CLEVELAND (AP)Baker Mayfield had to surrender to the pain.
Cleveland’s starting quarterback, who has played the past four weeks with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, will sit out Thursday’s game against the Denver Broncos and backup Case Keenum will start.
The Browns (3-3) announced the switch on Wednesday, ending speculation about whether Mayfield would try to push through an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that he suffered last month and has worsened in recent weeks.
”Case Keenum will be our starter tomorrow night and we have full confidence in him to lead us and do the things necessary to put us in position to win,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. ”Baker fought really hard to play, he’s a competitor and obviously wants to be out there but just couldn’t make it on a short week.
”We know he will continue to do everything in his power to return as quickly as possible.”
Mayfield was limited in practice on Tuesday, when he said he still expected to play. However, it was decided it would be best for him to rest, ending Mayfield’s streak of 53 consecutive starts for Cleveland.
The loss of Mayfield means the Browns’ entire starting backfield has been wiped out by injuries.
Not only will they be missing Mayfield against the Broncos (3-3) in an important game for both teams, but running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s top running back tandem, also will sit out with calf injuries.
Cleveland could be missing star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as well due to a shoulder injury, and starting offensive tackles Jack Conklin (knee) and Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) haven’t practiced this week and could be game-time decisions.
On Tuesday, Mayfield was still planning to play despite a shoulder tear that was affecting his play and sleep. The 26-year-old underwent an MRI on Monday and the results were examined by a shoulder specialist.
Mayfield is dealing with swelling that needs to go down before he can strengthen the injured area.
The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2013 when he was a walk-on at Texas Tech.
Mayfield was adamant that the decision on whether he would play would be his alone, but also understood he needed to do what was best for the Browns.
”I have to make that decision. Only I know how my body feels,” he said. ”And if anyone questions whether I’m hindering the team in going out there injured, that’s just not right. So it’s my decision, I get to say whether I’m able to play or not, and that’s just how it is.”
By sitting out against the Broncos, Mayfield will have some extra time to rest and heal because the Browns don’t play again until Oct. 31 against Pittsburgh.
Mayfield has been wearing a harness to stabilize his shoulder since getting hurt on Sept. 19. He said Tuesday that the pain in his shoulder had increased after he twice had it pop out in Sunday’s loss to Houston.
Mayfield had several uneven performances since getting hurt while trying to make a tackle after an interception. His completion percentage has plummeted in recent weeks and he had three turnovers – two fumbles and a pick – against the Texans.
Keenum has made 62 career NFL starts, most recently for Washington in 2019. The 33-year-old was signed as a free agent before last season by the Browns to back up and serve as a mentor for Mayfield.
He also had a strong knowledge of Cleveland’s offense after working with Stefanski in Minnesota.
Keenum had his best season in 2017 with the Vikings, passing for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has thrown just 13 passes in four games in two years with the Browns.
Nick Mullens is expected to be elevated from the practice squad to serve as Keenum’s backup.
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