TAMPA — Baker Mayfield was feeling the heat. It wasn’t from the competition at quarterback, but rather temperatures that climbed just shy of 90 degrees during the first organized team activity.
“I’m still sweating quite a bit,” Mayfield said during his news conference Tuesday at the AdventHealth Training Center. “… I had to change (shirts) before I came out here to see you guys.”
What won’t be as easy to change is the perception of the Bucs heading into the 2023 season.
ESPN ranked Tampa Bay No. 30 in its power rankings, the lowest among NFC South teams despite back-to-back division titles and three straight playoff appearances with Tom Brady under center.
None of that bothers Mayfield, who has been counted out before and likely will be again after joining his fourth NFL team since last July.
“I played in this division last year and pretty sure the Bucs won it still,” said Mayfield, who split the 2022 season between the Panthers and the Rams. “I don’t really care what the people in Vegas are putting odds on because it’s May. We haven’t played real tackle football. We’ve got a long way to go. It’s just the time of year where everybody springs forward. ... It makes it fun. We haven’t played real, tackle football. It seems like a no BS squad that’s all about winning.”
On Tuesday, Mayfield took the first reps with the starting offense ahead of third-year quarterback Kyle Trask.
Both looked sharp operating the offense that is being installed by new coordinator Dave Canales.
One thing that stood out is that the quarterbacks will not be sitting targets this season. Nearly every play executed Tuesday included some movement ― a bootleg, play action or a waggle ― and included a variety of short rhythmic passes, something Mayfield has been doing his entire career.
“I’m very comfortable moving around, moving the pocket,” Mayfield said. “Not only do I enjoy that, but our offensive linemen love it, too. It keeps the snap the launch point for us in a different place and you keep the defense just caught off guard a little bit. So it makes it easier for everybody when you’re marrying up the pass with the run as well. It’s a good system overall.”
The Bucs had good attendance for their voluntary workout, including starting receiver Chris Godwin. Last week, Mayfield got some individual passing drills in with receiver Mike Evans.
A year ago, Godwin was still unable to participate as he recovered from knee surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee. Tuesday marked his return to offseason workouts, and he was joined by several young receivers who Mayfield appeared to have an instant connection with.
“Just getting timing down,” Mayfield said. “Not just for me and the quarterbacks but for everybody. Getting the system down. Getting the fundamentals down and that was the best part about how (Canales) wanted to come in and install this offense. Just really take it slow and make sure we have all the details and the foundation of what we want to be. Everybody was on the same page, so I think that’s been the best part of what we’ve done up to this point, and now it’s prepare ourselves to be ready to compete.
“When you get the live bullets flying for the first time, a lot of times it can seem a little messy, especially with the younger guys for the first time. But it was very organized. Limited pre-snap penalties. There’s always room for improvement for the first day, (but) because of how (Canales) installs the offense, I think it was pretty good.”
Mayfield, who signed a one-year contract with the Bucs in March, may have a big edge in experience over Trask. But coach Todd Bowles didn’t see anything Tuesday that gave either quarterback an advantage.
“(We’re) in shorts and T-shirts,” Bowles said. “I’m not going to sit here and crown or belittle anybody right now with one day of practice. But (Mayfield is) picking up the scheme well, doing all the necessary things and he’s making progress. I think (Mayfield and Trask) work well together. They help each other out. It’s a healthy competition, and I think it will take care of itself.”
On Tuesday, Mayfield also connected on passes with younger players such as Nebraska rookie Trey Palmer.
“Honestly, I’m truly impressed,” Mayfield said of the receivers. “... We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of young speed, and I’m just trying to get these guys to find their roles and find their place in the system. We talk about the speed that we have; our tight ends can roll as well.”
Godwin said he wanted to participate in voluntary workouts to begin to learn the new offense and “work on my craft” with what will be a new starting quarterback, post-Brady.
“I think Kyle and Baker have both done a great job so far,” Godwin said. “It’s like a friendly competition. There’s no animosity. You see them helping each other. They talk through a bunch of things. I think we have a really good environment on our team right now and I think we’re really trying to pull the rope in the same direction.”
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.