Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
Will Riley leave Sooner or later?: It hasn’t been lost on Baker Mayfield that Browns GM John Dorsey has personally attended the last two Oklahoma University games, presumably to extend his coaching search to Sooners coach Lincoln Riley.
“He’s actually really close with the athletic director, Joe Castiglione, so …” Mayfield said. “No, I definitely have known about it. He’s given me a hard time, but he’s gone and there’s been two wins. That’s all I know. Who knows what he’s doing there.”
Mayfield is not naïve. Riley is at the forefront of Dorsey’s coaching search not only because he developed Mayfield from a walk-on transfer to Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft choice, but because he has kept his offensive system prospering in Mayfield’s wake.
Kyler Murray, Mayfield’s successor as Sooners quarterback, is a finalist for the Heisman, and now Riley has the Sooners in the College Football Playoff semifinals for the second year in a row. They play top-ranked Alabama in Hard Rock Stadium Saturday night.
Mayfield won’t come out and say he hopes Dorsey and the Haslams seriously consider Riley as the next Browns coach, but he can’t hide his respect for his former coach.
“You know what, obviously you guys can take it however you want,” Mayfield said. “I had a relationship with Lincoln. It’s been great. We had success. Whatever decisions are made here, I’m going to make the most of it. Obviously, there’s been a level of comfortability with him in the past that I’ve had. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t control that so I’m not going to worry about it.”
A lot of people are speculating that Riley, a native of Lubbock, TX, won’t leave Oklahoma. Mayfield won’t say that. He also believes Riley, 35, would be ready to make the jump to the NFL.
“Lincoln’s been ready,” Mayfield said. “It’s who he is, how he coaches, the respect level he’s had from all his players, how detailed he is. He’s ready. But that’s his decision. He’s got something special there, so I don’t think anyone’s going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years.”
Why does Mayfield think Riley would succeed in the NFL?
“To me, it’s about respect,” he said. “You have a locker room full of guys making a lot of money. Obviously, the egos are going to be there. You have to have the respect of guys, got to be able to get the best out of them. They’re going to get paid regardless, so you have to get the most out of them and demand it just by respect. I think when it comes down to it, that’s why [he’ll succeed].”
He wouldn’t be surprised if Riley eventually makes the jump to the NFL.
“I think down the road, probably,” Mayfield said. “I’m not going to speak for him, but he’s ready when the time comes.”
In the meantime, Mayfield professes he’s not overly worried about who is the Browns coach next year.
“It’s not my decision. Not worried about it. We’re happy with what we’ve got right now and we’re working week by week,” he said.
Money’s ready: Cornerback Terrance “Money” Mitchell is preparing to see his first action since suffering a broken wrist in Game 4 in Oakland on Sept. 30.
He hasn’t formally been activated from injured reserve yet, but if all goes well this week he could play Sunday against the Panthers. It’s good timing because cornerback Denzel Ward is still in concussion protocol and may not be available.
“I feel good. I’m just trying to do my best,” Mitchell said.
Through the first four games, Mitchell established himself as one of Dorsey’s finer veteran acquisitions. He had one interception, two forced fumbles and one recovery. He said it hasn’t been frustrating to sit and watch after that quick start.
“It was more like … it kind of helped me, honestly, to appreciate the game a lot more,” Mitchell said.
Brownie bits: Running back Duke Johnson was excused from practice for personal reasons, coach Gregg Williams said, and should be back on Thursday … Ward (concussion), guard-center Austin Corbett (foot), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (bicep), center JC Tretter (ankle) and cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee) also sat out practice on Wednesday … Daniel Ekuale, a defensive lineman on the Browns’ practice squad, has been suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.