Browns' Baker Mayfield: 'No words' for ref's explanation after hit to helmet

BEREA, Ohio -- Baker Mayfield was incredulous that referee Shawn Hochuli announced it was OK for the Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback to be hit in the head because he was a runner.

"No words," Mayfield said Wednesday of Hochuli's announcement during Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Honestly, no words."

Hochuli's statement came after officials picked up a flag, which was thrown when Mayfield was hit in the head by Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead. Mayfield had slid at the end of a 35-yard run on second-and-26 in the fourth quarter.

Replays showed Whitehead lowered his head and used the crown of his helmet to hit Mayfield in the helmet. But after a conference, the flag was picked up.

"The quarterback was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head," Hochuli said to the crowd.

Mayfield said he wasn't aware of Hochuli's announcement during the game. Crowd noise and his attention to what the Browns would do next kept him from hearing it. He seemed baffled by the announcement once he was aware of it.

"I thought that's why they put the rule in," Mayfield said.

The NFL is not commenting on the decision, but a source said the league is aware Whitehead should have been penalized for one of two infractions: unnecessary roughness for a hit to the head of a sliding player, or unsportsmanlike conduct for using his helmet to hit a player.

Whitehead could be fined. If he is, it would be made public on Friday.

"It was probably a mistake on his [Hochuli's] part," Browns guard Joel Bitonio said. "[Hochuli] probably didn't want to say that."

Added teammate Jabrill Peppers: "They make sure we know the rules. But when they pick and choose when they enforce them, that's kind of a problem. I try to stay away from what the guys in the stripes are doing. Nobody's perfect."

The Browns have lamented several calls by officials that have gone against them this season, including some that affected the score. Mayfield channeled those feelings when asked what it might take for a penalty to be called on that particular play.

"Probably not playing quarterback for the Browns," he said.

Mayfield added, though, that the non-call did not decide Sunday's game.

"It's easy to point and blame certain calls during a game, but if we're scoring points, we can take the refs out of the game," Mayfield said. "We can eliminate all those things to where we're not counting on having a good call. We can do the things right to where none of that really matters."