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Browns to start QB Case Keenum in place of injured Baker Mayfield vs. Broncos

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With Baker Mayfield dealing with a completely torn labrum in his left shoulder, the Cleveland Browns announced that backup quarterback Case Keenum will start against the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

This will be the first NFL start Mayfield has ever missed due to injury, something he was trying hard to avoid. Mayfield said Tuesday that he was planning to play through the injury, because while he didn't want to harm the team, he's the only one who knows if he's able to play. 

"Obviously if I was in a physical state where I wasn't able to play to the best of my abilities and I was hurting the team, I wouldn't do that because I care about winning," Mayfield said via ESPN. "... Only I know how my body feels. If anyone questions whether I'm hindering the team and going out there injured, that's just not right. It's my decision. I get to say whether I'm able to play or not, and that's just how it is."

Despite Mayfield committing to playing through the injury, head coach Kevin Stefanski didn't commit to him as the starter. The team was also waiting for a second opinion on Mayfield's shoulder. 

The writing may have been on the wall later in the day. Keenum and Nick Mullens took all the throws during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Mayfield wasn't even on the field.

Stefanski confident in Keenum

Keenum has been with the Browns since the 2020 season, but has yet to make a start for them, thanks to Mayfield's durability. Thursday will be Keenum's first NFL start since he was with the Washington Football Team in 2019.

Despite this being Keenum's first start in nearly two years, Stefanski has faith in his ability to lead the Browns to victory.

"We have full confidence in him to lead us and do the things necessary to put us in position to win," Stefanski said in a statement. "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."