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Baker Mayfield has stated in the past he believes he was born to play quarterback for the Browns.
But this season has not gone according to plan for Mayfield or the franchise, and on the heels of his career-high four interceptions contributing to a 24-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, the quarterback's wife, Emily Mayfield, disclosed she had become aware of “death threats” directed toward her husband on social media.
Mayfield said Thursday on Zoom neither team security nor local authorities became involved — “It's not that serious,” he added — though the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is disturbed by the type of social-media activity his spouse referenced.
“It's hard for me to say not to listen to it because I have quite a bit of experience of hearing a lot of opinions on the outside coming in,” Mayfield said after practicing in preparation for a “Monday Night Football” showdown between the Browns (7-8) and Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1) at Heinz Field. “So it's hard when it comes down to somebody that you love, that you care about. She's not able to change some of the outcomes of the game — or any at all.
“So it's just one of those things where we're in a world today in society that there's a lot of keyboard warriors that make empty threats and things like that. It's quite honestly ignorant when they go after people that aren't directly involved in football, and then when you talk about taking your own life, killing somebody or all that, that, to me, is ignorance. But I try not to listen to it 'cause those are not the people that I would listen to whether it was good or bad regardless.
“So it's tough to tell your loved ones and your family not to defend you and look into stuff. That's just human nature. But you have to take one day at a time and realize your priorities, your family members, the people that truly matter to you, those are the opinions you need to listen to. It's just one of those things that it's blown up to be a much bigger deal on the outside. It's not like it's anything new for us.”
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Mayfield dealing with a heightened level of vitriol on social media is the most recent wild turn in what he admitted has been a more dramatic season than usual.
"Any season’s going to have its ups and downs," Mayfield said. "This one’s had a little bit more drama."
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Thursday he was aware of Emily Mayfield's revelation.
“People can and do say some crazy things out there,” Stefanski said. “If it rises to the level of that, certainly we can help address those type of things. Short of that, just in general and not specific to that, in general, there's a lot of noise out there.”
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This is what Emily Mayfield wrote in an Instagram story posted Tuesday:
“It’s crazy how much negativity is amplified via social media. I’m still a believer that there’s more good people out there than bad, but WOW does social media make me think otherwise sometimes. Which plays into why I love to spread positivity. Our world needs more of it.
“The death threats, lies being told about my husband, and blatant DISRESPECT never ceases to amaze me. For the record — I pray for those of you who even think those thoughts, let alone type them out. I hope you can find some happiness so you stop trying to steal it from others.”
As Mayfield explained he didn't believe there was a credible threat, he took a shot at reporters.
"It's going to be made to be a much bigger deal, as the media will do," he said.
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With some fans turning against Mayfield as he looks to rebound from one of the worst games of his professional career, his confidence is being called into question.
"I'll be just fine," he said. "I’m not worried about that."
Mayfield said he believes his teammates played "great" on Christmas Day at Lambeau Field, but he certainly did not perform at his best. He went 21-of-36 passing for 222 yards and two touchdowns with the four interceptions for a rating of 55.3.
"I have to make those corrections and put us in the best position possible to win, and I didn’t do that," he said. "It’s not harping on the negative too much, but there is a need to be focused on it to correct it."
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Focus is a crucial word for Mayfield. He has been dealing with an injured left, non-throwing shoulder since Week 2 while an unresolved long-term contractual situation hangs over his head. He said he's had to grow accustomed to passing while the shoulder harness he's been wearing virtually all season restricts his movement.
"The biggest issue is just keeping that momentum going towards the target. If you're teaching a 5-year-old how to throw, you finish towards your target momentum-wise," Mayfield said. "[Otherwise], you'll be falling off of your back foot, and the ball will sail on you. It's just little things like that. It's just something that I have had to get used to."
Stefanski said Mayfield has been "inconsistent" this season, just like the entire team and its coaches.
"The injuries and those type of things, [Mayfield] has fought through them," Stefanski said. "He has gotten his treatment and made sure he's ready to go and be there and be accountable for the team.
"Baker is a leader of this team. That's well documented. That's just who he is. That's the type of person he is. That's how he handles his business around here. I wouldn't characterize it any differently based on different games. He's a fighter."
Injuries have not been the only obstacles.
Mayfield also has been at the center of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. forcing his way out of Cleveland in early November and a COVID-19 outbreak in recent weeks.
"Some of that drama earlier in the year was within the building, and it wasn’t just directly outside, so we had to handle a few things internally, and that’s OK," Mayfield said. "We did that, and now we’re here, so that’s what matters."
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After testing positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19 on Dec. 15, Mayfield missed a 16-14 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 20. He wasn't cleared to face the Packers until game day and flew to Green Bay the same morning. He hadn't practiced for two weeks in the buildup to the game on Christmas.
“There’s been a lot of firsts for me this year, but that comes with the territory and position I’m in, so I have to handle it the best I possibly can," Mayfield said. " ... There’s no manual on this, and there hasn’t been, so it’s been one day at a time this season.
"To me, that’s the only way to correctly handle it — try and make the most of the opportunities, try and find the positives within a lot of the negativity around, whether it was created by the outside or what. Just realizing the things that matter and prioritizing that and blocking out the rest to be able to focus on the job at hand.”
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The mission is to defeat the Steelers on Monday and Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) on Jan. 9 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland's final two regular-season games.
If the Bengals fail to clinch the AFC North title Sunday at home against the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), the Browns can capture the division crown by winning out, as long as the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) lose at least one of their remaining games — at home against the Los Angeles Rams (11-4) on Sunday and against the Steelers on Jan. 9.
"We have to win this game, and that’s our job right now," Mayfield said. "We’re focused on that.
"Anytime we're still in contention to make the playoffs, it's a great opportunity for us. So that's the way I'm going to handle it."
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Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns' Baker Mayfield says death threats not new for him, wife Emily