Like a storm made out of farts, Week 1 of the NFL season is approaching. The week’s matchups include a handful of potentially juicy division games and some intriguing tests for would-be contenders, though few games are narratively rich as the showdown between the Browns and Panthers, as the latter team’s quarterback used to play for the former until he was run out of town in favor of a very suspended guy who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women. Despite reported “mutual disinterest” earlier this year and despite Carolina’s best receiver publicly pooh-poohing the idea, Baker Mayfield is the Panthers’ Week 1 starter. He is clearly out for revenge.
However, the degree to which he is out for revenge has metastasized into one of the dumber late-preseason storylines. On a podcast appearance earlier this week, NFL Network analyst Cynthia Frelund relayed the story of running into Mayfield on the field after a preseason game against the Bills. Frelund was a bit cagy about the specific language she and Mayfield used, but said she encouraged him to “kick some butt” and he responded by saying, “I’m gonna [BLEEP] them up!” When asked if he specifically said, “I’m gonna fuck them up,” Frelund confirmed, though she later clarified that she was the first person to use the phrase “fuck them up,” and he echoed her.
A guy who has every reason to want to fuck the Cleveland Browns up—that should be the default position of every single NFL player whether or not they have ever played or even actively play for the Cleveland Browns—stating the obvious is straightforwardly uncontroversial. Given the story’s proximity to serial alleged sexual assault and the internecine violence of NFL football, a guy cussing or being 10 degrees more disrespectful than his peers is not really an interesting story. And yet, Mayfield’s comments and his ensuing denial really blew up; the Panthers’ own website covered it. Mayfield’s animus towards the Browns is decent drama, though there doesn’t seem to be anything problematic or wrong about stating one’s intentions to fuck one’s enemies up. Myles Garrett was asked about it and he gave a fairly even-keeled answer. Mayfield was asked about his comments on Wednesday, and he denied saying he wanted to fuck anyone up.
“First, I didn’t say it,” he said. “I want to win in everything I do. That’ll never change. But it’s not how I phrased it. It’s not even what I said, so let’s leave it at that.” Boring!
ESPN asked Frelund about Mayfield’s comments, and she denied his denial. “He echoed it back,” Frelund said. “It was very innocuous on his part. The tone was gracious and happy and excited.” She also tweeted that people were making a bigger deal than was warranted out of some innocuous comments (correct), and said Mayfield’s management reached out to express their unhappiness with her and she apologized. The theater of this saga is all a bit much, as everyone in the NFL world knows that Baker Mayfield 100-percent wants to fuck up the Browns, has every reason to want to fuck up the Browns, and the Browns know he wants to fuck them up.