HC Kevin Stefanski (1.13.21)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, not practicing today will be (T) Jack Conklin with a hamstring injury, (LB) B.J. Goodson with a shoulder injury and (TE) David Njoku with a hamstring injury. We are going to get (CB) Denzel Ward and (CB) Kevin Johnson back today off of the COVID list, and (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan is back in the building today, as well.


“Big challenge this week, as you all know. The Super Bowl champs, a really, really well-coached football team with (Chiefs Head) Coach (Andy) Reid and then just talent all over the field offensively with the quarterback (Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes), who is special, and speed at all areas, and defensively multiple, they can pressure you, they can play coverage and really good in the back end in their disguise. (Chiefs S) Tyrann Mathieu is as good as it gets in terms of how he makes life hard on the quarterback and flies around the field. I have a ton of respect for him and their entire defense. Special teams-wise, (Chiefs assistant head coach/special teams coordinator) Coach (Dave) Toub does a great job with that unit. They are fast. They are very sound. In general, a huge challenge. We understand that. Going to have to have a great week of practice, and that starts today. Guys have already had their virtual meetings and then we will be on the field today this afternoon.”


On if it will take a couple days for Ward to get his wind back and how Ward will be monitored when returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list: 

“Yeah, you said it, we need to monitor all of those guys who are coming off that list. We will be mindful of how they look. We will talk to them, get some feedback from them and then work that really day by day and understand where each one of those guys are.”


On his status for the next couple of days: 

“He is probable.”


On if he is still currently on track to return to the facility tomorrow: 



On the impact of getting Ward and Johnson back this week when facing Mahomes and the Chiefs: 

“We are looking forward to getting a full complement of guys. Anytime you get good players back – again, whether it be injury or the COVID list – it is always a big boost for your entire team.”


On Callahan’s contributions this season and the challenge being without Callahan in recent weeks: 

“Obviously, anybody coming off of this list, happy to get them back. Coach Callahan has done a great job for us all season and continued to do a great job, whether in the building or out. It is a big deal for our offense and for our offensive line to get him back out there.”


On the likelihood of Conklin, Goodson and Njoku returning to practice this week and playing in Sunday’s game: 

“I would characterize it as day to day. Today, they are not practicing, but we will obviously treat them and see what tomorrow brings.”


On what makes Mahomes unique: 

“You have all seen it. We have all seen it. He is a special player. He can make every play and can make it from the pocket or outside the pocket and can move in the pocket and buy time. A really good athlete. He is a special player. Again, I think anybody who is a fan of this game recognizes that.”


On what impressed him most about QB Baker Mayfield’s first playoff game performance: 

“He was grinding this team to get a win any which way he could. That is what he has done this season. He makes plays on time, off schedule and has a great feel for the gameplan and great feel for the opponent. I think you are just seeing a continuation of things he has done all season.”


On if G Blake Hance will be at LG today with G Joel Bitonio out: 

“We will work through all of those once we get out there on the field.”


On if facing Mahomes requires him to call a different game offensively: 

“As we all know, we recognize that this is a huge challenge for us with this entire team. They are a great team – offense, defense and special teams. They are the Super Bowl champs for a reason. We have to play our best football. Offensively, we have to score points. Defensively, we have to try and keep them out of the end zone. That is really where our focus is. Recognize the challenge. All sides of the ball have to be on point.”


On Mahomes’ record when facing a 10-point deficit and how that impacts clock management and not wanting to give the Chiefs the ball last: 

“Again, I think the focus just has to be on playing our brand of football, and that is complementary football. To your point, obviously, you are always trying to help out either side and you are trying to play the field position game at times, but definitely, our focus offensively is to go play our brand of football.”


On RB D’Ernest Johnson’s kickoff returns in recent weeks: 

“I am glad you brought him up. He has given us a boost in the return game, but he also does a great job on the coverage phase. He has been a great [special] teamer for us this season, not just as a returner. He is a really good teammate and is ready to go in there at a moment’s notice on offense. He has given us a bunch of really, really good reps this season.”


On Mayfield getting the ball out quickly last week: 

“In a lot of ways when you are playing a team like last week, you can’t hold the ball. That is true of this week, as well. It is our job to construct a gameplan where the ball comes out on time. Sometimes that is a quick three-step timing play or sometimes it is a five-step timing play with the quarterback getting it out on his plant step or his first hitch. Very mindful of making sure that he gets through his progressions on time because the rushers in this league and the rushers in the playoffs are typically really, really solid players. We are mindful of it this week as much as we were last week.”


On the challenge for a QB to go through progressions quickly and releasing the ball on time: 

“You have to trust your eyeballs first and foremost as a quarterback. In every play, the ball goes based on what the defense gives you, and I think Baker is seeing it really clearly so that you can get through your progressions quickly. When sometimes there is not somebody open, that is where he has done a nice job of buying time, throwing the ball away or what have you.”


