Sam Darnold ‘cool’ with Baker Mayfield ahead of competition: ‘In our eyes, we’re both the starting QB’

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Sam Darnold reported for Carolina Panthers training camp Tuesday, ready to battle Baker Mayfield for the starting quarterback job heading into the 2022 season.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the Mayfield trade, Darnold said both QBs see themselves as starters.

“It’s always fun to compete and to be able to have someone to compete with,” he said Tuesday. “At the same time, in our eyes, we’re both the starting quarterback for this team right now, and that’s how we’re going to view it.”

By all accounts, Darnold enjoyed an excellent offseason, with the coaching staff gushing about how much he improved from a wayward first season in Carolina. But the Panthers still swung the trade for Mayfield, which now pits the 2018 first-round picks against each other.

Darnold expects the competition to bring out the best in the QBs.

“Any time you bring someone of Baker’s competitive level — the way he competes out there on Sundays, and not only on Sundays but also on the practice field — it can only help the room, and it can only help our team,” he said.

In his first season as the Panthers starter, Darnold struggled, completing 59.9 percent of his passes with a 9-13 TD-INT ratio and earned a career-low 71.9 passer rating (29th in the NFL). Darnold’s propensity to take sacks and be loose with the ball has characterized his play through four seasons in the NFL.

Darnold noted that while the on-field battle with Mayfield will be hot, he harbors no negative feelings towards his new teammate.

“Me and Baker are cool,” he said. “… We’re going to be able to compete and have fun with it. But at the end of the day, this is a business, and we both take our craft and what we do very seriously. So it’s going to be very serious when it’s time to compete. But off the field and all that stuff, me and Baker are really cool.”

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