HC Kevin Stefanski (1.6.21)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“First, I will start by saying congratulations to (Browns Legend LB) Clay Matthews on being named a finalist for the Hall of Fame. Obviously, well deserved so pulling for him.

“On the injury front, (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones is progressing through that concussion protocol so we will know more as the week goes on.

“Really with everything going on COVID-related, we are working through the protocols and are just going to make sure that we stay in communication with the league, continue to keep everybody safe and also find a way to go get a win this weekend. Our coaches and players are working really hard virtually today. We have had a bunch of meetings already this morning. We will have some more this afternoon. We are full speed ahead. We have an opponent that we know well, and they know us well. Just have to put a plan together, and again, go find a way to get a win.”

On how he is feeling: 

“I am good. I will be fine, but really, my concern is for our players, for our coaches and for the team going forward.”

On how disappointed he was when learning of the test results and that he would not be able to be with the team on Sunday: 

“I am disappointed for anybody who can’t be a part of this whether due to injury or whatever. Disappointed for (G) Joel Bitonio obviously. All of our guys that can’t be a part of this is disappointing to me, but we have to find a way. That is what our charges, and that is what we are working on today.”

On Browns players’ reaction to yesterday’s news about positive COVID-19 results: 

“I have been in touch with a bunch of them. They understand that we have a job to do, and they are excited to do that. They know that this thing is not stopping for me or anybody so they are full speed ahead.”

On if offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call plays this week and other contingencies in place for the Browns coaching staff: 

“We have a plan and then we will work through all of that. Yes, AVP will call the plays.”

On why special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was chosen as the interim head coach and if offensive coach Bill Callahan and pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea will be back this week: 

“With Coach Priefer, I think it always makes sense as the special teams coordinator deals with everybody on the team and coaches every player. I think it is a very natural place to go in an interim setting there where he can not miss a beat and then you let the offensive and defensive coaches focus on their side of the ball. A ton of confidence in Coach Priefer. He knows this team very, very well from a roster standpoint but also based on how we play. I have a full amount of confidence in him. With the rest of the staff, we will just see how it goes. I do not really have an update on anyone else.”

On how he learned about the positive COVID-19 tests yesterday and how he addressed it with the team: 

“Again, disappointing for any of the guys who can’t be involved in this. We had a team meeting yesterday afternoon just to reassure them that we have a job to do. We will make sure we keep everybody safe, first and foremost, and then we will get back to work and put a plan together to go on the road versus a really good football team. That is really pretty simple.”

On if the Browns are allowed to practice today: 

“We are going to be virtual today and then we will take it day by day. We have planned a 1 p.m. virtual walkthrough with the players today.”

On if the contact tracing results from yesterday is back and if anyone was flagged as a high-risk close contact: 

“I think it is all back. I do not believe we have any high-risk close contacts.”

On if he knows how he contracted COVID-19: 

“I do not.”

On if he will be just as involved in the team’s preparations this week as any other, outside of not being at practice and at the game: 

“Yes, I have my setup here and have all of the tape I need. We meet virtually anyway as a staff to put gameplans together so again, that is very much business as usual. When we do get in the building and have a practice, obviously, Coach Priefer will run that.”

On if there are certain situations this week where he may step aside and have Priefer handle more because Priefer will be coaching on Sunday: 

“I think the players understand that it really does not matter who is the head coach on Sunday. They know how we play. They know what our identity is. Coach Prief will be the guy on Sunday. I have a ton of confidence in them, and I know they do, as well. He is a voice that they hear every day. Every single day, Coach Prief has special teams going. I think they have a great amount of trust in him, as well as do I.”

On if it will be strange to see Priefer wearing the headset on Sunday: 

“I have seen it before. He was our interim coach for a Thursday night game with the Vikings, and he did a great job.”

On the biggest challenges preparing for the game this week, given the changes due to COVID-19 protocols: 

“I do not know what the biggest challenge is. I could just tell you that the team at every corner has taken on these challenges, whatever it has been. We have had weeks where we do not practice very much, and we have had weeks where we were without players or without a coach. That is just the nature of the beast this season. I think it speaks to the team’s resilience that they are going to get their job done no matter what.”

On the Browns’ plan for LG with Bitonio out: 

“We are going to work through it. We have some options there, but we are going to work through it. Obviously, I want to get on practice field first.”

