Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield expected to play despite ankle

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday he expects quarterback Baker Mayfield to play Sunday when the Bucs host the Carolina Panthers.

Mayfield suffered a right ankle injury against the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday on a quarterback sneak at the 1-yard line. He left the game on the opening drive before returning for the second series with a heavily taped ankle.

"He's feeling a lot better," said Bowles, who conducted a walk-through Wednesday and did not mention his quarterback when asked who would have been held out had it been a full practice.

"Good, both [ankles] are good," Mayfield said Wednesday. "For me, I know this sounds kind of corny but it's kind of a mindset -- tell yourself you're able to get through it and it's just kind of mind over matter. Every injury is different -- if it's going to hinder your play, I know I've mentioned that before -- if you're hurting the team. So there's a difference between toughing it out and being smart so it's a fine line you've got to walk."

Despite being 4-7, the Bucs are just one game out of first place in the NFC South.

"You want to be out there. As a competitor, you want to be out there with your guys. You go through the weeks of practice and you want to be able to go out and do your best on game day."

Mayfield said initially the injury impacted his ability to move but it "eased up as the game went on."

The concern after the game was how Mayfield's ankle would feel after the adrenaline wore off, but an MRI on Monday revealed no fractures or significant structural damage.

In July 2022, Mayfield was traded by the Cleveland Browns to the Panthers for a conditional 2024 fourth-round draft pick. He spent seven games with them last season before he and the organization reached a mutual decision to part ways Dec. 5. He was signed by the Los Angeles Rams the following day and then by the Bucs this past offseason for a one-year contract worth up to $8.5 million.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," Mayfield said. "God's got a plan. I got to know some great teammates there and some great support staff as well. I enjoyed it. Obviously it wasn't a full season. I got to finish up in L.A. It was a time I needed to get out of Cleveland. It was a fresh start for me -- obviously it didn't pan out the way I envisioned it. But everything happens for a reason, I'm here now and I expect to have a good game against some familiar faces, and it'll be fun."