HC Kevin Stefanski (4.2.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“Just want to say hello to everybody. Strange times as we are all dealing with this in our own way and we are all thinking about what has been going on in this world. I do want to make sure that everybody knows that we are thinking about you guys. We want to make sure [you know that]. This is touching all of us in a bunch of different ways and it is unique. I know we will talk football here, but I am thinking about you and your families and I do hope you are staying safe. That is what we are doing. I am here in Minnesota. I have been here for maybe two weeks. The plan was not to come out here for two weeks but we paused our move. We postponed our move, like I guess everybody in their lives is doing right now postponing some things. We are just taking it day by day working remotely, which I am happy to talk through how it has been going. A lot of family time. This is definitely testing my parenting skills. I am one of the better gym coaches there is right now. PE has been a big hit in this household. We are like everybody else taking it one day at a time, staying safe and really staying together and listening to the advice of the public and medical officials. We are making sure we are staying home and being safe, and I hope you are doing the same. Strange times, but again, we are full steam ahead getting ready with our team, getting ready with our program and really ready to deal with whatever the rules come out to be for this offseason.”


On how challenging his day-to-day functions have been as a first-year head coach working remotely:

“I think it is a challenge like I think all of us are having a challenge. I think every one of our fans, their work setup is very similar to my work setup right now. A lot of Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime calls. You just have to make it work. I do not look at it from any other perspective than that. I think all 32 teams are at the same disadvantage, and that is the truth. Everyone is dealing with it. For us, our big thing is just day by day, it is a very fluid situation, as we all know. We are just awaiting word from the league on how they are going to handle certain things, and we will adapt and adjust accordingly.”


On if the Browns have plans to host virtual meetings with players starting Monday, given the team was originally scheduled to start offseason workouts next week:

“The truth is I do not know yet, but I will tell you we have plans and then contingency plans and then contingency plans for those contingency plans. We are trying to think about this thing and hit it from every angle, pending the rules and structure that the NFL and NFLPA agree upon. Whatever that may be – I do not have the answer on what that is just yet – we are ready. A credit to our coaching staff, I think they have done an outstanding job the past few weeks and even our high-performance staff and our strength and conditioning. I am really so impressed by everybody and the amount of work we have been able to get done remotely and get ready for when we can talk to these players. Just like you said, is it virtual classrooms? We are ready for that, but we just do not know exactly how it is going to go down. I should also mention that none of this would be possible without our IT department and video department, who have been incredible these last few weeks. I cannot say enough about those guys and girls. I think it has just been an impressive group getting us up and running and making sure that we are able to get a lot of work done remotely.”


On how coaching preparations and draft preparations look for the Browns:

“I am sure it looks a lot like the rest of the world. It is a lot of Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams, whatever your favorite platform is. It is those virtual meetings. I sit in on the offensive staff meeting for a little while, and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Alex) Van Pelt is running that and we are sharing a screen and looking at drawing and then looking at some video and making corrections. (Defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) is doing the same with the defensive staff. AB (Executive Vice President Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) is having draft meetings as we speak. I was a fly on the wall as those guys were getting going. Obviously, the structure for some of these meetings are changing and what you can get done remotely maybe is not the same as maybe having everybody in the same room. The way we have attacked it is we are full steam ahead. Whatever the rules are, we will play by them, but it cannot slow down our preparation. I would say we are right on course for where we need to be.”


On guidance the NFL has provided about offseason programs and providing virtual playbooks to players:

“That is a good question. I have spoken to a couple of people and our team has spoken to a few people, but we have not gotten exactly what it will look like. I do not have a firm grasp of exactly of what this offseason program will look like, but I will tell you that we have spent so much time thinking of the different ways it could go that whatever the rules and whatever they bring up, we will be ready.”


On the Browns’ free agent acquisitions:

“A credit to Andrew Berry and his staff. I think AB set out a plan and followed through on it. You never know as you go through a player acquisition period of exactly how it is going to play out, but we identified some people that were really important to what we want to do and who we want to be. As this period has gone on, I think when you talk free agency and then the draft, it was just so important to get right players in here and to get the right people. I know I have harped on that, but I am going to continue to harp on that because I really feel that is a big part of our program. They really fit the mentality of what we want to be. A really nice job so far and I give a ton of credit to Andrew and his crew. They have done outstanding, and I know they are still working because there is a lot of work still to be done.”


