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BEREA, Ohio – Two years ago, on Monday night football against the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Brown quarterback Baker Mayfield tried to escape his pocket to pull a pass down the field. But as he slumped to the right of him, Nick Bosa easily tracked him down from behind to force him to make a deliberate foul.
Bosa, an alum in Ohio State, then rubbed in the dominance, mimicking Mayfield’s famous flag factory in 2017 at Ohio Stadium to celebrate the big game. Just as the flag factory after the victory over the Buckeyes defined Mayfield’s fine college career in Oklahoma, Bosa’s scorn underlined it with the Brown’s quarterback’s matches in 2019.
That season, Mayfield was consistently unable to evade the rush of delivering completions. Although his offensive line was of little help, Mayfield was fired 40 times, second most in the AFC. He also threw 21 interceptions. His footwork was a mess, and he could not get set up fast enough to aim passes at open receivers.
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Mayfield knew he needed a change. More specifically, a physical transformation that would require a revision of his offseason regimen and daily eating habits. He said he felt too slow and too heavy. And among other reasons, his performance suffered.
One and a half years later, after a drastic commitment to eat smarter and exercise more, Mayfield is in the best shape of his career.
He has reduced his body fat from 18 to 11%. He lost 14 pounds despite adding 4 pounds of muscle and now weighs 214, which is lighter than what his stated weight was in Oklahoma. He can do almost twice as many pushups in one stint as before (45 from 25). And he has hit new personal heights in everything from squats to the vertical jump.
His performance on the field has also taken a leap. Mayfield finished the 2020 season in the top 10 of the QBR (65.5), leading the Browns to the record season for the first time since 2002. He reduced his wicket to a total of eight and took just 26 sacks, thanks in part to a far better offensive line .
Cleveland’s opening run in the loss Sunday of Week 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs – a game in which he went toe-to-toe with MVP Patrick Mahomes in 2019 – was the latest example of how far Mayfield has come.
He danced away from a cantrusher to dump a finish to a close end Austin Hooper; joked through pressure to roll a 7-yard run off; then he rolled to the left and effortlessly turned his hips around to deliver a 22-yard strike to Anthony Schwartz across the field on a third down, creating a possible Brown touchdown.
The results of his offseason regime are clear to see. But for all the effort he has made and the discipline he has maintained, Mayfield did not reach this point on his own. Strength trainer CJ McFarland, nutritionist Angie Asche, his brother – and training partner – Matt and wife, Emily, have all starred in his success story.
“It certainly requires a village, there is no doubt about that,” Mayfield said last week. “CJ has been great for my out-of-season routine and Angie, also on the diet, has been incredible. … Going to the gym with your brother every morning out of season has been a lot of fun. And then it’s also pretty nice to come home and have a homemade meal.
“I’ve never been in it myself.”
‘It is certainly noticeable’
After the 2019 season, Matt, Baker’s older brother, connected him with McFarland, then a strength coach in Austin, Texas and former world champion in powerlifting. For the past two offseasons, the Mayfield brothers met in McFarland’s gym four mornings a week for grueling two hours of training.
“I was looking for a place to train, but more importantly, Baker would be looking for a place to train,” said Matt, who had heard of McFarland through a friend. “We realized pretty quickly that CJ knew what the hell he was doing.”
Baker and his brother began training at McFarland’s fitness center in early June 2020. Their morning focused on strength training to strengthen Baker’s core. Lift in the lower body took place on Mondays and Fridays, with upper body work coming Tuesdays and Thursdays. McFarland also designed lifts specifically around the protection of Baker’s right throw shoulder. Dumbbell extends displaced bench presses, distributing stress away from the shoulder. To strengthen and stabilize it, McFarland got Baker to make one-armed hand wall presses and a host of resistance band exercises.
In addition, McFarland tailored the conditioning to mimic a football game with quick breaks for up to 10 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest.
“It would be him who returns to the huddle, calls the play and gets going again,” McFarland said.
In his eighth week of work with McFarland, Baker Mayfield flew to Cleveland for some commercial shots before training camp.
“One of the first things he told me was that when he came back to Cleveland, he smoked everyone in the fitness test and did extremely well,” McFarland said. “I know he felt really good and peaked perfectly in time for the preseason.”
Mayfield responded with his relapse year in 2020, saying he feels even better in 2021 after 16 weeks more training with McFarland last season.
“I’m not trying to tell him how much better he looks, because I clearly do not want to add to his ego,” joked McFarland, who has since taken an internship on the LSU force staff, meaning the Mayfield brothers will need a new one. place to train next season. “But he’s a ton stronger and more powerful than he was last season.”
Mayfield says he can feel the difference, especially when he performs sudden, explosive actions. He also feels more efficient with his movement inside his pocket, which has kept sharpening his throwing mechanics and footwork.
“It’s definitely noticeable,” Matt Mayfield said, comparing his brother’s form to last season.
“The explosiveness, you saw some of it last year, you’re going to see even more of it this year.”
‘Diet just becomes your lifestyle’
Baker Mayfield played the 2019 season with the heaviest weight of his career. Some of it was designed. But some of it was not. He had been married that summer, and various injuries prevented him from conditioning often when the season started. Playing heavily messed with his footwork and beating his ability to escape his pocket.
When he started training with McFarland in 2020, Mayfield weighed over 227 pounds.
Brown’s coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt challenged him to get lighter in the offseason. That prompted his wife, Emily, to introduce him to Asche, a college friend from the University of Nebraska.
Asche gave Mayfield a seven-page assessment to complete and examined his blood tests to determine if there were any deficiencies in his diet. From there, she formulated a plan to improve his body composition.
“There were no things in his diet like quinoa or sweet potatoes, so I was just trying to add a lot more nutritious foods, to get more of those micronutrients and things like vitamins and minerals, things that were supposed to help him recover,” he said. Ash.
“But really, it was just understanding portioning for him. He can still have his Mexican food, he can still have tequila now and then. It really is the portion size that is going to make or break these body composition goals. ”
When Asche reconstructed Mayfield’s diet, it was Emily who enforced it and prepared the meals, especially the dinner, according to Asche’s specifications and Mayfield’s tastes.
“He’s not a big fisherman,” Asche said. “Salmon is not something I have ever put on any of the weekly meal plans.”
However, Mayfield can tolerate cod. Fried vegetables and honey chicken thighs have become hits in the Mayfield household. Asche also regularly includes Mexican dishes like burrito bowls in the plan to satisfy his craving.
“After a while, diet just becomes your lifestyle,” Asche said. “It’s something he’s just doing now.”
‘It’s the kind of achievement you get’
With his newfound fluid movement on the move, Mayfield completed 5-for-5 passes for 94 yards on play-action throws and 5-for-5 for 101 yards against the blitz in Cleveland’s dazzling first half against the Chiefs.
“He’s done an excellent job of getting his body ready,” Van Pelt said. “He did the same last year. And it shows in his speed … the footwork. He has made leaps that way, especially under center with what we ask him to do in the dropback game. He has made great strides. “
Despite the possible loss to Kansas City, the Browns showed they have the potential to stick with the NFL’s best. The little things that have led to Mayfield’s new body are a big reason.
“When you put all the components together – training, eating properly, sleeping properly,” McFarland said, “that’s what makes the Cleveland Browns go back to the playoffs for the first time in two decades.
“When you put it all together that Baker has, it’s the kind of performance you get.”