HC Kevin Stefanski (7.30.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“Good to see everybody on here virtually again. Really excited to be getting started here. I can’t tell you what a great feeling it is to look out my window and there is a practice field with football players on it. It has been a long time coming. Very excited to kick this training camp off. I would be remiss if I do not mention the work that has gone on in this building behind the scenes – it has been so impressive to me – and really to make sure that it is a safe return for the players and coaches. (Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe Sheehan, our staff at UH (University Hospitals), our facilities crew, our video crew and our equipment staff, it has just been so impressive what they have been able to do to this building. Where I am talking to you all right now is from what we are calling our ‘broadcast room.’ This is the old quarterback meeting room down on the first floor. Speaking of retrofitting rooms in this building, what we have done is set up a camera in here that is on a tripod that I have a little button so I can move the camera. I am in here by myself so I do not have the mask on. It is somewhere where I can come down here, have a team meeting and (offensive coordinator) Alex Van Pelt can come down here and do the offensive install. We have another room for defense for (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods and for (special teams coordinator) Coach (Mike) Priefer. The work that has gone into this has been nothing short of a miracle. I have been so impressed with how they have worked. As coaches, we just get to show up, here we are and we don’t have to put in all of that work. Really appreciative of that. As we get started, we are ready to go and we have the protocols that are in place. We understand as we get going day in and day out, we may have to pivot, but I do believe firmly that we have a plan in place.”

On if the impact of the virus becomes a little more real when people he knows like Vikings Vice President of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman contract the virus, in addition to players being placed on Reserve/COVID-19:

“I think so. I think all of us have probably been effected in somewhere or another. You mentioned Eric Sugarman. I spoke to him yesterday, wishing him and his family a full recovery. It is certainly something that we are all dealing with, and I think that is true of everybody in every state. This is something that is impacting everyone, and certainly, there is a personal level when it is someone that you know well.”


On if any of the Browns coaches decided to opt out of the season and if the team is having conversations with staff about opting out:

“No, I have not had anybody opt out and have not had those conversations.”

On if the Browns plan to quarantine a QB, given some NFL coaches’ comments on the topic:

“I think we are mindful of that. I have read that and have talked to some people. We are going to put a plan in place that we feel really confident in keeping all of our players safe. Obviously, I understand the quarterback position and a lot of people are discussing that, but I feel very strongly that the protocols that they have given us, we have adhered them to a tee. The truth is we have gone past them. We are doing things in an abundance of caution that we do not even have to do. For example, we are going to split the squad next week, and we are going to go with call it a ‘brown’ and ‘an orange’ team. We are going to have a workout in the morning and a workout in the afternoon. We are going to do that just to limit the people in the building. We are not going to have in-person meetings until, I think, August 9. We are going to just stay virtual. There are a bunch of things that we are doing past the protocols, just because the first seven to 10 days or two weeks are so critical to this, per the medical experts, that we really want to do everything in our power to make this as safe an environment for our players.”


On if the Browns QBs will be in different rooms and how the team will separate them when possible, given the difficulty of conducting a game or practice without at least one of them:

“Yes, definitely [it would be difficult]. For the meeting rooms for instance, the quarterbacks in particular are spread out way more than six feet, but every position, we have done that. I do not really want to single those guys out, which I know we all do, but every position, we are taking this very seriously in terms of adhering to the protocol and going beyond it. Certainly, those meeting rooms, we have four quarterbacks on our roster, and the meeting room they are in can fit way more than four players.”

On what the Browns will do for practices in inclement weather, given the building’s reconfiguration resulted in the weight room moving to the field house:

“We are an outdoor football team. We are going to be outdoors as long as we possibly can. To your point, we will go inside if it is absolutely impossible for us to be outside with the weather. If we go inside, it is it is a limited field prior to us putting the weight room in there, and now, I understand that we have cut it down even more. We will be smart if we go in there. I do not know that you have an individual period, but there are some things that you can do full speed in there. I am not in a rush to get in there, being the fact that we have all of our games playing outside. We are going to stay outside for as long as you possibly can.”

