HC Kevin Stefanski (8.7.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement:

“Good to see everybody. Where we are right now is we have one more day of Phase 1 split-squad. That is today. Tomorrow, the players are off, and then Sunday, we will have three more days of Phase 1 and we will be full squad. We will be full squad starting on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and then as it progresses, you get into Phase 2, you have what essentially amounts to an OTA, you take a day off and then it is starting to look more and more like training camp. I think the coaches and players have done a really nice job to date of getting a lot of good work done on the practice field, which it is incredible to be out there on a practice field with real live football players. Just watching our coaches coach has been awesome for me. Just bouncing around different positions and listening to them teach has been very, very impressive. The guys are really attacking this portion of training camp and doing a great job in the weight room and the conditioning part of this. We just have to keep it going. We have been virtual in all of our meetings. Starting Sunday, we will do meetings in person in the morning and then we will do virtual at night. Again, there is a progression to all of this, and we are just going to keep talking about it and keep thinking about what makes sense as we continue to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. That is what is going on with us.”

On his impressions of QB Baker Mayfield after his first few days on the field, particularly given Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry’s praise of Mayfield earlier this week:

“He is doing a very nice job. I went down to see Baker [in Austin] in [February] prior to everything going crazy. That was really our first time to get in person and talk about life and get to know each other, if you will, down in Austin. From that moment until now, I have been very impressed with Baker. He is all ball. He understands his role. He understands what we want him to do in this offense. He is doing it on the field. Just watching him get through the cadence and kind of line people up, very impressed with him. I know Andrew mentioned the shape he came in, and it is really impressive. He did a nice job. That just does not happen – there is a lot of work that goes into that, and he clearly has done the work.”

On Mayfield’s ability to create chemistry with teammates during a challenging offseason:

“That position, your job is to make other people better, No. 1. In order to do that, you really have to get to know guys and you have to know what makes them tick. I think one of his strong suits is understanding his peers, his teammates, and he works at it. That is definitely a strong suit of his.”

On the decision to visit Mayfield in Austin in February:

“That relationship, as everybody knows, the head coach-quarterback relationship is important. I hope to travel to see many different people in the offseasons. I just felt like it was important for me to sit face to face with him, meet his family and kind of get to know each other. That is something that I will continue to do. That was the charge going back to [February], and even now, the charge is we have to get to know each other real quick. We want to come together as a team, and part of that is we really have to work. I have to work hard and our coaches and our players have to work hard at getting to know each other in a bunch of different ways so that we can come together and get ready to go practice and play. There is just this element when you are virtual, when you do have two separate locker rooms and when you have the Plexiglas up, you have to work extra hard to come together.”

On the importance of his meeting with Mayfield in Austin in February, particularly given it was later announced that NFL offseason programs would be virtual:

“I did not know about this global pandemic, though. I will admit that. That was not a part of the thinking (laughter). It was very fortunate that the timing worked and I was able to get down there and spend a good night with him.”

On if the Browns need to add depth at G, given multiple Browns Gs opted out of the season, and how the team will split practice reps between starters and backup players:

“As it pertains to the guard question, I think that is what Andrew and his staff are working on every day. I think they walk in the building and say, ‘Look at the roster. How do we improve it?’ I know with the opt outs at that position, it is certainly something that we will continue to look at. As it pertains to practice reps, you have to get your starters ready. You also have to get your backups ready in this year. We have to be very mindful of how we divvy up those reps. I have sat down with the coaches already and we have a plan for that, but I don’t think it is a season where you just say, ‘Hey, I’m just getting my starters ready.’ I think that may not be smart.”

On his early observations of the team:

“I think what is obvious to me is that guys worked very hard in this offseason, both physically and mentally. I think watching the walkthroughs and watching the coaches interact with the players, there is a good understanding of what we want to do. Now, I will steal a line – I talked to (Vikings offensive coordinator/assistant head coach) Coach (Gary) Kubiak the other night and he said it and it is right – ‘The teaching is ahead of the doing right now.’ We had a really good offseason of teaching. We have had a ton of meetings to this point. Now with these walkthroughs, we are finally doing. Just to see the guys walk through techniques – and I mean literally walk through – we are having a period where these guys are not moving very fast, but they are getting the body to get through the football movements, is really important. I have just been impressed with what the guys have been able to retain, going back to the spring. Like we talked about, the guys attacked the offseason in the weight room and showed up in really good shape.”

On how much time he has been able to spend with rookies and takeaways from them during training camp thus far, particularly given the virtual offseason program:

“They are bright eyed. They are listening. I have really enjoyed, truly, getting around to the different positions and watching the coaches coach, watching them teach and the guys are absorbing. We have to just be so efficient in our days, try not waste a day and try not to waste a period here out at practice. The guys have been very engaged.”

On if the Browns need to add more bodies to the OL in order to get through training camp:

“I would not put it that way. I think we need good players. I think Andrew and his staff are going to work really hard at all of these positions. If we should have a need somewhere, we want to get a good player in here. We want to make sure that we are bringing guys in who have a chance to develop.”

On if he has a grasp of the Browns’ depth chart for positions where starters may not be fully solidified as practices start, particularly given the virtual offseason program:

“I think you operate from a depth chart understanding that positions are open and this is a competitive place. Now, someone has to start, like you said, but the next period, you may start somebody else, and the next day, you may start somebody else. We will just make sure with each one of those positions that are up for grabs and have an open competition, which I think I think brings the best out of people. We will make sure that we get the amount of looks that we need to make an informed decision moving forward, but we do have time.”

