BEREA, Ohio -- For Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the learning curve at the NFL level has started to get a little easier. But he knows he still has a way to go before he is dominating games the way he did in college.
The game was moving fast for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft upon arriving at rookie minicamp in early May, but once Mayfield got his feet wet and has had more time to adjust, the speed has changed. Just not to the point where it was when he was in college.
"It's starting to slow down, but it's going to take a little bit to get to the level I was at Oklahoma," Mayfield said. "That's just part of the growing process. There's been a lot of improvement since I first got here for rookie minicamp that it's slowed down exponentially. I'm excited where it's at right now."
With the game beginning to slow down, Mayfield can now look to improve his overall performance and try to become the player the Browns envisioned when they wrote his name on the draft card in April. The first chance he will get to show a national audience how much he has progressed will be Thursday night when the Browns take on the New York Giants in their preseason opener, and Mayfield is looking forward to the opportunity.
"Any time I get the chance to play ball, I will be excited," Mayfield said. "However much I play, I have to take advantage of the opportunity."
Browns coach Hue Jackson said on Monday that the rookie quarterback will play "quite a bit" against the Giants.
So far in training camp, Mayfield has taken a lot of reps with the second-team offense, but whether his action in the game comes alongside the first-team or second-team offense doesn't matter to Mayfield. For him, it's all about getting game reps and getting comfortable leading an NFL offense.
"Whenever I get a chance to get my reps in, that's a good challenge for me," Mayfield said. "Whoever I am with, I still have to do my job and the most important thing for me is raising their expectations and their level of play as well."
Another thing that Mayfield has done in training camp is work with the scout team in preparation for the Giants. While some young quarterbacks may look at that assignment in negative light, the Browns rookie has used it to better himself.
"The coaches will say 'hey, this play, treat it like ...' and then they will name a play on our offense," Mayfield said. "That's why I say getting scout team reps is important because it's another time to rep our offense."
Mayfield knows something about scout team reps, as this isn't the first time he has done it in his career. Before winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy and leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years last season, Mayfield was a walk-on at Oklahoma and began with the scout team preparation. It was the second time he had been a walk-on, as he began his college career by walking on at Texas Tech. That experience is one of the reasons Mayfield sees an opportunity to improve where some may not.
"Whenever I got to Texas Tech, I wasn't given an opportunity to get out there as well and when I got to (Oklahoma), I was on scout team," Mayfield said. "Whatever opportunity I get to make sure I get better, I have to take advantage of that. Right now, that's doing second-team offense or that's even now scout team stuff. Whatever I can do to learn and keep getting reps, that's the best thing for me."
Mayfield has seen a difference between playing in the NFL and playing in college, with one of the major differences being the amount of time he has for a play to develop. At Oklahoma, Mayfield made a name for himself by keeping plays alive with his feet and then finding a receiver once the coverage broke down. While he may still be able to do that at the NFL level, he realizes he will not have as much time as he did in college.
"I have never been a guy to step up in the pocket or move around to run, it's always been to extend the play and give our guys a chance to get open because when you talk about covering downfield, you can't cover for that long," Mayfield said. "The difference now is that those guys up front can't hold their blocks as much just because of the talent [on defense]."
Along with that comes making sure Mayfield doesn't hold the ball too long, especially in the red zone. After getting chewed out by coaches a few times, the rookie has made a more conscious effort to get rid of the ball quicker or to just throw it away and live to play another down.
"I think that's been a point of emphasis in the past few days for me," Mayfield said. "This game is a little different than Big 12 football. When you have points, you have to make sure you take advantage of that and secure those points. Down in the red zone, no sacks, no turnovers, no dumb penalties."
Despite the growing process and the differences between college football and the NFL, don't expect Mayfield to approach the game any differently than he did during his time in Norman.
"For me, it's not looking at it like I have to handle it any different," Mayfield said. "I still want to go out there. and I still want to lead that offense and lead our team, so I'm not going to handle it much different."