On the team’s focus on going 1-0 each week and moving on from each win or loss this season and how the team will be able to guard against a ‘potential hangover’ following an emotional win last week: 

“You do that on Monday – win, lose or draw – you talk about it and then you put it away. This morning when they jumped on their Zoom calls this morning, it was onto the Kansas City Chiefs and onto the challenge that represents. We trust in our process in that regard and stick true to this routine. Now this Wednesday, making sure that we are getting our great meetings this morning and then great work out on the field this afternoon.”


On if ‘don’t be satisfied’ will continue to be part of his message to the team this week: 

“Always. It is the playoffs. It is still win or go home so that is obviously going to be our message.”


On what he learned about Ward this season and what allows Ward to be such a high-level contributor: 

“Denzel is very, very competitive. I have been very impressed to watch him work, going all of the way back to training camp when I finally got to meet him in person, and just to watch how he works. A little injury little nicks and bruises here, and he pushed through all of those and kept practicing and kept competing at a high level. You have seen in the games where he has made impactful plays when he is out there. That is something that is very impressive to me.”


On how well he knows Reid and if he has studied Reid as an offensive play caller or borrowed any of Reid’s plays or philosophies: 

“I know Coach Reid a little bit. He is somebody that I obviously admire a ton, just watching how he has done it over the course of time in varying ways, how he has structured his offense to the strengths of his team and then he is a great play caller. I love to watch the great play callers and how they mix it up and how they call different things and situationally, as well, with Coach Reid.”


On what makes a great offensive play caller: 

“I think having a feel for your guys and putting your guys in position to make plays and playing to their strengths probably is the most important.”


On Browns players’ belief in each other and the team as a whole: 

“They believe in each other, for sure. We have talked about confidence comes from demonstrated ability. The guys have shown each other throughout this season how they work, how they play and how they fight on the field for 60 minutes so I think that does give them great confidence in each other.”


On if he saw the team calling on their confidence in each other during the third quarter last week when the Steelers were attempting a comeback: 

“I think the season has steeled us to that where you know it is going to be a battle. We know what we are getting ourselves into this week versus the Super Bowl champs. That is the playoffs. These games are hard. You are going to have to respond to some adversity at some point and you are going to have to weather that storm. That is the nature of January football.”


On how hard RB Kareem Hunt ran last week and how much this week’s game will mean to Hunt: 

“Kareem every game runs very hard. He runs violently. He does not want to be denied when he has the rock in his hands. His teammates love to fight out there with him and push the pile because they know he is constantly churning his legs and getting everything he can. I just think any player or any coach going up against their former team is always excited about that opportunity.”


On if he will select Hunt as the game captain this week: 

“We have three postseason captains so we will stick with those guys throughout the playoffs, and you really can only send one guy out there of those three each week.”


On his discussions with Hunt after Hunt’s traffic stop early in 2020: 

“I am not going to get into that conversation. I will just tell you that he has done everything that I have asked of him since the moment he and I met.”


On RB Nick Chubb saying that the Browns will have to score a lot of points this week and if he wants the team to have that mindset on Sunday: 

“Honestly, every week I feel like you have to score a bunch of points in this league. That has never changed from Week 1 to now. The mindset of an offense is when you touch the ball, you want to go in with the touchdown. That will always be our mindset. I totally recognize that the challenge of this week. I understand how great Patrick Mahomes and this offense are, but it is incumbent upon each of our units – offense, defense and special teams – to play to their strengths and play their game.”


On if the Chiefs are a team that the Browns will want to focus on keeping the ball away from the Chiefs and minimizing their possessions: 

“Ultimately, just have to score one more point than them, however it shakes out.”


On who he has learned about leadership from during his coaching career, particularly given the adversity the team has faced this season: 

“I hope I learned from everybody I have worked with or played for in my life. You try to take something from everybody so the list is too long to go over.”


On the best piece of leadership advice he has ever received: 

“I do not know specifically one piece of advice. In terms of leadership, I feel like as long as you are being yourself, you have a chance.”


On the way Hunt works in the weight room and on the practice field: 

“Kareem loves football, and he loves being out there at practice and in the weight room. You hear him before you see him. He has a ton of energy. His teammates love him. He has brought a ton to our team off the field and on the field just in his own way of being Kareem.”


On his confidence in Browns backups stepping up throughout the season and how gratifying it is to see them contribute in those situations: 

“They are on our roster, and we have confidence in them. They are here for a reason. In the nature of football, you have guys who go in and out of the lineup for varying reasons, and our expectations for how we perform do not change at all based on who is in there.”


On if it was special to see G Michael Dunn step up and perform well last week: 

“I am proud of him. He battled. He played outstanding – I am disappointed that he was injured – but that is what I expect from him.”


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