According to Buffalo Bills sideline reporter Cynthia Frelund, Mayfield told her, “I’m gonna [expletive] them up” during a postgame conversation following the Panthers’ 21-0 victory last Friday at Bank of America Stadium.
Frelund shared details of her chat with Mayfield while appearing on an episode of the “Around the NFL” podcast, posted on Monday night, alongside Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler and Gregg Rosenthal. Frelund also works for NFL Network as an analytics expert.
Before detailing the conversation, Hanzus asked Frelund about her interaction with Mayfield.
“You ran into Baker Mayfield, the former Browns quarterback, recently,” Hanzus said. “I was hoping you could share an exchange that you had.”
Frelund responded by sharing her on-field interaction with Mayfield after the preseason finale between the Panthers and Bills.
“I was like, ‘Kick some butt.’ I didn’t say that word,” she said laughing, as she recounted her conversation with Mayfield. “... Go kick some butt, especially Week 1, I like cannot wait. And he uses some expletives. ... He’s like, ‘I’m gonna bleep them up.’ ”
Hanzus asked Frelund, “’I’m gonna f*** them up.’ Is that what his quote was?”
In response, Frelund said, “I don’t say curse words on air. I do not want to get in trouble.”
Hanzus again asked Frelund, “But was that the quote?” She responded “yes.”
A Panthers spokesperson on Tuesday said neither the team nor Mayfield will be available to speak publicly until their next scheduled interviews on Wednesday.
Also Tuesday, Frelund replied to the fervor over the comments on Twitter.
“Oh boy, this is silly,” she wrote. “Don’t make this more than it is. I was wishing him good luck, colorfully. He agreed with me, colorfully. What do you expect anyone to do in this situation…”
Speaking exclusively with The Charlotte Observer, Frelund said her intentions came from a positive place when she spoke to Mayfield after the game.
“I was like, ‘Go be the Comeback Player of the Year.’ I was encouraging someone who I believe has had a hard offseason. I was happy for him,” Frelund said. “It wasn’t like he came up to me in any sort of angry tone. Nothing was like that. It was all rooted in positivity, moving forward, and being in a good spot.”
Frelund said she should not have shared their private conversation without permission from the Panthers or Mayfield.
“I shouldn’t have spoken about our private conversation. I used bad judgment in that I should have asked him first, and/or cleared it with him before I said it,” Frelund said. “But I was truly just defending a person who I believe in and want to see good things for.”
As an NFL Network analyst, Frelund said she hopes most NFL players succeed on and off the field. She wants every team to be good and have fun because the NFL product is best when everyone is at their best, she said.
Frelund said she does not have an “anti-Browns” agenda.
“It’s frustrating,” she said, “because it feels like the narrative shifts from something that was very positive to something that’s negative.”
Her positive postgame conversation with Mayfield snowballed into potential bulletin board material for the Browns and a possible distraction for Carolina. Frelund said she has not directly spoken to Mayfield, though she reached out privately.
“I’m not going to waste his time with this. If he would like to speak to me about it, I am happy to speak to him about it. But I’m not going to waste his time,” Frelund said. “This is a non-story, in my opinion. And for anyone to think it’s a story is just using Baker, in my opinion.”
Mayfield was recently named the Panthers starting quarterback after the team acquired him from the Browns in early July for a conditional fifth-round pick. Mayfield agreed to trim $3.5 million off his $18.9 million base salary to join Carolina. The Browns are paying $10.5 million of his contract while the Panthers took on about $5 million.
Since arriving in Charlotte, Mayfield quickly established himself as QB1. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he’s been impressed with how fast Mayfield picked up Ben McAdoo’s offense.
The team is embracing his leadership. On Monday, center Bradley Bozeman said Mayfield is “a guy you want to play for.”
In his most recent public comments, on Aug. 22, Mayfield acknowledged the game against the Browns on Sept. 11 will be more than “just a game.”
“Not going to sit here and be a robot and say it doesn’t mean anything,” Mayfield said at the time. “It will.”
Back in July, general manager Scott Fitterer said he consulted a lot of people about Mayfield before trading for him. He said the team heard enough good things to feel comfortable acquiring Mayfield, the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“A lot of people really went to bat for Baker,” Fitterer said. “I think there are a lot of circumstances with why things happen. … But we’re very comfortable with Baker. We’re excited to add him to the room and look forward to working with him.”
Since adding him to the room, the Panthers have lost rookie quarterback Matt Corral and backup Sam Darnold for extended time. Corral was placed on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury and Darnold hurt his ankle against Buffalo. Rhule said the team expects him out at least four weeks.
With 53-man rosters due at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Mayfield and P.J. Walker are the only healthy Panthers quarterbacks at practice. Rhule said the team will start preparing for their game against the Browns after cuts are made.
Carolina opens its season against the Browns on Sept. 11 at Bank of America Stadium.