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Baker Mayfield has one goal in second stint: "Win"

Baker Mayfield

CHARLOTTE — Because he's Baker Mayfield, Baker Mayfield is kind of used to everyone watching his every move.

When you're a former No. 1 overall pick and a Heisman Trophy winner (and still on a regular loop of commercials because of it), that's kind of the deal. So he wasn't necessarily surprised his celebratory headbutts last week went viral, but he also knows that now that he's a starter again this week against the Ravens, there are a lot more important factors.

"I expect to win," Mayfield said when asked about what he's looking for from his second stint with the ones. "I expect to go out there and do everything I possibly can to put us in a position to win and do it at a very, very high level. I don't think there's much to it; it's what I expect out of myself and what I expect out of the group."

He's taken that kind of face-value approach, even though there's so much on the line for him personally. He was willing to take a pay cut to facilitate the trade here in July, hoping it would jump-start his career after the Browns replaced him. Going 1-4 in the first five starts was clearly not part of the plan — for the team or him. Now, he has to know that the entire league is watching to see how he plays — but also how he handles himself when he's not playing.

So as important as this game could be for his future, Mayfield stayed rooted in the present.

"It's pretty important to win, since we're still in the division race," he replied when asked about the future consequences for him. "That's where I'm at. Not worried about anything else, it'll take care of itself as long as I do my job, and we'll see where it goes."

Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks has made no promises to any of his quarterbacks since he took over. He alluded to the possibility of now-backup Sam Darnold playing at some point soon, saying he'd like to see him in game action before he considered starting him, since Darnold hasn't played since the preseason.

And his expectations for Mayfield have been made clear.

"Consistency," Wilks said simply. "Protect the ball. Good operations with the offense, getting us in the right looks, and execution."

That's it, as simple as that.

Of course, things could be a little easier this time through, since the Panthers are a little more settled offensively.

PJ Walker was able to lead them to a couple of wins during Mayfield's absence by relying on running back D'Onta Foreman (three 100-yard games in the last four) and an improved and improving offensive line. They've also seen more from wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. of late, and Mayfield acknowledged all those others elephants no longer in the room from the last time he started.

"It's just a very different situation," he said of the changes since Week 5, which included a new head coach, and the trades that sent Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson to the 49ers and Cardinals, respectively. "Some faces not here anymore, and that's not being shady or anything; it's just different. A lot of guys finding their roles and stepped up in a big way.

"We've just found our identity as time's gone on, and I'm just looking forward to it."

But as seriously as he's taking it, it's still Mayfield, so there's still a smirk around every corner.

Foreman realized that pretty quickly when Mayfield arrived. The two were rivals when Foreman was at Texas and Mayfield was at Oklahoma. They split their two Red River Showdown games, with Mayfield winning the second one 45-40 in 2016, despite Foreman's 159-yard day.

"You kind of got to deal with his antics," Foreman said when asked what kind of opponent he was. "His competitiveness, you've got to deal with that, being on the other side of the ball.

"Nah, I just didn't like him. He was at OU. I was at Texas. I didn't really care for him that much. Outside of that, it was really just the rivalry. I didn't know him personally, so it wasn't nothing personal."

So when they crossed paths in Spartanburg this summer, Foreman said Mayfield sought him out quickly.

"He came up to me, and the first thing he said was, 'We can be cool now; we can be friends,'" Foreman said with a laugh. "So that was pretty cool, no doubt. He's a good dude, though."

Mayfield also remained supportive during the time when he was healthy enough to back up Walker, while admitting how unusual it was.

"As a competitor, yeah. As a teammate, no," he replied when asked if that was tough for him.

So from that standpoint, the fact he was popping around last Thursday night, smacking his head against helmeted teammates after last week's win (the same way he did in college) probably shouldn't have been a surprise, even if the teammates on the receiving end didn't expect it.

"I was not. You could probably see it in the video," backup lineman Cade Mays said. "Once he did it, I kind of looked around like, 'Is this guy serious?' But it was cool, though, that's definitely the guy he is. He was juiced for the win. So it was cool to see.

"He's a great teammate. He wants to see the team win; he wants to be successful. He wants to do anything he can to help us. He's that type of energy all the time. He's not headbutting without his helmet on, but it's that type of energy. He wants to bring guys up; he wants to win."

And that, Mayfield said, was the important part. The winning, he said, was the important thing, rather than him going viral (again), or his own future as a free agent at the end of the season, or anything else.

Still, it was a good move, and the buttees appeared to like it as much as the butter.

"A good headbutt every now and then goes a long way," Mayfield said with a nod.

But he also knows winning would go much farther.

View photos from Wednesday's practice as the Panthers get ready to travel to Baltimore in Week 11.

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