On if the Browns expect more players to opt out of the 2020 season:

“I do not know. I would not speculate, but I respect the decisions.”

On if there is a plan to replace players who opt out for the season:

“Sure. We have talked a lot about contingency plans for everybody at every position – players, coaches, front office. We have a contingency plan for all of us.”

On if he believes the team will have enough time in training camp to make up for lost offseason practice time:

“Sure, I do. I think we have 44 days until the opener on September 13. I think there are six off days of those 44 so we have to make every day count, even those off days – the guys have to make sure that they are serious about their recovery. We will be efficient. I think we have a really strong plan in terms of how we are going to ramp it up. Obviously, the NFL gave us a very strict guideline on how to do that, but even within those guidelines, I think we have a really strong plan and are making sure that we safely acclimate the players and then continue to teach these systems. I go back to our offseason program, I was really impressed with the amount of work we were able to get done back in the spring so then that is something where I feel like we have built a foundation. Now, we get to build upon that foundation here in training camp.”

On the impact of cancelled preseason games and how that affects determining who will call plays on offense:

“The second part first, we do have a plan. I will announce that when the time is appropriate, but that is certainly something, like with everything else, you have to have a plan for all this. Missing the preseason games, sure, [preseason games are] an opportunity for players and it is an opportunity for our fans to get in the building and see these players. It is definitely unique. I think it is our job to create as many moments in training camp and as many times we can in practice to mimic game-like settings and put the players in some situational football so that we do not lose those four games like you mentioned.”

On if the elimination of preseason games has changed the team’s plan for T Jedrick Wills Jr., especially considering his transition to the left side of the line:

“I don’t know that the plan has changed with him other than you don’t get those four opportunities to teach and get reps. No, the plan hasn’t changed. We are keenly aware that we have a young player over there at left tackle. Trust me, his development is something that we will be very much on top of. We just have to work. Like I mentioned earlier, we have to make sure every one of these days counts. Every one of these periods and every one of these lifting sessions, you have to make them all count. It is a shorter runway, but I think we can really get to where we need to get to just like we would in a normal training camp.”

On if anything is specifically being done to help late-round and undrafted rookies catch up following a virtual offseason:

“It is important for us. All of those guys are here for a reason. We want to evaluate them, and we want to see them. There are definitely opportunities for us to be – really efficiency is probably the best word. If it is a 60-minute practice or a 90-minute practice, we have to make sure that we get those guys enough opportunities within the framework of the rules. Maybe at times you may split fields. If you have an extra 15 minutes at the end of practice, you may have a period of time for the young guys to continue to show what they can do. You are trying to get your starters ready, you are trying to get your backups ready and you are trying to evaluate the young players. You really have to do all of those at the same time.”

On the decision to run split-squad practices and the current workouts: 

“I will let AB (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) kind of speak to the roster as it gets going, but the split-squad idea is just trying to be in an abundance of caution. Right now, the rookies and the quarterbacks are in Phase 1, as it is called, so right now there is strength and conditioning, and we get a one-hour walkthrough with them. That is going to come up here at 4:30 p.m. It is on August 3, I believe, that the rest of the vets can then report into Phase 1. Phase 1 is very similar to Phase 1 in the spring, just the difference being we get a 60-minute walkthrough. I can tell you, we will use the meeting time, but we need time on the grass with the players. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and being around the players at 4:30 p.m. today.”

On addressing the team on his expectations for them outside of the facility:

“Our first team meeting was Tuesday night. We talked a lot about it. To me, it is a shared responsibility. It is something that it is not just one person’s responsibility to stay on top of. We are really going to be counting on our veterans to show some good leadership here. It is a unique time. I know there is a work-life balance for our players. I completely understand that, but this is such a unique time, and they have to take care of their teammates. We talk so much about being a good teammate, and one of the ways you can be a good teammate is when you leave this bubble and go into your own bubble, just making sure that you are making really sound decisions. Ultimately, you are taking care of your teammates when you do that – your teammates and your coaches.”

