HC Kevin Stefanski (12.30.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“Injury report wise, out today would be (LB) Tae Davis, (LB Sione) Takitaki and (C) Nick Harris. We will get (G) Wyatt Teller back. (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.), who I know was back last week, will be doing a little bit more having him out there.

 

“I know you guys got the statement that we released and saw the news. We are working through that right now with the league on contact tracing. The hope is to still get on the field at some point today, but we do not know exactly when that will be. We had our meetings virtually this morning. We will continue in the early afternoon with meetings and then really just stay tuned to see if we can get out there on the field with the whole team or either side of the ball, which is something we have done before. We shall see. Just going to wait for more information there.

 

“With this game, understand what is at stake. The guys are excited about the opportunity. It is a team that I have a ton of respect for. They are well-coached. They have very good players. Their schemes are very sound. Going to be a great opportunity for the guys. We have to have a great work week and great preparation so that we can perform on Sunday.”

 

On if today’s practice will be pushed back to the afternoon or evening: 

“What we are going to try and do is wait to hear back from the league. The No. 1 thing obviously throughout this whole year has been the player safety and safety of the staff. If they deem that we are allowed to go in there and practice, which I feel confident about, we will go in there and get our work done. We will adjust as they deem appropriate. That is really just the information that I am waiting on now.”

 

On challenges dealing with players being added or removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list the past five days ahead of Sunday’s game: 

“That is 2020. I think we are all prepared to adapt as necessary, really just take this thing day by day and figure out a way to make sure that we are getting our work in.”

 

On T Jedrick Wills Jr.’s status: 

“I think we will get him back, but I do not have the official word just yet.”

 

On if he would encourage Browns players to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available: 

“I would encourage them to listen to the medical professionals, and I will do the same.”

 

On if the close contacts placed on reserve/COVID-19 on Saturday are still on schedule to return tomorrow: 

“Yes.”

 

On how troubling it is to be having COVID-19 issues late in the season and before this week’s big game: 

“You do not want to have these at any point. I want our guys to be healthy and safe, but we will deal with this as it comes our way. That is what today looks like, and we will be ready to get our work in however it is. I told the guys this morning, we are going to work. Whether it is on the field or virtual, we will work. Same thing tomorrow. We will just take it as each day comes.”

 

On if he feels that Browns players have done everything they can to follow the protocols or if there are issues with following protocols: 

“Throughout this season since we got together, there have been constant reminders that we are going to follow the protocols and keep everybody safe. I think by and large, the guys have done a very nice job of that, and there are situations that we can learn from. We will continue to do that. We will continue to preach to all of our staff and players to make the right choices, and I think guys are doing that and will continue to do that.”

 

On if the strong trust and bond among players, exhibited by players’ recent Tweets, could be negatively impacted as a result of players being placed on reserve/COVID-19: 

“I think we are OK there. I do not know exactly what they tweeted, but I would just tell you that our guys understand the challenge in front of us and also understand what we have to do to get everybody back.”

 

On why Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is viewed as more of a challenge to face than Steelers QB Mason Rudolph, given Roethlisberger’s performance has not been as strong as usual in recent weeks: 

“I see the challenge as facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I have a ton of respect obviously for Ben Roethlisberger. He is a great, great player. We need to get to know this entire team, and that is part of our preparation. We really have to dive in and understand the challenge in front of us. At the end of the day, really the onus is on us and making sure that our preparation is on point. We do everything that we need to do to get prepared and really worry about ourselves as much as our opponent.”

 

On if the possibility of facing the Steelers in the first week of the playoffs impacts the Browns gameplan this week: 

“No, you mentioned that you have to win this week, and we have to do everything in our power to win this week, whatever it takes.”

 

On if he will address last year’s incident between DE Myles Garrett and Rudolph with the team ahead of Sunday’s game as it relates to keeping emotions in check and not getting unnecessary penalties: 

“I think we are well past that incident, both Myles and our team. We talk about maintaining our composure in every single game. It is nothing new to this week. We have to make sure that we are keeping the main thing the main thing and focusing on our work.”

 

On if there is a psychological impact of going against the Steelers, given the Browns’ record against the team since 2001: 

“I do not think so for the people in the building. I will take your word for it if that is the numbers, but that is not something that I spend time thinking about. The players and the coaches, we have a goal in mind, and that is trying to get a win this week. To think about history, I do not think it really pertains to the players, the coaches or really the building, I should say.”

 

On how much he is ‘hoping Steelers DE T.J. Watt gets Sunday off’: 

“He is a great player. He is somebody that when you watch the tape, he is making a play almost every play. He plays with great violence and anticipation. He is long. Plays with effort. Really have a lot of respect for him.”

