No team has been hit harder by injuries than the Cleveland Browns. The Browns had 20 players on their estimated Monday injury report in preparation for Thursday night's home game against the Denver Broncos. Among those players are quarterback Baker Mayfield, who underwent an MRI on his left shoulder the day after Cleveland's 37-14 home loss to Arizona. Despite the injury, Mayfield said on Tuesday that he expects to play on Thursday night. He said that his practice status for Tuesday had yet to be determined.
Mayfield will exercise his collectively bargained right to a second opinion on his MRI with a doctor of his choosing, according to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. Veteran Case Keenum would start in the event that Mayfield is unable to play.
Following Sunday's game, Mayfield told reporters that he dislocated his shoulder. He suffered the injury after getting hit by J.J. Watt in the third quarter. Mayfield -- who was unable to finish Sunday's game due to the injury -- had suffered a torn labrum to the same shoulder during the Browns' Week 2 win over the Texans. The injury clearly affected Mayfield's effectiveness over the Browns' next two games, as he completed just 53.1 percent of his passes in wins over the Bears and Vikings. He rebounded by completing nearly 72 percent of his passes in Cleveland's 47-42 loss to the Chargers in Week 5.
Stefanski was asked on Monday if he would consider resting Mayfield even if the team's medical staff clears him for Thursday night's game.
"With any injury, I am not the expert," Stefanski said. "I am not the medical expert so I will listen to the medical team here and will listen to the player. With every single player here, you treat them, and you have a dialogue with them. You talk to the doctors, and again, we will make good decisions and smart decisions with all of these guys."
A 10-year veteran, Keenum has a 27-35 regular-season record as a starting quarterback. In 2017, he went 11-3 as the Vikings starter in the regular season before being on the throwing end of the "Minneapolis Miracle" victory over the Saints that propelled the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. Keenum spent the following season in Denver, where he and the Broncos toiled through a 6-10 season. He went 1-7 as Washington's starting quarterback in 2019 before signing with the Browns in 2020.
Despite signing on to be Mayfield's backup, Keenum said at that time that he would keep a starter's mentality.
"I'm going to be ready to play," Keenum said, via Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal. "That's my job. I feel like I can play at a high level. I feel like I've played at a high level over the last few years. It may not have shown in some of the wins and losses, but this league is tough. There's a constant curve and kind of a gradual ebbs and flows of it, but I feel like my trend has gone up in the way I have handled games.
"I say all that to say if Baker's shoelace comes untied and he needs to maybe go get a drink of Gatorade at the water station, I'm going to be ready to go. If I need to take a few snaps, I'm going to handle myself well, and I know that I can."
Thursday's game will feature two 3-3 teams who are looking to end losing streaks. Denver has lost three straight games. The Browns have lost consecutive games and have fallen into a tie with the Steelers for last place in the AFC North.