BROWNS’ MAYFIELD UNAPOLOGETIC FOR ON-FIELD ANTICS
Baker Mayfield won’t clean up his act. Criticized for taunting former Browns coach Hue Jackson in the closing minutes – and an earlier crude gesture – during Cleveland’s win Sunday over Cincinnati, Mayfield reiterated he’s “not a cookiecutter quarterback” and doesn’t care how he’s perceived outside his locker room.
After completing a 66yard pass against the Bengals, Mayfield stared at Jackson for several seconds while he ran down the field.
Mayfield defended his actions Wednesday, saying he has no plans to change his behavior. The 23-year-old Mayfield said: “I’m not trying to be anybody else. I’ve been who I am and that’s gotten me here. I’m not trying to get anybody’s approval.”
Panthers: The Panthers placed quarterback Taylor Heinicke on injured reserve with an elbow injury. Kyle Allen is expected to start this Sunday against the Saints with Carolina eliminated from the playoffs. The team has signed Garrett Gilbert, who was with Carolina in training camp, as a backup. The team does not want to activate Cam Newton, who is struggling with a shoulder injury, in Week 17.
Jaguars: Blake Bortles is getting another start for the Jaguars. It could be his last. Coach Doug Marrone announced that Bortles will start the season finale at Houston (10-5), giving the embattled quarterback a chance to close out the season on a positive note.
“We just feel like his mobility will give us a better chance,” Marrone said.
Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota said he’s doing “everything in my power” to be available Sunday night against Indianapolis with a playoff berth on the line for the winner. Mariota did not practice with what the Titans listed as neck and foot injuries. Mariota declined to detail what symptoms he’s still dealing with after being hurt on a sack late in the first half of Tennessee’s win over Washington last weekend.
Broncos: Coach Vance Joseph said rookie running back Phillip Lindsay needs an operation on his injured right wrist and the recovery could take up to four months. Lindsay, the first undrafted offensive player ever to earn a Pro Bowl selection, got hurt Monday night in Oakland shortly after surpassing 1,000 yards rushing.
Jets: Trumaine Johnson’s tough first season with the Jets hit another rough patch. The team’s top cornerback was held out of practice for what coach Todd Bowles called “an in-house matter.” Both Bowles and Johnson declined to discuss details of their conversation or why the player was kept off the field. Johnson says he “of course” expects to return to practice Thursday and play at New England in the season finale Sunday.
Washington: Coach Jay Gruden made it clear that D.J. Swearinger was cut for insubordination after being warned multiple times about his criticism of the team to media.
The safety called out the play-calling of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after the 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, a defeat that effectively eliminated Washington from postseason contention. Swearinger also implied that he works harder than members of the coaching staff when it comes to film-study preparation.
“I’ve had many talks with him in the past,” Gruden said. “Obviously, I didn’t get through to him so, again, that’s my responsibility. . . . Obviously, he wasn’t happy. He voiced his displeasure many, many times. At the end of the day, we thought it was best for him to let him go and best for us moving forward.
● Four days have passed since Washington cornerback Josh Norman tried to fight Tennessee tackle Taylor Lewan, and Norman remains furious that Lewan came to Washington’s sideline to taunt him after the Titans’ 25-16 victory Saturday afternoon.
As he stood at his locker, Norman seemed stunned that any player would do such a thing.
“Maximum disrespect,” Norman said. “Ultimate disrespect.”
Lewan approached Norman as the cornerback sat dejectedly on the Washington bench. Standing just feet from Norman, Lewan made a motion like he was shooting a bow and arrow at Norman, an imitation of a celebration Norman has used in the past. Lewan said he did this because he believed Norman was intentionally trying to injure Titans running back Derrick Henry during the game.
“It’s not our fault you’re not relevant anymore,” Lewan added later.
Cardinals: D.J. Swearinger, released abruptly by Washington this week after publicly criticizing the defensive coaching, didn’t need much time to find a landing place. He’s back in Arizona with the Cardinals, where he played part of 2015 and all of the 2016 season.
Speaking in front of his new locker, Swearinger called it a “rocky Christmas” and acknowledged that he was wrong to speak out against Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and criticize the team’s strategy in a 25-16 loss to Tennessee.
Still, he was surprised, he said, that it led to his release from the team.
“Just living and learning,” Swearinger said, “understanding you know it wasn’t my role to call out the defensive coaches even though we had a relationship. Me and the coaches had a good relationship. But it’s just learning. I keep my mouth shut next time and just keep moving and play football, do what I do on the field.”
Patriots: Earlier this month, Gisele Bündchen once again talked about how she hasn’t been able to persuade husband Tom Brady to retire from the NFL, telling Ellen DeGeneres that “I haven’t been very successful” at getting him to step down. Now it looks as if the Patriots quarterback isn’t going to hang it up after what has become a somewhat difficult 2018 season.
“I absolutely believe I will,” Brady said when asked by Westwood One’s Jim Gray about whether he’ll be back in 2019. “I know I’ve talked about it a long time. I have goals to play not only next year but beyond that. And I’m going to try to do it as best as I possibly can. I’m going to give it everything I have, like I always have. It will certainly be a challenge. I don’t take any of these things for granted. But I hope I can keep playing. I hope I can keep playing at a championship level.”
Bills: An avid Bills fan from Texas who’s battling cancer has been given a trip to Disney World thanks to the efforts of a fan club known as the Bills Mafia. Ezra Castro is known as Pancho Billa for his game-day outfit that includes a sombrero and facemask in the NFL team’s red, white and blue colors.
The 39-year-old mortician from Dallas has attended numerous Bills games on the road and at New Era Field in Orchard Park, earning him the honor of being named the inaugural member of the Buffalo Fan Wall of Fame. Last Sunday while watching the Bills-Patriots game at a Dallas-area bar with other Buffalo fans, the Bills Mafia surprised him with an all-expenses-paid trip to Disney World in Florida for him, his girlfriend and their two young children.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is unapologetic about staring down his former coach.