On if there is a disadvantage for first-year head coaches introducing new programs to players, given the offseason will be different this year:

“No, I do not think so. I think all 32 clubs are going to be playing by the same rules. Whenever we see our players and whether it is via Microsoft Surface tablet or seeing them in person, I think we will have our program ready to go and our installs ready to go. I think we are in the same boat as everybody else.”


On the significance of the Browns’ defensive acquisitions, given many of them are not household names signed on Day 1 of free agency:

“Andrew and our group really identified… As important as those Day 1 guys are – I know everybody really thinks about those guys first – it is really all of these guys, regardless of the day you got them and regardless of how you acquire them. All of them play a huge key into this thing. In terms of the defense, a lot of these guys may not be the biggest names, but I just know when you are putting a system together, you are looking for systematic fits. I think that is what we done so far on offense and defense. Particularly, I think we have added a few guys that fit our scheme that have some versatility. In the backend, you have guys that can play down safety, post safety and nickel. There is some versatility to the guys that we have added, which is really important when you are putting a new scheme together because there will be some moving parts making sure that you have everybody where you need them.”


On how disappointing it is for players to not be in the building Monday:

“April 6 is an important day. It is my daughter’s fifth birthday so I should mention that first. Honestly, I really truly believe we have a plan in place. We have a program that we are ready to roll out, pending some of the structure of what we are allowed to do. We preach this all the time that you have to be ready to adapt and you have to be ready to hit the curveball. This is a bit if the curveball, but I think our guys are thinking creatively about how to attack this offseason. That is where I have a ton of confidence in our coaching staff. I already spoke about Andrew and his group. I just think our group has been working really hard to make sure that we attack this offseason because it is a unique offseason. It is not one that I think people have seen before, but it is our job to attack this thing and make sure that we make great strides this offseason, regardless of what the structure of this offseason looks like.”


On QB Baker Mayfield showing how hard he is working this offseason through social media and his shape, as well as other players:

“I am not on social media so I will just take your word for what he is posting or PJB (Senior Vice President of Communications Peter John-Baptiste) will keep me posted is probably what will happen. In my talks with Baker and all of our guys, they have the right attitude about this thing. If they want to share that with the world, that is up to them, but I do think it is so important – the strength and conditioning aspect of this is going to be difficult. Social distancing and the guidelines that the states have put forth, it is very important that our guys heed those guidelines. That is the No. 1. No. 2, their bodies and the shape that they are in matters to how they play this game. We with them are going to have to be creative about this and make sure that they are getting the work in that they have to get in because a lot of gyms are closed and a lot of places you can’t go work out with a buddy and you have to do these things on your own. There is definitely is a Spartan element to that, but I am glad to hear that Baker and some of our guys are attacking this thing.”


On how coaches can make sure players are following the workout guidelines they will provide:

“That is a great question. Maybe that is a question that we are looking to get some guidance from the league on. I know it has been written about. There are workout bonuses for guys, and how do you know that they are doing the workouts? That is a bit of this puzzle that I think we are still awaiting some word. If they are anything like me, the guys are bored to tears and they probably really want to work out. We will be ready. Whatever the league determines is the way to appropriately check up on the guys.”


On what QB Case Keenum offers the Browns QB room:

“That is a valuable position at backup quarterback for a bunch of reasons. I have seen it in my career where sometimes a backup quarterback does not play at all and sometimes he plays a lot. It is certainly a position that we did not want to take for granted. I just know Case Keenum the person, and I know Case Keenum the player. I think he will make our team better. He said it and I told him, he does not have to be a coach. We have plenty of coaches. He just has to get himself ready to play like every one of our players has to. I think so much of that is just in the preparation. The way Case goes about preparing himself to play, whether he is a backup or the starter, is a great message for our entire team. It is a great lesson for our entire team to see, not just Baker and the rest of the quarterbacks. We just think the guy has the right makeup. I know everybody is sick of me saying smart and tough, but those are a couple of things that Case Keenum has in spades.”


