“I would say I lost myself not having that success, not finding out what was working,” he said. "I tried different ways of trying to have that success, and I didn’t find it. I lost myself in that, and I wasn’t able to be who I am for these guys on the team.”
Mayfield opened up about those struggles — and more — that he faced in his second NFL season on Friday before the Browns held their first training camp practice under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski.
For Mayfield, this past offseason provided the chance for a restart, and the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick who has spent his football life proving people wrong, dedicated himself to becoming a better player and leader.
He arrived at camp in great shape after working with a dietitian and changing his eating habits — “my Mexican food fix” — and re-shaping his body through weight training and strength conditioning. General manager Andrew Berry said Mayfield added four pounds of lean mass while also cutting fat.
Mayfield said he got out of shape last season partly because injuries prevented him from working out the way he would have liked. He needed to be more mobile, and just couldn't move like he once did. “I was not able to work out as much being beat up,” said Mayfield, who dealt with an injured hand and badly bruised ribs last season. “I was heavier than I was ever playing before at a playing weight. I needed to (make physical changes) to be able to have the scrambling ability and to be able to move in the pocket.”
"That is my job to be in prime physical shape to show up and do my job on Sundays. That was definitely a key factor in that and being back. Look good, feel good, play good.” He's also more emotionally fit.
The losing has taken its toll on Mayfield, whose massive success at Oklahoma was followed by 18 losses over two seasons in Cleveland. In addition, he’s playing for his fourth coach and third offensive coordinator in three years.
So while doing reps with dumbbells, Mayfield worked on his mind. “In a much better state mentally,” he said when asked about the difference from a year ago. “Obviously, physically, I put in the work. Just ready to roll, attack and get back to where I need to be to be the leader for this team and for this franchise.”
Mayfield is noticeably trimmer, and while there's not yet much evidence to show that he's toned down the swagger he exudes on the field, his teammates have noticed a change in the 25-year-old. “His attitude towards this season is at a heightened level,” Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “It is fun to see him out here. It is fun to see him doing the things he loves with a smile on his face and making plays already.”
Mayfield and Landry connected on a long pass during Friday's workouts, which other than seeing and hearing Stefanski and his assistants bark out instructions while wearing masks, looked much like a Browns training camp practice in any other summer.
This one, of course, is very different due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Mayfield, whose statistics plummeted after a record-setting rookie season, said he and his teammates are looking forward to moving on from a 6-10 season that crashed with Kitchens being fired and another front office purge.
The Browns added free agent Pro Bowl help on offense in right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper, Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are healthy after offseason surgeries and Mayfield has already made a favorable connection with Stefanski, who visited him in Texas in February.
Last season, expectations turned to excuses and Mayfield acknowledged he battled periods of self-doubt. “Absolutely," he said. “I think that is one of those things that I talked about with our team is you have to find that belief and you have to find that confidence within yourself,” he said. "That is what I have based my whole story on and my whole career on is confidence in myself and taking those chances.
"There were times, and these guys know that everybody has their moments. You can’t just hold onto yourself. You have to have people to lean on, and we have those guys here.”
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