BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns and their fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield returned to play the entire second half of Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field despite him injuring his throwing hand late in the first half.
Mayfield appeared in his postgame press conference with a heavily wrapped right hand, which he referred to as “a club,” and following Monday’s film session with the team, Browns coach Freddie Kitchens addressed the health of his starting quarterback with the media.
“Baker should be fine this week,” Kitchens said when asked if Mayfield will be able to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
The Browns dodged quite the bullet on an injury front with their starting quarterback.
After surrendering a 10-point lead, the Browns tried to move the ball in the final minute of the first half, but that nearly proved to be a costly decision.
On a deep pass attempt down the right side of the field, Mayfield hit the facemask of Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree on the follow-through and immediately began clutching at his right hand/wrist area while walking to the sideline.
After hustling to the Cleveland bench, Mayfield made the long walk to the visiting locker room at Heinz Field with medical personnel in tow and backup quarterback Garrett Gilbert replaced him for the final two snaps of the half.
“When we fumbled the kickoff return there and started at the five, we were going to go and try to get a field goal, and then, we pop a run,” Kitchens said. “First off, we called the same run and we had a penalty or something that backs us up, and then, we call the same run and Kareem (Hunt) pops it. We’re out to the 20, and the way it was, once we picked up a first down, there’s no way they could’ve made us punt if we work the clock correctly.
“Then, we pop another run, so now, we’re in full attack mode, trying to get it into field goal range. When we didn’t hit the next one, it’s kind of a lost cause at that point. We just threw it out of bounds to burn out the rest of the clock on third down.”
Despite the scare, Mayfield returned to play the whole second half, albeit with a glove on his throwing hand.
Kitchens is confident Mayfield, who could not remember if he ever played with a glove, will not have to use one against the Bengals.
“We’ll see moving forward, but I don’t think so,” Kitchens said.
Mayfield completed 18 of his 32 throws for 196 yards with one touchdown against one interception and a lost fumble against the Steelers. Additionally, Mayfield scrambled once for a two-yard gain that gave the Browns a first down in the first half.
Mayfield finished the game with a 71.9 quarterback rating, more than 20 points lower than Steelers starter Devlin “Duck” Hodges (95.7) posted against the Browns’ defense.
“I think Baker does a good job of compartmentalizing through pain and getting to the game healthy,” Kitchens said. “He’ll get his work done this week. He’ll be at practice and he’ll get his work done this week. He doesn’t like to miss practice.”