Browns’ Mayfield out with shoulder injury, Keenum starting

Denver Broncos

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) fumbles and is injured on a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will sit out Thursday’s game against the Denver Broncos with a painful left shoulder injury and backup Case Keenum will start.

Cleveland announced the quarterback switch on Wednesday, ending speculation about whether Mayfield would try to push through an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that he suffered last month and has worsened in recent weeks.

“Case Keenum will be our starter tomorrow night and we have full confidence in him to lead us and do the things necessary to put us in position to win,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “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.”

Mayfield was limited in practice on Tuesday when he said he still expected to play. However, it was decided it would be best for him to rest, ending his streak of 53 consecutive starts for Cleveland.

Not only will the Browns (3-3) be missing Mayfield against the Broncos (3-3) in an important game for both teams, but running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s top running back tandem, also will sit out with calf injuries.

Cleveland could be missing star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. due to a shoulder injury, and starting offensive tackles Jack Conklin (knee) and Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) haven’t practiced this week and could be game-time decisions.

Keenum has made 62 career NFL starts, most recently for Washington in 2019. The 33-year-old was signed before last season by the Browns to back up and serve as a mentor for Mayfield.

Keenum also had a strong knowledge of Cleveland’s offense after working with Stefanski in Minnesota.

Keenum had his best season in 2017 with the Vikings, passing for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

By sitting out against the Broncos, Mayfield will have some extra time to rest and heal because the Browns don’t play again until Oct. 31 against Pittsburgh.

The 26-year-old Mayfield has been wearing a harness to stabilize his shoulder since getting hurt on Sept. 19. He said Tuesday that the pain in his shoulder had increased after he twice had it pop out in Sunday’s loss to Houston.

Mayfield had several uneven performances since getting hurt last month while trying to make a tackle after an interception. His completion percentage has plummeted in recent weeks and he had three turnovers — two fumbles and a pick — against the Texans.

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