On if he personally knows anyone who has contracted COVID-19:

“It was reported last week by Woj (ESPN NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski). My dad works with the Detroit Pistons, and one of their scouts, a guy name Maury Hanks, he has been with my dad I think everywhere since the late 90s. They were at the New Jersey Nets together. Maury contracted it and is still at a hospital in Tennessee. I have been getting updates every day from my dad on Maury. It hits home. As we are all dealing with this thing, I think it is sadly going to be true that a lot of us are going to know people that are dealing with this. Obviously, my thoughts go to Mo and his family and to everybody that is dealing with this. I just go back to making sure that we are all being safe, staying at home and being around your family and make sure we are listening to the experts on all this stuff.”


On if the team has contingency plans if the draft is postponed:

“Honestly, I think we have thought about all of the scenarios, but first things first, we have to assume it is staying right there like the league has said and we have to be ready. If they should postpone that or anything for that matter, we can adjust, but we have to make sure we are ready to roll come a couple weeks [from now] when the draft gets started.”


On if he had a previous connection with TE Austin Hooper:

“I did not have any personal connections with Austin. What happens is you start to sit down with Andrew, (Chief Strategy Officer) Paul (DePodesta) and our ownership group, and you start to look at the lay of the land and look at the roster and say, ‘Alright, where do you think we can add some good players that fit the scheme and that fit the personality of the locker room?’ I think Austin right away checked those boxes. I just thought adding a really good player at that position made a ton of sense. A credit to Andrew and his group for identifying him and for getting that deal done because this system that we are running, we certainly want to use tight ends, multiple tight ends. Austin has versatility. He has played in schemes similar to what we are going to do. He is a talented football player. He is young. He is smart. I just think it checked a ton of boxes as we looked toward what we want to add to this group.”


On if he has participated in video calls with draft prospects, given this year’s interview rules:

“I have not personally. I know our position coaches have been doing that. I sat in on obviously all of the meetings in Indianapolis. I know there are certain rules related to how long you can talk to these guys and I know we are adhering to them, but I would say the scouts and our position coaches are doing the bulk of those calls right now.”


On the biggest challenges preparing for this draft as the staff works remotely:

“I do not know. Luckily, we are pretty tech savvy. I am sure there are some disadvantages, like you can’t reach out and knock somebody over the head when the say something (laughter). Virtually, it is amazing what you can get done remotely. In my conversations with Paul and my conversations with Andrew over the last few weeks, we have not slowed down. Ideally, we are all together in the same room. We will see what is realistic and what is not when the league decides what they want to do. If it ends up being remote, I have no doubt that we can get everything done that we have set out to get done.”


On how WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are progressing with rehab and if they were in the building for treatment:

“I think both of those guys are exactly where they need to be in terms of their rehab progression. I think (Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe Sheehan has been in touch with those guys every single day so he is very aware of where they are, what they are doing and how they are progressing. They were in the building quite a bit back in January and February so I got to talk and sit down with both of those guys and see them in the training room. They are doing everything they need to be [doing] and they are right where they need to be from a rehab standpoint.”


On if it is possible he will be in Minnesota during the draft:

“I would say anything is possible, yes. Obviously, [it is] a unique situation. I want to get to Cleveland ASAP, but I will heed the advice of the professionals on this one.”


On how to build and strengthen team unity during this unique situation:

“That is a great question. I think probably all 32 clubs are thinking about that. Really, we are going to think creatively about doing that. When we get some word on how much interaction we can have with our guys, obviously, as you are having a conversation with someone if you are not going to be in the room with them but you are going to be having it via FaceTime or whatever it may be, just as much interaction as we can have between our coaches and our players and our players and our players together. I think we are going to make sure we think creatively about how to attack that because you are right, when you are not sitting in the locker room for an hour with each other, there are some missed opportunities to build team [unity]. That is something we are thinking long and hard about, some ways to do that.”


