But when it comes to his reaction to the events that ultimately led to his departure from Cleveland, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft said that the best word to use is "shocked."
"I think that's why it was surprising for everybody. Pretty unexpected," Mayfield answered when asked if he was surprised the Browns moved on from him considering his success with the franchise during his introductory press conference with the Panthers on Tuesday. "Like I said, I'm grateful for my time there. Yeah -- I'd say 'shocked' was pretty much the only way to describe it. But you roll with the punches and you've got to move forward. This is a test of adversity and how I'm going to handle it and how I can move forward and be the best teammate possible."
To say that Mayfield's exit from Cleveland was messy would be an understatement.
While the Browns remained publicly committed to the Oklahoma product as their starting quarterback following a disappointing 2021 season in which he battled through multiple injuries, their actions said otherwise. In March, Cleveland pursued a trade for Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson after a Texas grand jury declined to indict the three-time Pro Bowl selection on criminal charges following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
After news of the Browns' pursuit of Watson became public and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Cleveland planned to move on from Mayfield regardless due to a desire to have an "adult" at quarterback, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner requested a trade. While the Browns initially denied Mayfield's request, they later acquiesced after successfully acquiring Watson, who still faces four civil lawsuits -- he previously settled 20 others with another case being dropped -- as well as potential punishment from the NFL as a result of the allegations.
But while Mayfield has been available since mid-March, it wasn't until last week that he was ultimately traded to Carolina in exchange for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, which could become a fourth-round pick based on playing time incentives. As a part of the trade, the Browns will continue paying $10 million of Mayfield's previously fully guaranteed $18.8 million salary, while the 27-year-old agreed to take a $3.5 million pay cut with the Panthers -- money he can earn back via incentives.
Only adding to the intrigue of the trade between Cleveland and Carolina is that the two teams are scheduled to meet in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. But while Mayfield took the high road when discussing his time with the Browns, he also admitted to Panthers.com that playing his former team will have some more "personal meaning" for him.
"I'm not going to sit here and be a robot and tell you that's not one I've marked on the calendar already," Mayfield said. "One, that's not who I am. To me, it's about winning games. Whoever we have marked on the schedule, I'm going to try to win. Obviously, this one has a little more history and personal meaning, but for me, it's about winning and setting the tone for the rest of the year, and however I can help this team do that, I'm going to do."