HC Kevin Stefanski (12.31.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“I know you guys got the statement this morning. We closed the building while contact tracing is underway. We will just stay at the ready and await word from the league on whether we can get in the building later for practice like we did yesterday. We have a plan if that is the case, and we have a plan if that is not the case. If we stay remote virtually, we will continue to do so.

“If we are able to practice, (C) Nick Harris will not practice with his knee injury and (T) Kendall Lamm with his illness. Yesterday we got back (G) Wyatt Teller, (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.), (LB) Tae Davis and (LB Sione) Takitaki were out there and (T) Jedrick Wills (Jr.), as well. Coming off of the COVID list today, the additions will be (WR) Jarvis Landry, (WR) Rashard Higgins, (WR) KhaDarel Hodge, (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones and (LB) Jacob Phillips.”

On yesterday’s practice: 

“It was good. We were able to bring the guys in. Had a nice long individual period, had walkthroughs, had some team periods and had some seven on seven. It was brisk. Obviously, we were without a few guys for various reasons so at times, it was piecing it together to give a look for the offense, defense or vice versa. I thought it was really positive to get the guys in and moving around. That is very valuable work for our preparation.”

On the significance of Landry returning today: 

“All of those guys, you are excited to get your guys back. Whether guys come back from injury, the COVID list or anything, you are always excited to get the full complement back. Jarvis is a guy, as you all know, that is an emotional leader for our team so very excited to get him back.”

On confirming that the Browns WRs returning from reserve/COVID-19 will practice today, if the team is able to host one: 


On if the fact that any Browns players placed on reserve/COVID-19 as high-risk close contacts at this point of the week or moving forward would have to miss Sunday’s game impacts how the team will conduct practice and meetings: 

“We will just kind of lean on the protocols and lean on the NFL and the experts as to what is safe for us to do. I do have confidence if they allow us to go in the building and if that is something that they are comfortable with that our protocols we have worked really hard to keep everybody safe. Outside of one incident, we really have not had high-risk close contacts. That speaks to the guys’ ability to follow the protocols. That is really up to the league whether they allow us in the building or not, but for us, we have a plan either way.”

On if the Browns’ current reserve/COVID-19 situation is not as dire as some people outside of the building are making it seem, given the team could have several players back by Sunday: 

“I am just really dealing with it day to day and hour by hour in terms of what we have going on. We are in constant communication with the league and with our medical staff and finding out what we can do. Coaches, we have been burning the cell phones up – a lot a lot of phone calls and a lot of Zoom calls. We are getting our work done. We are just going to really lean heavily on the medical professionals and follow their guidelines, and that is what we have done to date.”

On if there has been any mention of potentially postponing Sunday’s game: 

“No, not to me. We are just so busy in our preparation. I can tell you, we had really good meetings this morning and we are going to have some more this afternoon.”

On if there are any concerns with depth at LB, given the Browns players who will be unable to play at that position this week: 

“With all of our position groups, that is why we develop the young guys and have depth at those positions. We will have who is available to us, and our expectations will not change at all. I am comfortable with all of the guys who may have to play in this game.”

On if S Sheldrick Redwine can be relied on to play every down if necessary with Sendejo on the reserve/COVID-19 list: 

“Sheldrick has given us some valuable time this season. He does a nice job on defense and on special teams for us and is somebody that we can count on. I would tell you that there have been multiple guys in the back end and really throughout the defense that we have rolled in there so feel confident in all of those guys.”

On if S Karl Joseph and Harrison can play at the same time: 

“They potentially could both be out there, yes.”

On C JC Tretter’s recent letter about the NFL’s offseason program and this season being an example that it may not be potentially as necessary as people believed and if the offseason program could change and if there may not be a need to have players on the field in the spring: 

“JC is certainly entitled to his opinion. I have not seen that. I am a coach so I enjoy coaching.”

On if Friday could be a heavier work day than usual, given what has occurred this week: 

“It could. Friday is usually a shorter but crisp practice – you have heard it said before, ‘Fast Friday.’ We will adjust accordingly. If we have to get extra work in, we absolutely can do that. That is where I credit the players and I credit the coaches. We have moved practice on them, we have changed what we are doing and we have added things, and they really have not blinked. Whatever is appropriate for tomorrow and if that is necessary, we will do that.”

On if it is necessary for QB Baker Mayfield and the Browns WRs returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week to get in extra work to reestablish their chemistry: 

“We have gotten such good work all the way back through July so there are definitely some banked reps throwing to those guys. I know they have been out for however long it has been. I do not think you lose all pf those reps, so to speak. Obviously, the coach in me wants to get everybody in there and then running all of the reps and all of that, but whatever is appropriate, we will definitely work with.”

