BEREA, Ohio – After trying to fight his way through Tuesday’s practice, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield woke up Wednesday morning realizing the inevitable.
Due to the torn labrum in his left shoulder, Mayfield will not physically be able to play Thursday night against the Denver Broncos (8:20 pm ET, Fox / NFL Network).
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And so the Cleveland Browns are turning to official backup Case Keenum, who they signed last year around this very moment.
Yes, the Browns believed that Keenum would make an excellent mentor to Mayfield. And it certainly has to get to this point. But Cleveland didn’t give Keenum a guaranteed $ 10 million in a three-year deal simply to be a sounding board. The Browns, including general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski, believed that Keenum, when called up, could win a game or two in a pinch. And with Cleveland’s playoff season expectations already reeling after back-to-back losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, that’s exactly what Keenum will be asked to do Thursday.
“I feel very prepared. I was ready, ”Keenum said Wednesday after being announced as the starter. “You don’t have to prepare if you’re still ready, and I have been since I got here.
“I’m excited. I’m ready.”
In fact, Keenum has built his career always ready to play. And that was the case in Minnesota four years ago.
Then Stefanski was the Vikings quarterback coach when another former University of Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner, this time Sam Bradford, was the starting quarterback. In week 2, Bradford tried to play but was ultimately unable to due to a knee injury after warming up. That propelled Keenum to the starting lineup.
Keenum not only kept the Vikings afloat that season; he quarterbacked them all the way to the playoffs, culminating in his “Minneapolis Miracle,” a 61-yard complete score for Stefon Diggs when time expired, a play that catapulted Minnesota to an impressive victory over the New Orleans Saints and the U.S. Championship. NFC. Play.
“I’m cut out for this,” said Keenum, who noted that he’s been getting “millions of reps” mentally during practice for the past two seasons, even as Mayfield has gotten them physically. “This is what I’ve done my entire career, not knowing if I’m going to start until game time, not knowing who’s out there with me, introducing myself to the players while calling a play.”
It’s unclear what the Browns quarterback’s situation will be like after Thursday. According to a league source, Mayfield could return as soon as Cleveland’s next game, against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 31, if the swelling in his left shoulder subsides.
Either way, the Browns, despite numerous injuries elsewhere, including their top two running backs, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, desperately need a win if they are to keep their preseason aspirations of a divisional title and playoff berth alive. . They need Keenum to do what he’s done before. And do what they brought him to do.
“What better opportunity to seize an opportunity than Thursday Night Football?” Keenum said. “I know these opportunities don’t come up very often, to be a starting quarterback in this league.
“So I’m ready to take advantage of it.”