NFC Notes: Desmond Ridder, Falcons, Packers, Panthers, Baker Mayfield


Falcons’ third-round QB Desmond Ridder said he is working on relaying play calls from HC Arthur Smith to the huddle. 

“Being able to pick them up and spit them out, that’s kind of just been my challenge,” Ridder said, via Michael Rothstein of ESPN. “And where I’ve been able to grow the most throughout this entire thing.”

Falcons QBs coach Charles London called Ridder a “natural leader” and the locker room has been very receptive to him. 

“Guys kind of gravitate to him,” London said. “He’s a natural leader, and leadership is hard. It’s hard to judge somebody’s leadership. People can tell you he’s a leader, but most guys that are really great leaders, they lead by their own style, their own way.”

Smith thinks Ridder is “light-years ahead” of the typical rookie quarterback around the NFL. 

“Some of the physical things you’ll see in time will catch up,” Smith said. “But he’s light-years ahead of most young quarterbacks from the neck up, and I will give him that compliment.”


Packers CB Rico Gafford said that he didn’t anticipate converting from receiver to cornerback this offseason after signing with the team in January. 

“No, I didn’t know I was going to corner,” Gafford said, via Bill Huber of FanNation. “We showed up for offseason workouts and I was with the receivers, with the offense. I was learning the playbook, doing routes on air and going over certain plays and all that stuff.”

Gafford mentioned that HC Matt LaFleur approached him about changing positions following the 2022 NFL Draft. 

“After the draft, Coach LaFleur came up to me and was like, ‘It would be in your best interests to go back to corner. You’ll probably have a better chance of making this team,’” Gafford said. “He told me straight up, ‘We love the things that you’re doing right now. You’re showing us a lot and we see that you can play.’”

Gafford is embracing his new role as a defensive back. 

“Playing DB is what I love. That’s who I am,” Gafford said. “Just being out there, being able to compete, I just have a different type of feeling when I’m out there. I would explain it as having more swag out there. That’s what I would say. I just love it because I can really be myself.”


Panthers QB Baker Mayfield‘s reputation definitely precedes him as he arrives in Carolina, as he’s an infamously strong personality and it led to conflicts with certain teammates in Cleveland. That edge and chip on his shoulder is also one of his assets as a leader at the position, so figuring out a better balance with his second team is a priority for Mayfield. 

“There was a lot of lessons and experiences that I learned from when it comes to keeping some things in-house, but also being myself. That’s why I was drafted there, to help turn that place around and be the best version of myself,” Mayfield said via the Athletic’s Joe Person. “I think it’s easy to get lost in stories and media at the same time. It’s tricky to balance.”

Mayfield said he’s had discussions with Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and HC Matt Rhule about how to walk the line. Being a fiery player is good when it energizes teammates, not when it burns them. 

“They want me to be myself and to be a good leader, be a great teammate. But I’ve always been vocal and being able to bring guys (up) and elevate them,” Mayfield said. “There’s balance. But that competitive nature, that’ll never go away. If I do that, then I shouldn’t be playing anymore.”

Fitterer worked for a long time with a Seahawks team built around channeling those types of personalities, so he says it’s something he’s comfortable with. 

“I love the fact that he’s competitive and fiery, coming from a place in Seattle where we had a lot of those personalities,” he said. “I think that’s a key component to a team that wins, is having guys that are fiery, are emotional, that do want to win, that just means so much to them.”

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