Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield said he's willing to admit the team's Week 1 matchup against his former organization, the Cleveland Browns, carries some extra meaning.
Mayfield told Darin Gantt of the Panthers' official website Tuesday that he tries not to hold grudges, but his history with the Browns is an obvious storyline heading toward the Sept. 11 showdown at Bank of America Stadium:
"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. 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."
While it took longer than either Mayfield or the Browns probably wanted, the team was finally able to find him a new home before the start of the 2022 season.
Cleveland was only able to recoup a conditional fifth-round draft pick in the deal, which shows how far the quarterback's stock has dropped since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Now the Browns await word on whether Deshaun Watson will be available this season. The quarterback could receive a lengthy suspension under the NFL's personal-conduct policy after there were 24 civil lawsuits filed against him by women accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions. Watson has settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits.
If Watson is suspended, Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs will top the team's QB depth chart.
Meanwhile, Mayfield against the Browns in the season opener is generating a lot of buzz, but he'll have to win the job first.
Carolina has three other quarterbacks with their eye on the starting spot heading into training camp: Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral.
Mayfield should be viewed as the favorite, but his Browns track record of 92 touchdown passes and 56 interceptions in 60 games stops him well short of being a lock for the top spot on the depth chart.
The 27-year-old Texas native told Gantt he's grown accustomed to quarterback competitions over the years.
"For me, it's pretty familiar," Mayfield said. "Obviously, the NFL is different than college, but walking on twice, and having to go through that process, you level the playing field. You compete against other guys, and you build confidence in yourself."
He added his ultimate goal is to become a "franchise-level quarterback for years."
"I know it's not going to be easy by any means. I've got to go earn it. But I'm looking forward to the competition and the challenge," Mayfield said.
Getting a chance to face the Browns in Week 1 is likely an added source of motivation.