BEREA — Baker Mayfield needs to make more friends.

The Browns rookie quarterback admitted Wednesday he's been surprised by inconsistent officiating as it relates to some of the hits he has absorbed this season.

"It's very surprising," Mayfield said as the Browns (2-6-1) prepared for Sunday's home game against the Atlanta Falcons (4-4). "It's funny to see some of the referees chit-chat with guys on the field. I don't know. I think as the years go on, we'll get better relationships, and we'll see as it goes and we improve as a team, too."

The implication is established quarterbacks on good teams get more calls than rookie quarterbacks on bad teams.

But was the officiating just as inconsistent when Mayfield played at the University of Oklahoma?

"No, I had a bunch of friends out there," Mayfield said, drawing laughter from reporters. "So it was good."

The topic became relevant again after Mayfield's outing in Sunday's 37-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was interrupted. He missed the final three plays of the third quarter after safety Ron Parker hit him in the helmet as defensive tackle Chris Jones sacked him.

No penalty was called, but the medical spotter required Mayfield to be examined. He was cleared to return to the game after being checked for a concussion in the medical tent on the sideline and immediately threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Duke Johnson on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Mayfield didn't want to comment on Parker's hit during his postgame news conference because he wanted to see a replay first. Three days later, after watching the hit on film, Mayfield said, "I think it would be more frustrating if it hurt."

Was he frustrated a flag wasn't thrown?

"I was more frustrated they took me out of the game, to be honest with you," he said. "But they're protecting me. They're doing their job. So I mean ultimately what can I complain about?

"There's a lot of criticism on the helmet-to-helmet stuff because they're trying to find the consistency, and with each referee, they're all different how they see those hits and how they see it in action. ... So they're tying to figure it out, too."

Mayfield and the Browns were furious Oct. 21 when Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit to the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft as he started to slide. No penalty was called. The NFL later admitted Whitehead should have been flagged and fined him $26,739 for unnecessary roughness.

Whether Parker will receive a fine remains to be seen. The league has been disclosing fines to media on Saturday evenings.

Left tackle decision

Interim coach Gregg Williams wouldn't tip his hand on who he'll start at left offensive tackle against the Falcons, but Mayfield and left guard Joel Bitonio spoke as if they believe veteran Greg Robinson will receive the nod over undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison.

"Every day is an interview and both of them are taking reps," Williams said. "By the end of the week, we'll make [the decision we feel is] best."

Robinson made his starting debut with the Browns on Sunday while Harrison sat out with an illness. Mayfield gave Robinson two shout-outs right after the game for playing well. Harrison returned to practice Wednesday.

Mayfield explained he liked that Robinson, the second overall pick in 2014 who previously played for the Rams and Detroit Lions, didn't hesitate when given an opportunity.

"I think for Greg, he needs people to support him," Mayfield said. "I think it comes down to it, we believe in Greg. We trust he's more than capable of playing at this level and doing it at a very high level, and so we saw that on Sunday. We saw him be physical. We saw him do his job. We saw him communicate, and that's the most important thing. We have to be able to do that. We trust he does that."

Bitonio said it would be beneficial for Harrison to watch Robinson.

"It gives him a chance to work on individual tactics, individual things that were getting him beat or things that he wants to improve on, and I think it’s big for him," Bitonio said. "He needs to take a breath, see where he is at the halfway point.

"That’s what you need to do to improve in the NFL because after a few weeks, people have a game plan. If he’s not handling the bull rush well, people are going to be like, ‘Bull rush him,’ or if he’s not handling the twist, twist on him. It’s the NFL. They have tape on everything, so to take a chance to regroup and really improve the fundamentals of the game will help him."

He's a Saint

Free-agent wide receiver Dez Bryant reportedly agreed to a one-year contract Wednesday with the New Orleans Saints. The Browns hosted the former three-time Pro Bowler and Dallas Cowboys player in August.

Former Browns coach Hue Jackson appeared Wednesday on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" while his media tour continued and addressed why the Browns didn't sign Bryant.

"As an organization, at that time, didn’t feel like it was the right fit," Jackson said. "Also, in fairness to Dez, I didn’t think he felt like it was the right fit at that time. Both sides have to come together, and it’s got to work for everybody. And at that time, it just didn’t work out."

Mack to return

Drafting Alex Mack in 2009 finally was paying off with winning in 2014.

The Browns were playing with attitude that carried into an October game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were dominating the Steelers in the first half before Mack left with a season-ending injury and went on to a 31-10 win.

The mood was gone by the time Mack returned to play his final year for the Browns, on a 3-13 team in 2015. He left as a free agent and will come back Sunday as the center for the Falcons.

Mack endeared himself to Atlanta fans by playing through a serious leg injury in the 2016 Super Bowl game, which became an overtime loss to the New England Patriots. At 32 (he turns 33 next week), Mack is having a strong year.

"Alex, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Tevin Coleman are the guys who enable us to push the envelope with the things we do," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said during a conference call. "It's hard to measure the impact Alex has had for us, with the standards he sets as a pro, playing through a fractured leg, playing through injuries. He has the ability to take it further.

"We have a time after practice we call Plan B, and every day he's at the front and center of that, always challenging to see how good he can get."

In 10 seasons, Mack has played every down of every game except the ones he missed in 2014. He played 101 games for the Browns.

— Steve Doerschuk

The Browns followed up a trip to Pittsburgh by firing their head coach and offensive coordinator and then falling apart on defense against the Chiefs.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who might have been a Brown, has found the aftermath of a trip to Pittsburgh more to its liking.

The Falcons got shellacked 41-17 at Heinz Field on Oct. 7 to plunge their record to 1-4. Since then, they have knocked off the Bucs, the New York Giants and Washington to regain contact with NFC wild-card contenders.

"The main thing was to stay the course," Quinn said. "We knew what we were doing was right. We had to do what we were doing, but better."

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam considered inviting Quinn to be his head coach in 2014, but Quinn was busy coordinating the Seattle Seahawks' defense in their second consecutive trip to a Super Bowl. Haslam instead gave the job to Mike Pettine. Quinn said at the Super Bowl he had been very interested but wished Pettine well.

Quinn had to wait another year for his head-coaching shot. After going 8-8 with the Falcons in 2015, he led them to the Super Bowl, where they lost 34-28 in overtime to the Patriots on Feb. 5, 2017. The Falcons were 10-6 last season.

Quinn credits Matt Ryan, in his 11th year with the Falcons, with being an exemplary leader. Ryan's 115.1 passer rating ranks fourth in the league behind Drew Brees (120.6), Patrick Mahomes (116.7) and Philip Rivers (116.5).

The Browns will have faced all four of those quarterbacks after dealing with Ryan.

Quinn says he learned early on not to take Ryan's calm outward demeanor the wrong way.

"He's a wolf in sheep's clothing," Quinn said. "He goes for it in each and every way.

"I wish you could come here and see how he prepares. The guys totally believe in him."

— Steve Doerschuk