Calmer feet of Bucs’ Baker Mayfield reflect a quiet confidence

TAMPA ― Baker Mayfield always has battled his emotions and the expectations that come with being a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

He plays with a fire that is both inspiring and unnerving, especially when he flees the pocket in an attempt to extend a play or make something happen running the football.

But the Bucs would like to see Mayfield do more with his arm and less with his feet, something the 29-year-old quarterback has been working hard at this offseason.

“You try to improve everything, but for me right now (it’s) slowing my feet down a little bit,” Mayfield said Tuesday. “I’ve always kind of had constantly moving feet like some of the QBs do. But just slowing it down to where I’m not passing up progressions and staying smooth through that process. Just going through it and being decisive with the ball.”

Mayfield has to adjust to a new offense under new coordinator Liam Coen, new responsibilities to take multiple plays to the line of scrimmage and new targets such as rookie receiver Jalen McMillan.

Despite the changes, he’s more comfortable than he was this time a year ago, when he was battling Kyle Trask for the starting job and joining his fourth team in about 18 months.

Mayfield signed a three-year, $100 million contract in March, settled down by buying a new home with his wife, Emily, on Davis Islands and is a first-time father to Kova Jade, who turned 8 weeks old on Tuesday.

On the field, things also are shaping up nicely for Mayfield in his second season with the Bucs.

“It’s a lot of continuing the chemistry we had with the skill guys last year, carrying that over,” he said. “And then just offensively, scheme-wise, getting everybody on the same page. It’s really awesome that we have everybody here on offense, just going through that. ... Just trying to get to know the younger guys. But we’ve got a lot of guys that have promise, so that’s what you want to see.”

Ironically, it’s in improving the NFL’s worst run game of the past two seasons where Mayfield may have the most impact.

“There’s a lot more responsibility at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “A lot more double play calls to where you’re having to get your guys in the right position. But as a quarterback, you want that responsibility or accountability. You always want to put your guys in the best position to have success. Now Liam is giving us the opportunity with a couple play calls to be able to do that.”

Mayfield also addressed some of the changes he is coping with this offseason, from the “holdout” of tackle Tristan Wirfs to getting used to new rookie weapons and balancing expectations with unfinished business.

As for Wirfs, Mayfield’s bestie on the club who is not participating in voluntary organized team activities, Mayfield couldn’t draw many parallels to his contract situation.

“Our situations are different, because he is kind of under a fifth-year option,” Mayfield said of Wirfs’ deal, which would pay him $18.244 million this season. “There’s a difference there, whereas it was free agency with mine.

“But you know, when it comes down to Tristan, everybody knows he’s a team guy. At a certain point, does he deserve to be paid? Absolutely. The guy’s a stud. He took to the transition from right to left (tackle) with ease. Better than I think he thought he was going to.

“But you just trust in that process, and I know he’s probably more eager to get back here and get the deal done than anybody else. We’re not holding out on the friendship, even though he’s holding out on us.”

While attendance for the voluntary offseason workouts has been strong — fewer than a handful of players were absent Tuesday — Mayfield has used them to try to build chemistry with new weapons, such as McMillan and rookie running back Bucky Irving.

“Jalen has got such a natural feel as a receiver,” Mayfield said. “He’s extremely smooth, one of those guys that doesn’t look like he’s really covering a lot of ground because it looks effortless, but he really is. He’s a guy who can run every route you have in your route tree. ... He always attacks the ball when it’s in the air, which is great to see for a young guy.

“Bucky, obviously, it’s a little hard in the run game with no pads on, but one thing I’ll say — and obviously he’s got good hands — but when he decides to cut it upfield north and south, he goes.”

For Mayfield, his second season with the Bucs will give him a chance to become a more vocal leader both inside and outside the huddle.

“Last year was trying to learn the system on the fly, getting to know teammates as well,” he said. “Balancing that with performance versus getting to know everybody and trying to be a leader. ... I’m vocal, but most of the time I’m only vocal when I need to be.

“You never want to feel comfortable. Yeah, is it great knowing I’m going to be here for a couple years? Of course. It means I get to settle in here, be myself even more so and push these guys to the next level, and that’s a good feeling.”

The chaos of the past three seasons now behind him, there is only calm for Mayfield.

“When I say calm my feet, sometimes I process information pretty quickly and my feet get out of whack a little bit,” he said. “For me, obviously, when it comes to playing football, you can always run for a first down or whatever you’ve got to do. But it’s not drifting in the pocket, not putting extra stress on these guys up front and just going though in a balanced setting and trying to hang in there the best way possible.’

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