On if he was surprised Browns players reported in such good shape, given limited access to facilities during the virtual offseason program:

“I would not say surprised; I would say impressed, but I knew that because we were one of the teams that required them to videotape their workouts and send them in to us. I think there was value in that. I have seen guys in their garage using the coolers as a bench rack. I love the message that those workouts sent to their teammates that nothing was going to hold them back to get their work in. I think we have seen the fruits of that work with the guys showing up here. It is not over, I should mention. There is plenty of work to do in the weight room. There is plenty of work to do in the meeting room and on the field. I really think the guys made the offseason program count.”

On how beneficial walkthroughs are following a virtual offseason program and if the team needs to be full speed to really evaluate the situation:

“I think the walkthroughs are awesome. They are meetings on the field at a minimum. We are outside, which is beneficial, and we are lining up. We are also lining up with spreading out. We are being safe early here in camp. I think there is a progression to teaching. We have certainly had a lot of the meeting room part of this, but you always want to walk through before you do something full speed. This works out really nicely in our teaching progression.”

On Berry surrounding QB Baker Mayfield with more talent to succeed this past offseason:

“I think Andrew and his staff did an outstanding job going back through free agency and through the draft. You asked a question about the offense, but I really think they had a plan for the entire roster. As it pertains to the offense, yeah, I think it is important to have a productive offense. There were some parts that we felt we had to go out and acquire, whether via free agency, via trade or via the draft, and we had a plan. Certainly, you would hope if you are doing that, you are making life easier on the quarterback – that makes sense to me – but I think the plan was more so let’s bolster this offense as much as we can.”

On social justice conversations with Mayfield and Mayfield being a leader and previously stating during the offseason that he would kneel for the National Anthem:

“I am proud of all of our guys that have done the research, have educated themselves and have been very thoughtful about their actions and about their words, and Baker certainly fits into that category – someone who is passionate – but he has listened before doing. I just think that is so important. Social justice is something that we are going to constantly as a team talk about. We have formed a social justice committee. We are going to make sure that we are all talking and listening to each other and then ultimately doing. Baker is a great example of that. Just all in all, I have just been so impressed with our guys understanding the change that they can affect throughout this offseason, and it is going to continue through this season.”

On if he was concerned that WR Odell Beckham Jr. would opt out following his comments to the Wall Street Journal on the season, which were made prior to the NFL-NFLPA agreement on COVID-19 protocols:


On if he knew all along that Beckham would be ‘all in’ this season and if he was unfazed by the Wall Street Journal article as it related to Beckham potentially opting out of the season:

“I am not trying to give you a short answer to appease (Director of Community & Corporate Communications) Rob (McBurnett, who mentioned the press conference was about to conclude) (laughter), but my conversations with him have been very positive.”

On if the team is proceeding as if WR Jarvis Landry will be ready for the season opener or planning for Week 1 contingencies:

“I think for all of our guys that are working through whether it is an offseason surgery or really anything, I am so focused on today, tomorrow and maybe a week. I do not know that we are going that far out because we do not have to. I just know that for each one of our guys, we have a plan. We have really smart people here. We have a great training staff and a great strength and conditioning staff. We have a plan for each guy, and it varies for each guy because we are not going to treat a guy, Jarvis for example, the same as we are going to treat an interior offensive lineman or whatever it may be. We will have a plan to bring him along, just like we will really with all of our guys.”

On what C JC Tretter means to the Browns as a leader and player:

“I think that center position is so important to this offense, any offense. I was fortunate to be around (former NFL C) Matt Birk, a very intelligent, good player for many years and (former NFL C) John Sullivan, an intelligent, good player. I have been around some really good centers – (Vikings C) Garrett Bradbury, recently at Minnesota. JC is really fun to be around as a coach because there is just no limit to what this guy can do from a mental standpoint. What that does for the entire team and for the quarterback is real important. On top of that, JC played really hard. I think there is such an element with that offensive line that (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan demands about being gritty, tough and playing through the whistle, and I see that on tape in JC. As excited as I am to work with him and diagnose blitzes all of that, which he is certainly capable of, I just love the style of play that he brings to the Cleveland Browns.”

On if a moment in particular sticks out from his meeting with Mayfield in Austin in February:

“No, it was just good for me to get down there. That is an important relationship. I know other coaches have done that before. I want to make sure I get to know a bunch of guys in the future. I will just tell you, it is important for me to get to know the person and get to know the family. They were gracious hosts down there in Austin.”

On how much he knew about Mayfield’s production in 2019 when visiting with him in Austin in February and if Mayfield conveyed any disappointments with him about last season:

“When you spend as much time as you spend with somebody in a day like that, you cover all of the bases. I will tell you, from that moment until now, I see a very committed football player who is ready to lead and who is excited to play. I go back to I think Baker is a really good teammate. I think he really understands his teammates. I think his teammates play hard for him. That just goes back to that thing he has that nobody can put a finger on and that the quarterback position has to have. You have to have ‘it.’ You have to make sure you bring your guys along. I mentioned earlier, the No. 1 job of a quarterback is to make the guys around you play better. There are a bunch of ways to do that. It is like the point guard on a basketball team. I just think Baker has embraced all of that since the moment he and I have gotten to know each other.”

On Keenum being viewed as the ideal partner for Mayfield in the QB room and if he has seen their relationship start to develop in the early stages:

“I have. Having coached the position, I know that room is unique. There are a lot of unique rooms on a football team, but that quarterback room, you have to work together. I have seen great examples of it in my career. This one is in that same vein with Case, with (QB) Garrett (Gilbert) and with (offensive coordinator) Alex Van Pelt,  Alex’s demeanor, the way he runs the meetings and the way he is on the field, I think there is a great thread running through that room. Certainly, Case is the old, old, old veteran in that room and plays that role really well.”

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