 

On emphasizing ball security with QB Baker Mayfield this week: 

“We emphasize that with everybody. We have fumbled way too often of late. You can’t just focus on fumbles lost; you have to focus on fumbles. Everybody who touches that rock has to do a great job, and that pertains to a returner, a wide receiver, a tight end, running back, quarterback, center-quarterback exchange and all of the above. If you touch the rock, you have to be using great ball-security technique in every game. We understand how important the turnover margin is to our success and to really every team’s success in a given game.”

 

On teaching points following Mayfield’s three fumbles last week: 

“You take each one of those plays and you talk about what technique you can use – two hands on the ball in the pocket, tucking it away and all of those things. You constantly harp on that and then you have to practice it and you have to make sure that you are practicing it so it becomes just rote memory. He does a nice job. He is taking care of the ball this season. He understands all of this. I think all of our players understand the importance of winning that turnover margin in this game and really every game.”

 

On game planning for Rudolph and other Steelers players this week: 

“We have tape of Mason Rudolph playing in games so that is where you start. You make sure you understand him as a player and understand him and his strengths. Really, we prepare to face the Steelers. You study their depth chart, you study their players and you study their schemes. In regard to the quarterback, you just have to get to know him, and that is what we are working hard as a staff and as a defensive staff to understand his strengths and how we anticipate they will play the game.”

 

On the possibility of the Steelers still playing their best defensive players: 

“You do not have a 100-man roster where you can rest everybody. You are playing your guys. We have to play our best football to win on Sunday.”

 

On how the team’s ‘one game at a time’ mentality will help the Browns this week: 

“That has been our mentality all season. It served us well. The guys understand that we are not really ever going to look back and we are not going to look ahead. We are just going to focus on what is in front of us. What is in front of us is a really good football team coming in our building, a well-coached football team. We understand and accept the challenge. We really have to focus on our work, focus on our meetings and focus on all of the things that we need to do to get prepared to achieve our goal on Sunday.”

 

On if he has looked at the tape of the Browns facing Rudolph last year and how much of last year’s game is transferrable to this week: 

“You go back and you really look at as much tape as you can, whether it was versus the Browns or whomever. You just want to get a feel for the skillset of the player. Mason Rudolph has played a lot of football in this league. He has done a nice job. We just have to get to know him and really kind of figure out how they are going to adjust with their scheme or not adjust at all. That is where we have to have a plan and then be ready to adapt based on how the game unfolds.”

 

On how much of the Browns defense’s performance against the Steelers and Rudolph last year is transferrable to this week: 

“Some. Obviously, there are some players who are still on the field, but the schemes are not exactly the same. I would say some from a personnel standpoint.”

 

On when the Browns expect Wills to return: 

“I think we will get him back this week. I can’t tell you if it is today, tomorrow or the next day. I do not have an update there.”

 

On if a Browns coach tested positive for COVID-19 today, given it was announced as a staff member: 

“It is, but I am not going to get into specifics past that.”

 

On if the player who tested positive for COVID-19 today is on the practice squad or active roster: 

“Practice squad.”

 

On if Mayfield’s resiliency has grown this year: 

“I have not been with Baker even a full calendar year, but I could just tell you what I see from the player and I see a guy who works very, very hard at his craft. I think you have a chance when you work hard at your craft. He has had some unbelievable moments in this season, and he has had some plays that we all want back and he has bounced back. He has done a nice job. Just all of the things you don’t see – from a leadership standpoint and from a preparation standpoint – he has been outstanding.”

 

On what gives him confidence that Mayfield is ready for the big moment on Sunday: 

“He works. Just don’t overthink this thing. He works hard at his craft. It is a team game. We have to have a great week of preparation and then we have to go play as a team on Sunday.”

 

On how a coach testing positive affects the staff’s preparation this week: 

“We have thought about these things months ago. Every team has contingency plans. We will adjust accordingly. It is not something that gets sprung on you in this regard. You have a plan and then we just have to make sure that everybody is on the same page.”

 

On how the loss to the NY Jets could help the team refocus: 

“What we try to do after every game – really win, lose or draw – is try to learn from it. It is uncomfortable after a loss at times to learn from it and to own it, but I will tell you, the players this season in those situations have come right back in the building or right back onto a Zoom call, watched the tape with us, owned it, they take corrections and then we move past it. We really try and do that after wins, as well. You do not want to sweep anything under the rug sometimes when you win a game. We are mindful of making corrections. We are mindful of identifying things for the guys that we can improve upon. Again, not always fun after a loss, but that was really our focus this past Monday.”

 

On if the offensive gameplan or scheme needs to change significantly from the Week 6 game against the Steelers in order to have success this week: 

“We did not have any success in that game. Obviously, you go back and watch that tape and there are a ton of things that we need to do differently because that is an outstanding group, I mentioned that they are well-coached. We have to work really hard as coaches this week and work really hard as players this week to have a firm understanding of how we want to attack their scheme. Certainly, if you look back at that tape, we did not do a lot of things well in that game.”

 

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