On how Teller looked at practice yesterday: 

“Looked good to me. He is working through it. We will see how the rest of this week goes.”

On how Landry felt after missing his first NFL game last week: 

“I spoke to him. I think you guys know the type of competitor he is. He wants to be out there to help the team.”

On if he is confident that the Browns will have enough practice time to be prepared for Sunday: 

“We will be prepared whatever we are able to do today, tomorrow and all of that. We will be prepared. The guys are working very hard on these Zoom calls to understand what is required. We had practice yesterday. Whatever it ends up being, I trust in our preparations and the guys’ ability to adapt.”

On if Chief of Staff Callie Brownson will fill in for the coach who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, given she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing when absent due to the birth of his child earlier this season: 

“We will work through those scenarios, and we will obviously announce them when appropriate.”

On what the team is doing to lessen the mental burden when COVID-19 situations and schedule changes arise: 

“The first thing is the message is you control what you can control. There are things we can control, which is obviously our attitude and how diligent we are in these meetings. Really, the rest is out of our control. The guys understand that. Then it is the coaches who do a great job in these meetings knowing when to keep it light and when to stop doing Xs and Os and just start to connect with everybody. I think that is really what you have to do.”

On if the Browns are more familiar with the Steelers than anybody else, given they are a division opponent and the staff is in its first year, and if the familiarity is impacted when the Steelers are not playing all of their starters: 

“There is familiarity in that we played them earlier in the season so anytime you play a team for the second time, both sides have the tape to go back to, and that scheme has been together for a long time so there is plenty of tape. Will they change? Like they said, it may be a little, but you do not wholesale change schemes in situations. That is for us to kind of dig in and look at their roster, look at who is playing, understand them and understand their strengths. That is important for us right now in our game planning.”

On if familiarity with an opponent is good, all things considered: 

“I think it is good, all things considered. I know this, they have a bunch of really good coaches on their staff. I feel good about our guys. We will both realize who is available and construct a gameplan based on that.”

On if players on reserve/COVID-19 due to being a high-risk close contact are allowed to do conditioning when not with the team: 

“We try to give as much resource to those guys as we can. Obviously, you can’t have contact with them, and as a high-risk close contact, they are following the protocols, but we want to make sure that they have any resource that is necessary to make sure that they are maintaining their physical shape. Whether that is from a nutritional standpoint, we are just trying to provide any resources we can.”

On his statement early in the year that he is ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ prior to the pandemic and how that has helped him as a head coach this year: 

“I think I am that way because of the people that we have working for the Browns. I am incredibly impressed with our operations crew, our equipment crew, the video department, our medical staff and our nutritionist. The things that they are able to do on very short notice is outstanding. I am very, very lucky from that standpoint where when you do have to adapt and pivot, you have people that are really problem solvers. If we could only get our communications staff to do the same, I think we would be in good shape (laughter).”

On if he is optimistic that Davis and Takitaki will be available on Sunday: 

“We will see how the rest of the week goes, but I was pleased to see them out there moving around. That was a positive.”

On if K Cody Parker, LS Charley Hughlett and P Jamie Gillan can practice at FirstEnergy Stadium when the team facility is closed due to contact tracing: 

“That is a good question. I do not think we can. I will look into it, but I think with the building being closed, it is really closing operations for the moment. Again, we will get word from the NFL here hopefully soon and we will know what we can and can’t do after that.”

On how much of the Steelers’ ability to sack the QB comes down to their scheme, despite the fact several of their top pass rushers may not play on Sunday: 

“They do an outstanding job with their scheme. They give you multiple looks, both on base downs and on third down and down in the red zone. They move their guys around. It is a very, very tall task in protection versus this team. They rush well. They have good technique. We totally understand what is at stake and how this plan is put together to account for a really, really premier pass rush.”

On if the Browns will adjust their scheme at all to account for Steelers defensive players who may not participate on Sunday, including Steelers LB T.J. Watt not playing: 

“No, they have a lot of good players, and obviously, he is a great one. We just think so highly of their scheme and they really have a well-rounded attack.”

On the Browns ‘closing the gap against the Ravens in their second matchup’ this season and how much of that can be attributed to the coaches learning from having played them and how that may apply this weekend: 

“I would hope the second time you face a team that you are better off the second time around, based on the information you have available to you and you make adjustments. It does not mean that it is going to happen. We have to go out there and do it. That is where we have worked really hard earlier in the week to put a plan together that our guys could wrap their arms around and go play fast. That is where we are working hard on these Zoom calls. We will be on another Zoom call this afternoon, and the guys have to really pay attention to the details. That is so important if you are not having those walkthroughs is really understanding this gameplan inside and out.”

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