On if there is anything special the Browns have to do this week to account for the team’s losing streak at Pittsburgh: 

“No, there is nothing special that you need to do. It is the same team that we played last week. I know they have some guys coming back. They know us, and we know them. I look forward to it being a great challenge and a great game. Nothing specific that you have to do differently. It is a big game. Everybody knows that. It is win or go home, just like last week was.”

On if his family members are healthy and feeling OK:

“Everybody is just fine, but I would really prefer not to talk about me.”

On his confidence that the tone he set for the season is in place for this week and that the team will still be able to play in his image on Sunday:

“This team is not my image; it is the Cleveland Browns. We have established an identity. We did it back in the spring. We told the guys how we were going to play. We made sure that we brought players in here that fit that mold, and I think the guys understand perfectly how we play and how we win. It does not change, regardless of who is on the sideline.”

On his most important task on gamedays:

“I put my finger on a chart, and I read. That is not very hard. AVP can definitely do that much better than I can.”

On if he can or will help remotely on Sunday:

“I do not think I can based on the rules.”

On under what scenario would Sunday’s game be postponed:

“That is really something for the league. I can tell you we are in constant communication with (NFL Chief Medical Officer) Dr. (Allen) Sills, (Chief Football Administrative Officer) Dawn (Aponte) and the entire league office, but that is really not for me to answer.”

On how surprising or disappointing it is that team finds itself in the current COVID-19 situation, given the team’s dedication to implementing practices above the standard NFL protocols:

“It is frustrating. We have tried to go above and beyond and tried to do the right things. We are going to continue to do that. You really have to double down on the protocols, trust in the protocols and make sure that everybody’s safety is priority No. 1. Any time where you are trying to follow the rules and you lose guys, it is obviously frustrating.”

On if he is asymptomatic:

“I am just fine, but again, I am worried about the other guys, not me.”

On if the team has received results from the latest round of COVID-19 testing and that no additional positive tests were detected:

“Yes.”

On if the team has asked the league if he would be able to communicate with the team on Sunday, given the unprecedented situation of him being unavailable for a playoff game:

“I do not know. I just know what the rules are, and I will follow them.”

On if this week can go as smooth as possible with the ‘contingency plans in place for contingency plans’:

“We have talked about it. We have met on it. It is similar to when a player goes down, you have a depth chart. It is the next person up, and we will work through it as we gather more information.”

On who will be the Browns No. 3 WR with WR KhaDarel Hodge out and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones currently in concussion protocol and if RB Kareem Hunt is an option for that role:

“We will see how Donovan continues to come through this protocol, and we have options there. Obviously, Kareem is an option.”

On if he talked to WR Rashard Higgins and T Jedrick Wills Jr. about the recent drag-racing incident:

“We have addressed it. I have addressed it with the team. I will leave it at that.”

On his confidence in Van Pelt as an offensive play caller:

“AVP has been a huge part of our offense’s success. He is a huge part of play calling. I may be the one sending it in there, but there is a ton of dialogue occurring between me, AVP and the rest of the offensive staff. He knows the things that we believe in. He knows how we play. He spends every waking moment with the quarterback, which is important when you are talking about trying to get him in a rhythm, comfort level and those type of things. I have a ton of confidence in AVP’s ability to get the job done.”

On giving the game ball to Bitonio after last week’s win and his feelings for Bitonio having to miss the first postseason appearance, given everything Bitonio has been through with the team:

“I texted with him this morning. I am very disappointed for him. I gave him that game ball for a reason because he is a big part of what we do and he is a big part of our culture. It is disappointing.”

On lessons from working virtually last week due to COVID-19 protocols and what may be altered this week due to experience:

“It feels like we have been virtual for a long time. Even when we were in the building as coaches, we were meeting virtually. We did not have any in-person meetings. We have not had an in-person meeting with players in months. We figured out a way to cover ground. We figured out a way to install, keep people’s attention and have them learn the playbook and learn the gameplan. They have done a nice job with that. We will go at 1 p.m. here and have what we are calling a ‘virtual walkthrough’ where we will show cards to the players, have a dialogue and have it be interactive on their jobs and those types of things. It does not replace the physical work, but I think it is the next best thing.”

On how he will continue to carry the banner of staying positive and upbeat and helping set the proper tone for the team this week, even though he is at home:

“I think the guys understand what I am about. They understand what our team is about and that will just continue to be the message. We have a big game this week. I think that is an understatement. Everybody understands what is at stake, and I think they are excited about the opportunity.”

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