On if he has met all of the Browns players, given all veterans have not yet reported:

“No, I haven’t met all the players yet. I have met them virtually, a lot of them. I will tell you, with just having the rookies and the quarterbacks and the injured players in the building, when you are wearing these masks, you have to look pretty closely because it is hard to tell sometimes when you haven’t met somebody who it is. That is a unique thing that is going on right now, but I am really looking forward to going out on the practice field and seeing our players out there. Those fields look really, really good, and they are meant to have players on them. It is nice that we can finally get the rookies and the quarterbacks and the injured players out there today, and then looking forward to getting the vets out there on August 3.”

On how much time he has spent thinking about his first face-to-face meeting with all of the players:

“We have done so much virtually and we have covered so much ground already. Having that first training camp meeting virtually from right here to the players on Tuesday night, it feels like old habit. It is what we have been doing since the spring. Very much looking forward to doing this live in person, but I feel like the guys understand even when we do it this way, there is a lot of ground to cover. I can tell you, we were on calls today – some of the NFL-mandated calls that occur during training camp – and guys are engaged, they are taking notes, they are asking really good questions and having incredible discussions. We are getting pretty good at this virtually, but I am looking forward to getting the guys in person.”

On who is the contingency plan for his role, if he is unavailable:

“I am not going to share, but I will tell you it doesn’t just go down one; it goes down multiple. The worst thing you can do is not have a plan in a year like this. For every single position – it is not just the coaching staff; we have really done this throughout our football operation – we have made sure who is the next man up, the next person up. We have that laid out. We talked about what your roles, what your duties and what your responsibilities are day to day because the bottom line is we have to be prepared. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is not be prepared and start to have those conversations in the moment. We really made sure we had those conversations in the last few weeks.”

On if WR Jarvis Landry will physically be able to do everything to start training camp:

“Our physicals for vets are Saturday and Sunday of this week so I will have a better answer for you after that. He remains on schedule, based on everything he has done post-surgery.”

On if he has seen QB Baker Mayfield in person and if so, how Mayfield looks physically and from a throwing and footwork standpoint: 

“I should mention first of all that when I look out the window, I saw the players out there getting ready to do their conditioning and then I went back and sat down. I am not allowed to watch them condition. That is just the strength staff. I just wanted to get the image and I wanted to see what that look like to see the Cleveland Browns on our practice field. I have not seen the guys yet physically do anything until the 4:30 p.m. walkthrough, which as you can imagine, it is a walkthrough. It is hard to do a walkthrough, as you can imagine, with all the coaches are wearing their masks and the players are wearing their masks. The walkthroughs will really be more of a meeting on the field as we start to get going and have a real slow ramp up to this. We do not want to be doing too much too soon. I have not seen Baker yet. He is in the building. I think he is probably getting ready for the walkthrough so I will see him and report back to you on how he looks.”

On if there is more clarity on how the ball will be distributed among offensive players:

“Not really. Those things, we have to see our guys practice. We have to understand our strengths and weaknesses. We are going to reinstall our scheme. We are going to go back to the beginning. It is just how you do it and how I know how to do it in terms of how you install our offense. There are a lot of those that we have to get to before we get out there to practice. Then we see what we feel like our receivers, our running backs and tight ends [can do]. Then really once you get into the game and once you get into gameplanning, you just have to be mindful of that. That is really no different than any staff that I have been on. You have to be mindful as you put a plan together and make sure that you are thinking about players instead of plays.”

On if what other sports are doing now gives him more confidence about the season, despite the NFL not operating in a league-wide bubble:

“I am optimistic. I believe in this bubble. You may say that we are not a bubble; I feel like I am in a bubble. Wearing a mask everywhere, staying away from everybody and here is my Kinexon, which blinks red when I am within six feet of people, it certainly feels that way. Then we just have to make sure with that shared responsibility as you leave this bubble that you maintain and you follow the protocols. I feel very confident in the plan that was put together jointly with the NFL and the NFLPA. Now, it is just a matter of us adhering to the protocols.”