On how much more difficult the pre-draft process is compared to the typical offseason:

“If it is a disadvantage for all 32 clubs, then we are all in the same exact boat, so I do not think it is a disadvantage for anybody. We are all dealing with this. We have our information. Our scouts are working hard still. They have done a great job throughout the fall and through the combine of gathering information. We will be ready to go, but it is a unique year. Would we love to have more medical information? Would we love to be able to go out to these pro days? Of course, but we are dealing with what is out there, and it is our job to be able to adapt. I just think because it is the same for all 32 clubs, I do not see it as a disadvantage.”


On if his staff is able to check on players’ and their families’ well-being during the pandemic:

“Oh, yeah. We have been doing it. You can talk to your players. You just can’t talk to them about football during this dead period. We have sent plenty of text messages and phone calls just checking in, and that is exactly the message that has been coming from me and from all of our coordinators and our position coaches. Our players’ safety and the safety of their families is the No. 1 priority in this thing. We are making sure if they need anything, they absolutely know we are here to help them.”


On if it is 100 percent certain T Jack Conklin will stay at RT:

“I would say that is the plan right now, yes.”


On ways to foster team building and camaraderie when working remotely:

“We have thought about that and we have some ideas with our staff. I think (Director of High Performance) Shaun Huls has been tremendous these past months and weeks as a sounding board and thinking through this thing. Paul DePodesta is a great idea guy when it comes to certain things you can do. We have a lot of ideas that we are itching to put into practice when it may come. I would also mention, I was part of the lockout season that I am sure everybody was. That set a precedent where you did not have your team together in the spring and summer, and you were still able to get them ready and play football. Is it ideal not being together? No, but I think we will find a way.”


On LB B.J. Goodson and the Browns LBs:

“I think adding B.J. to the room gives us a guy who has been productive, has played a little bit and gives us some depth there. He has played special teams and is a good athlete that we feel fits our scheme. We have some young players at that position so it is a big year [for them] – Year 2 is a huge year for players in the NFL in terms of making that jump and not being a rookie anymore. We have high hopes for those guys and see what you have. Certainly, adding B.J. to the mix, we just felt was adding another versatile player into that group.”


On if Goodson is a MLB:

“We will see. He certainly has the capability to do it, but I like versatility. The ability to play different spots is important.”


On how creative he has been identifying activities for his kids at home:

“This I could go on for an hour. I have a lot of experience here. The e-learning, they are doing a nice job. I am learning from them as they take their classes online. I am learning how they as students respond so I can use that information for when we get to our players. Luckily, the weather has been decent so there have been a lot of outdoor breaks. Baseball has been coming back. A lot of bike rides. Hitting some plastic golf balls in the lawn. Really, we are throwing the kitchen sink at them when it comes to activities, and we have not run out of them just yet.”


On going to Minnesota with the plan to return to Cleveland sooner and if he decided to stay in Minnesota to be with family, given he would be working remotely either way:

“That is exactly right. That is a credit to Dee and Jimmy (Haslam) and what a supportive group we have where family comes first. I just felt like I could work remotely from here as opposed to being away from my family or bringing them to Cleveland. If you are going to be quarantined, it made more sense to be in a place they knew and are used to this house and I just think it was important to be somewhere I could get a lot of work done still. I am like everybody else. I wake up every day, read the news and ask the questions, ‘When do you think we are going to get going here? When do you think we are going to load the car up?’ and all of those types of things, Very fluid from that perspective for us as a family.”


On why it was important to establish the full commitment to Mayfield as the starter with Keenum signed to be the backup:

“I just think I believe in Baker Mayfield. He is our starting quarterback. I think he is a young player we have all seen glimpses of being a really good player. Organizationally, we believe in Baker Mayfield. This was part of my job and our job to surround him with people who are going to help make the best version of Baker Mayfield. That is myself and Alex Van Pelt, and then Case, he has done it all. He has been a starter, he has been a backup, he has had to fight to be the third-string guy on teams and he has been the undrafted player. Adding him, he knows his role perfectly. Everybody knows to get things done, it is good when you have role players that understand what their job is. I just felt it was important, and Case felt the same way. Our initial conversation with him was very upfront and he told us he had already circled this place as somewhere he felt like he could come in, be that backup and provide a ton of value at that position.”


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