Qb-Receiver Tandem Of Baker Mayfield And Sterling Shepard Are Excited To Be Reunited With Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Sterling Shepard drinks between drills during NFL football practice Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Sterling Shepard drinks between drills during NFL football practice Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
View All (2)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Baker Mayfield jumpstarted his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now, the quarterback is hoping to help a former college teammate do the same.

Sterling Shepard, the ex-New York Giants receiver who played with the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft at Oklahoma, was contemplating retirement before signing a one-year contract providing an opportunity for a fresh start with the Bucs.

Mayfield arrived in Tampa Bay on a one-year, prove-it deal in 2023 and had his best season as a pro while resurrecting a career that stalled after stints with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

With the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner throwing for personal bests of 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns, the Bucs surged late to win a third consecutive NFC South title and make the playoffs for a franchise-record fourth straight season.

The Bucs rewarded Mayfield with a three-year contract that could be worth up to $115 million.

Without a couple of receivers this offseason because of injuries, the 29-year-old quarterback reached out to his old teammate to gauge Shepard's interest in a possible reunion.

“It’s been great. Obviously we’re down on receivers and we needed some guys to come in and step up,” Mayfield said during a mandatory three-day minicamp that concluded Thursday.

“He’s a veteran guy that’s going into year nine. He’s had some injuries in the past, but he’s looking for a fresh start,” Mayfield added. “Obviously I can relate to that part.”

Shepard was a second-round draft pick of the Giants in 2016 and had 372 receptions for 4,095 yards and 23 TDs in 90 games (74 starts) over eight seasons in New York. He had 66 catches for 872 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, however injuries have limited his production two of the past three seasons.

“I was just checking in with him. I didn’t know they were going to pull the trigger on a tryout the next day, but once they got him in, he did the rest,” said Mayfield, who thinks Shepard is a good fit for a talented group of receivers led by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

“He’s a good enough player to make it here. Bringing in competition like that is always good for everybody,” Mayfield added. “He knows he’s got to handle his business just to make this team. We’ve got a good team and just having better skill groups is going to push everybody around him.”

Shepard is excited to have an opportunity to play with Evans and Godwin, He’s also eager to do whatever he can to help some of the team’s younger receivers grow as professionals.

“A big part of the game is experience. … It’s good to have guys like Chris, Mike and I to help them out,” Shepard said.

The receiver said he spent much of this offseason in “straight dad mode," while also trying to stay in shape in the event a team called to express interest in signing him.

“I love competition. Some people run from it, some people just take it face front. That’s the way it’s always been in my career, so I embrace stuff like that,” Shepard said.

Reuniting with Mayfield is a bonus.

“It’s super fun. I loved playing with him in college, said Shepard, who had 86 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 TDs while catching passes from his friend at Oklahoma in 2015.

“He’s a guy who has a lot of energy, and energy you can feed off,” Shepard added. “He wants to win games. He’s the ultimate competitor.”


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl