Baker Mayfield missed another Rose Bowl event Friday morning, his third such absence in three days. He did, however, practice with the Oklahoma team later in the day. The OU camp is saying he has “an illness,” though apparently not a serious one if he’s, you know, out there practicing. There’s some belief that a cold/flu thing has left him hoarse.
It’s unclear whether the Heisman winner will attend Saturday’s media day session. Also unclear is the nature of his infirmity. Those Sooner speakers on hand Friday were disinclined to shed any light.
Offensive coordinator Cale Gundy: “Baker being at practice is something that's going to be left up to coach (Lincoln) Riley to talk about. Obviously you saw him out there (Thursday), so we'll just leave it at that.
Tight end Mark Andrews: “Same thing.”
Fullback Dimitri Flowers: “You're going to have to ask coach Riley about that tomorrow.”
Left tackle Orlando Brown, who’s from Peachtree Ridge High, was asked how it felt not to have Mayfield at three public events: “I don't know if he feels absent, but not having him there has been a little weird, and obviously not having him here at this press conference is a little weird. He's kind of our heartbeat, and it's been a little weird with him not being around as much.”
Some of us media types wonder if Mayfield’s illness is, shall we say, a tad convenient. There’s a bit of Johnny Manziel in him, in that he’s the center of attention no matter where he goes, whether it’s planting the OU flag on Ohio State’s logo or grabbing a certain bodily region in reaction to taunts from Kansas players. (Wouldn’t pointing to the scoreboard have sufficed?) And, like Manziel, Mayfield has both a Heisman Trophy and an arrest record.
Conspiracy theory time: Mayfield says, “Coach, I’ve got a sore throat,” and Riley’s response is, “That’s it! You’re not doing any media stuff – but be on time for practice.” That would keep him from saying anything to rile any Georgia Bulldog, which wouldn’t be a bad a thing if you’re a Sooner.
Roquan Smith, the great Georgia linebacker, met Mayfield at the college football awards show in Atlanta. He describes Mayfield as “a great guy, a standup guy, first-class.” Smith also said: “Regardless of what's wrong with him, he's going to do his best to play in that game, and I'm sure he'll be in that game.”
In the grand scheme, Mayfield’s absences will doubtless be much ado about not very much. But when you have five days of media availability and the first three pass without a word from the most famous collegiate player in the land, we have to fill the void with something, do we not?