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For Baker Mayfield, it's back to work and back to normal

Baker Mayfield

CHARLOTTE — Because there was so much anticipation for Baker Mayfield's first game in a new place against his old team, he felt compelled to remind people it was just that — his first game.

That's why for Mayfield, getting back to work on Wednesday brought what appeared to be a sense of relief.

"In terms of distractions and specific questions, yeah, just to get back into a routine," Mayfield said Wednesday. "That goes for Week 2 of any year and the anticipation leading up to the opener. No matter who you're playing, there are going to be a ton of questions about all the changes in the offseason, the schemes, the players, and new faces.

"It's just a matter of how you handle it, how you learn from Week 1 to Week 2. It can be your biggest jump of the year, and you can learn from those mistakes; the great teams and franchises learn from that, they improve, and they continue to push forward, realizing it's a long season ahead."

Of course, it wasn't just any other team last week; it was that one particular one. And after Sunday's loss to the Browns, Mayfield knew that his role in the drama guaranteed it would be a big deal (and the crowd of national media that descended upon Bank of America Stadium confirmed as much).

"Everybody made this out to be the Super Bowl, but despite what everybody is going to make this, there are 16 more games," he said Sunday. "The Super Bowl is not until February, and this is the beginning of September."

So on Wednesday, Mayfield tried to make everything as normal as possible, latching onto the things that went right and "flushing" the things that went wrong.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that over the final 35 minutes of the game, they averaged 7.7 yards per play. That's good. But the other 25 minutes count too, and the Panthers gained 21 yards on their first 20 snaps, and that was hard to overcome (particularly with the burden three-and-outs placed on a defense that had to play 80 snaps).

Mayfield wasn't dwelling on the parts that didn't go right, like the four bad exchanges with center Pat Elflein — "That was on me, and we'll get it fixed. I'm not worried about that at all. We'll get that fixed." — or the parts he couldn't control.

Asked about the four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, he joked: "Lay on an inverted table. Stretch out. Get taller. Thanks Mom and Dad."

Of some early mistakes, he said flatly: "For me, it was kind of BS the way how I wasn't settled in with my feet in the first half, I was kind of creating my own pressure moving around and not trusting them."

So he acknowledged the problems. He just wasn't dwelling on any of them.

"The preparation, everything we did leading up to it was spot on. We just didn't execute," he said. "Laid an egg in the first half and fell behind, and against a team that runs like that, it's hard to come back. So the response has been exactly what we want. Everyone has been extremely critical of themselves, leaders have put ownership on themselves, and also, at the same time, players aren't losing their heads. Just go to work. It's another day; play the next play, fix the mistakes, and go get them.

"(The fourth quarter rally), that's the potential for all of our guys to look at, just everybody doing their job. Realizing even in some not-so-great looks, we were able to execute our plays and do it at a high level. Like I said, it was two completely different teams first half and second half, so everybody do your job. Focus on that, play the next play, ... and realizing we can be a very good team and confident in that."

Considering the Cleveland team he walked into had won one game in the two years before his arrival, panic about the past isn't really his deal.

"Up there, 1-31 two years prior, here seven games losing streak before that, you flush it," he said. "I wasn't a part of it, the whole team, it's a new system for us, offensively, you flush it. You use the pain that everybody has gone through that's been here as motivation.

"I have to come in with confidence. Get these guys to believe in it. Be a great leader, and get them to know we're very capable of winning and winning a lot of games. It's about focusing on the next thing. If you harp on the negative, it'll always creep back into your mind. So believe in yourself and focus on the next play."

Rhule equated the first 25 minutes of last week's game to an old John Wooden saying — "Be quick, but don't hurry" — and acknowledged, "I think we hurried a little bit."

"The message to all our guys has been, let's catch our breath, let's just all these little things, let's play each play," Rhule said. "I want to see him go out there, his first game's out of the way here as a Carolina Panther, all the hubbub around the game is out of the way; let's just go play ball.

"I think the team has that attitude right now."

View photos from Wednesday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Giants this weekend.

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