Mayfield’s comments add spark to Browns-Panthers Week 1 game

Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield has ignited what was already expected to be an emotionally charged Week 1 game against his former team, the Cleveland Browns.

According to Bills sideline reporter Cynthia Frelund, Mayfield had some choice words for the Browns following the Panthers’ 21-0 preseason win over Buffalo on Friday night.

“I’m going to (expletive) them up,” Mayfield said of the Browns, according to what Frelund said on a podcast.

Frelund, who works as a analytics analyst for the NFL Network, shared a story during the “Around the NFL” podcast with Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler and Gregg Rosenthal about a brief conversation she had with Mayfield at Bank of America Stadium.

“I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m so excited to see you, like, go kick some butt,’ I didn’t say that word,” Frelund said with a laugh. “… Go kick some butt, especially Week 1, I like cannot wait. And he uses some expletives and I was like, ‘I just hope you’re like ready.’ He was like, ’I’m gonna bleep them up.”

When contacted on Tuesday about a request to speak with Mayfield, the Panthers public relations department referred all comments to the quarterback’s media availability later this week.

The Panthers were off Tuesday.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Frelund confirmed the exchange, but said she was trying to be supportive of Mayfield and shouldn’t have disclosed what she called a private conversation.

“I was trying to defend Baker,” Frelund said. “He’s in a good spot now and is primed for success. … I was showing effusive support for a person who had a really rough offseason.”

Mayfield has been known to make some inflammatory comments during his four seasons with the Browns, and it’s no secret the team’s decision to pursue and trade for Deshaun Watson didn’t sit well with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018.

The Browns traded Mayfield to the Panthers on July 6 and agreed to pay $10.5 million of his contract.

Mayfield has been careful in choosing his words when talking about the Browns since his arrival in Carolina.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of attachment there,’’ Mayfield said last week after being selected as the Panthers’ Week 1 starter. “I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and say it doesn’t mean anything. It will.’’

Mayfield wouldn’t say what he’ll do against the Browns, adding “I’m not going to premeditate anything. Once I step inside the lines, I’m a competitor.’’

Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett didn’t hear the comments directly from Mayfield, so he was reluctant to comment on “hearsay.”

However, Garrett said he’s not surprised Mayfield would say something to fire himself up.

“I know he has that swagger, that confidence that borders on arrogance in some people’s eyes,” Garrett said after practice. “But he’s always played with a chip on his shoulder, and I think we have as an organization as well. So however he feels or goes about it in his mind scape to prepare for the game to play us at the highest level for him, it’s whatever.

“Of course, we’ll use it. It will be motivation. It will be fuel. But at the end of the day a guy is going to do anything he can to try and get one thousandth of a percent better, and if it takes that to hype him up or us using it to hype us up, it’s all going to add to the fire for both teams.”

Panthers center Bradley Bozeman said Mayfield is a fiery competitor, but “someone you want to play for.”

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

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