On how ‘normal’ practice will look:

“I think once we start practicing, which is about the middle of August, practice will look very similar to how you know it. Prior to that, walkthrough, we have discussed early in these walkthroughs that we are not going to huddle. That is something that is the antitheses of an offensive coach – the first meeting you have is about the huddle, the tight huddle and breaking the huddle. We are going to make sure that we spread everybody out. Again, it just goes back to early on in this thing, we want to have an abundance of caution to make sure we are keeping our players and staff safe.”

On if the Browns still plan to huddle when practices begin:

“Yes. I should say, there will be some things that we address and are ready to pivot. I just know this, even though the opener is 44 days away, you can feel that and you want to go real fast, I have told the players this and I told the coaches this, we will not do too much too fast. It is just not in anyone’s best interest. There are small concessions that we have to make that put us out of our comfort zone to make sure that we are staying safe, especially early on in this thing, and that is just on the advice with the medical experts.”

On if the coaches and players talk to their families about also being responsible:

“We do. It is something all of us are living with and something all of us have to make good choices and make good decisions. I have talked a lot with the players about it already. You just have to do everything in your power, everything in your power to keep yourself, your teammates and their families safe. That is hard. That is not easy for a lot of families, mine included, but you just have to do it. It is the sacrifice that we are making to make sure that we are keeping everyone else safe.”

On how ‘shared responsibility’ as it relates to the virus will directly impact the success of NFL teams during the season and potentially teams reaching the playoffs:

“It remains to be seen. It might. It is hard to win in this league. As we all know, it is hard to win, and we are going to do everything in our power to not make it harder. If we take care of business in the building and outside of the building, seemingly, that should give you an advantage.”

On P Jamie Gillan being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and if he receives information from the team’s medical staff about how long he may potentially be out:

“I do. It is something obviously I do have a feel for. I do obviously have a lot of dialogue with our team doctors and with Joe (Sheehan). With all of this, this is just going to be the new normal. We really can’t comment on individuals in this regard. It is certainly something that I think the league expected that there would be guys that get put on this list. The only thing we will do is follow every protocol to a T.”

On how G Drew Forbes opting out impacts the competition at RG: 

“I think it is like a lot of things. There should be competition at a lot of positions. That is the fun part of training camp. I think our guys are eager to compete. Drew made a decision. I respect his decision. It is the ‘next man up’ mentality. We will see how it all shakes out.”

On if he would have played starters in preseason games and how playing time would be distributed, if they occurred: 

“You are going to have to wait until next year (laughter).”

On if he has talked to TE David Njoku since Njoku requested a trade: 

“I have not talked to him. No.”

On the team’s stance and approach to having Njoku in the building after requesting a trade:  

“My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him. I will get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday. Excited to work with him.”

On if the team’s schemes and gameplans may have to be simplified following modifications to the offseason and training camp: 

“I think we have to be mindful. Like I mentioned before, I definitely don’t want to do too much too soon, but there is a certain amount of install that you have to get through. We are going to be very, very intentional about how we put our plan together, and we want to make sure that come September 13, we are in a position to put together a gameplan to give the guys an opportunity to go play fast. That is something we have to be mindful of from Practice 1 all the way through our preparation for Baltimore. That is something that myself, AVP (Alex Van Pelt), Joe (Woods), Coach (Mike) Priefer, we have all constantly been talking about, and we will pivot after that. After we get through a week, we will kind of ask to take a temperature to see where everyone is and we can adjust that as we go.”

On there has been 100 percent attendance on reporting days: 


On his ‘silver linings’ of his first training camp as a head coach: 

“I think this is fun. We got the emails from the league at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night outlining what training camp was going to look like, then you pour over it and you get in a room with a bunch of smart people – you spread out, by the way, and you put your mask on – and we grinded on this thing. I feel like we put together a good plan. It is a challenge, no doubt, and something that is very unique, but there is opportunity here. I think our team and our organization is certainly positioning itself so we can get out there, get our players in a safe environment, get our coaches here safely and get to work.” 

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