HC Kevin Stefanski (9.9.20)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“Excited to get going here in Week 1. We have a very formidable foe in the Baltimore Ravens. Really well coached. Have a ton of respect for (Ravens Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh and his staff. You look at it offensive and defensive teams, a very complete football team. They went 14-2. They won the division. They have the reigning MVP (Ravens QB Lamar Jackson). On offense, I just think they are strong at every level. A big offensive line. A tight end who is outstanding. Their receivers, they can get them the ball in a bunch of different ways, and then Lamar is so dynamic and can run it and throw it. Defensively, (Ravens defensive coordinator) Coach (Don) Martindale does a great job, multiple looks, very aggressive. Adding (Ravens DE) Calais Campbell and (Ravens DE Derek) Wolfe I think is a huge boost to them, as well. Just big, physical players. In the backend, physical man coverage, nicks and zone. They added (Ravens LB) Patrick Queen this year. Impressive group throughout, and we are really diving into our preparations as we speak here on Wednesday.”

On if playing on Thursday night after this week’s opener has any bearing on the approach with C JC Tretter: this week 

“I think we just want to be smart with all of our players and all the circumstances. We will see how JC looks today and really will not make a determination until later in the week.”

On QB Baker Mayfield not making excuses for his play last year and what that says about Mayfield’s character: 

“We are not interested in excuses. I do not think anybody wants to hear them, and we are so focused on 2020. I think Baker speaks to that, as well.”


On what RB Kareem Hunt has done to earn the organization’s trust and his contract extension:  

“I think Kareem has been outstanding in the building, in the meeting rooms and on the field. Obviously, we think highly of him as a player, but I just can’t tell you how impressed I am of him as a teammate. I think he is all in. He is always supporting his guys and really treats the team in a way that I think speaks to the rest of the guys that this guy is very serious about ball. Then to your point, he has made sure that he is living the right way and doing the right things, and that is obviously a big part of this.”


On if he is ready to reveal plans for who will call plays on offense: 

“No, I will get to that, though. I promise.”


On if Mayfield came back with a higher sense of urgency after the practice at FirstEnergy Stadium: 

“All of our players, going through training camp, it is a process that you want to get better each and every day. You mentioned that moment and that practice in the stadium. I hope Baker and all of our guys are getting incrementally better from that. It is just losing some of the reps of those preseason [games], we just have to coach off the tape. He has been very, very diligent in his preparations.”


On factors for determining who to protect on the practice squad: 

“I think a lot of factors go into it. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) and I will sit down and take input from the coaches and just think about guys that we want to protect that week. It may vary each week. You really start the protection there on Tuesday so on Monday, all the practice squad around the league is unprotected.”

On if Hunt’s extension signifies a big commitment to the running game, in addition to other additions on offense: 

“I do not think so. I think it does speak to a commitment for sure anytime you go out and get the players that you mentioned, but we look at it that we will move the ball any which way we can.”


On if there is a sense of special appreciation for making it to Week 1, given the COVID-19 circumstances: 

“There is always a sense of appreciation for what this organization has done to keep our players, coaches and staff safe with all the protocols. I think absolutely that comes to mind every day. By the same token, when you get into game week, this is Wednesday and it feels like Wednesday. We are practicing what we do on Wednesday. We get so consumed in the process, consumed in the preparation of this thing that we kind of put tunnel vision on, but I would say I do feel a ton of appreciation for what this organization has done.”

On if Week 1 is more significant that other games, given the team’s desire to start the season on the right track:

“Thirty-two teams want to get off to a good start – 16 of them will and 16 of them will not. Our goal does not change going into any week. We are trying to win that football game, and they are all big games. Obviously, the focus goes on Week 1 because there is so much time in the offseason to stare at that schedule, but we are going to make sure that we put together a plan on offense, defense and special teams to give our guys a chance to play fast.”


On the dynamics between RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: 

“Very competitive players. Outstanding practice players. They support each other. They are all about the team.”

On playing without fans at M&T Bank Stadium and how that will impact on-field operations, given the manufactured crowd noise: 

“We have tried to replicate that noise out here on the practice field so we will have that just playing on a loop as we practice so the guys are used to that. It is going to be unusual. It is going to be a little eerie. For both teams, I think once you get through it, it will kind of just become the norm.”


On how the team has changed under his leadership, given it ‘may feel like it has been 100 years’ since being named head coach: 

“I think going back it does feel like 100 years, but I think we have added a bunch of smart and tough football players via the draft, via free agency and via trade. I think there is a core amount of guys here that I really believe in as teammates and as players. Then I think we have gotten to know each other a lot once we finally got in person. We did the virtual [meetings] for a very long time. I will tell you in the last month or six weeks just getting around the players, it is nice to put a face to the name – a face that has a mask on but at least a face to the name and kind of having some more personal interaction with the guys.”


On how Chubb fits into the ‘no bark, all bite’ mantra: 

“Nick is so mindful about his job. I think he has the great mentality that a lot of the good ones do. Do your job and do it as well as you can. I think the players feed off of that when you have a guy like Nick’s caliber who just focuses on his job and makes sure he has his job down pat. I think the guys really see that.”


On if it makes a difference who is calling plays in his offensive philosophy and the gamesmanship of not sharing the plan now: 

“I think it is interesting, there is gamesmanship. There is no preseason, obviously. Now, you go to a normal preseason, it is not like you show much anyway, but it is something that we will announce when we feel appropriate.”


On if he and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt would potentially call a game much differently: 

“I will not speculate.”


On if he agrees that there is a strong advantage for the Browns in knowing how the Ravens operate when the Ravens have not been able to see the Browns’ new schemes, given the Ravens have played together before and there is past tape to review: 

“No, I do not. I would tell you every year teams come in with a wrinkle. I can promise you there are things that they have been working on in practice that we have not seen and that was not on tape in 2019. That is just the nature of the first game. I go back to the preseason, even without the preseason, it is not like us or another team would be showing a lot of that stuff in the preseason. You are saving it for Week 1. That is just part of the deal going into Week 1.”


On what makes Ravens QB Lamar Jackson so challenging to defend: 

“He is dynamic. He can run it and he can throw it. They have designed runs for him, and then he can take off on a pass play. He can hurt you with his arm. He is accurate as a passer. I just think he is a great player. I grew up watching (former NFL QB) Randall Cunningham, and that is what he looks like to me, a guy that can just do everything on the field. He is a great player.”

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