyone would have guessed.
Mayfield recognizes the value in the bonds built and is trying to continue growing them. He understands that in order to get the most from teammates, they need to feel he is invested in them and as a result, they seem to give everything they have for him on the field.
Berry and Stefanski may have initiated the conversation, but the players on this team have taken it from there and made into a massive asset, which could help them get to the Super Bowl.