Baker Mayfield's career has taken many turns, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback still isn't afraid of getting into it with an opponent.
The pregame battle this week came courtesy of Detroit Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who took a notable shot at Mayfield after their divisional round matchup was set up. The Buccaneers will travel to face the Lions on Sunday.
In comments published Monday by the Detroit Free Press, Gardner-Johnson praised Tampa Bay's wide receiver duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, while saying they would benefit from a "good" quarterback:
“This group probably is one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group,” Gardner-Johnson said. “If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. Evans, Godwin, (Russell) Gage, that’s a great group. I played against them for real.”
Gardner-Johnson had to figure Mayfield would see that. What he might not have figured was that Mayfield would seize upon a very clear error in said trash talk.
Asked Wednesday, Mayfield calmly pointed out that Gardner-Johnson might not be an expert on the Bucs because he suggested Russell Gage was among the team's standout wide receivers. Gage, who had 426 receiving yards for Tampa Bay last season, has has not played at all in 2023-24 after tearing a patellar tendon in training camp.
Mayfield's full response, via JC Allen of BucsGameday:
"I don't think he's really watched film because he mentioned Russell Gage. You know, we love Russell, but he hasn’t played a snap this year for us. He must be going off the preseason stuff the media was talking about, but he didn't play our first game so I'm excited to see him.
"I think he's a really good player. He has been for a while. He's been an impactful guy on every team he's been on. He's a good player but, yeah, just got to do a little bit more film study."
This isn't the first time the question of whether Mayfield really should be the guy for the Buccaneers has come up, but it had been much quieter as of late. The former Cleveland Browns starter and first overall pick posted career highs in passing yards (4,044) and passing touchdowns (28) with 7.1 yards per pass attempt and 10 interceptions.
That performance was good enough to win the NFC South for the Bucs and get them past the free-falling Philadelphia Eagles in the wild-card round. The Lions figure to present a stiffer challenge, like they did when they held Mayfield to 206 passing yards, zero touchdowns and an interception in a 20-6 win in October, but Mayfield has already proven enough points this season that a little dig isn't going to get to him.
Especially when that dig comes with an easy comeback.