Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (6.13.24)

Opening statement:

“Okay. Really appreciate how these guys worked. Appreciate how they competed. That 7-on-7 down there in the red zone, they were competing like crazy, but they’re keeping each other up. They were not still playing within the rules at all, but just I love how the juices of this team, they like working against each other. They like working with each other. So really pleased with sending these guys into this break with a really good work week. And it’s an extension of what the guys that have been here since April. So I’m super appreciative of all the guys that really never missed a day, came in, got their work done, and I think they all got better because of it. So pleased with that. And then we’ll take a little break here. But with that, I will take any questions from you guys. ”


It appeared that Deshaun (Watson) had his best day throwing. Would you agree with that? Was it noticeable to you? 

“You know, honestly, Tony (Grossi), I’ve said it before. I’ve gotten to see him throw throughout the course of this rehab, and I don’t know when it was, but a while back, he looked very normal to me, so that looked normal to me.”


Myles (Garrett) okay? Looked like he tweaked something there. 

“He will be fine. Yeah.”


Did you get everything you wanted to accomplish done in OTAs and minicamp here? 

“We definitely did, Jeff (Schudel). You know, we always put together a plan, and there’s things that we need to hit, whether it’s schematic or whether it’s what we do in the weight room or what we do out here on the field. I think we accomplished all those goals, but again, it doesn’t happen without the guys working really hard.”


Kevin, Mike Woods, first of all, how does he look after being off last year? How tough is it when a young guy misses a whole season to kind of re-find his footing? 

“Yeah. Mike’s done a nice job since he’s been back. Finally getting him on the grass and having him move around. He’s made plays, which really Mike’s done since he’s been here. He’s been a guy that is dependable, makes plays. He just needs to stay healthy as well. But really pleased with Mike’s progress.”


Cedric Tillman looks like he’s got a lot of chances. How has he come along and where is he at going into training camp?

“I don’t believe Ced missed the day of the offseason program. He was here every single day. I know he got better because of that. And I think he got better in the weight room, got better in the meeting room, definitely got better on the grass. So, you know, you would love to say, ‘Hey, everybody, be here every day.’ It’s a voluntary program. That’s not the case. But I do want to highlight a guy, like Ced that because he was here, because he worked extra. I think he’s a young player that’s getting better.”


So, watching DeShaun unleash that 50-yard pass down to Elijah (Moore), did that have you leaving here feeling really great about what he’s actually able to do? 

“We didn’t connect, though. It was an incomplete pass. No, I know what you’re saying. I would say this, Mary Kay (Cabot), like, I’ve been able to see him throw. Now, that’s the first time this week in 7-on-7 settings. But what we’ve been able to put him through as part of his rehab, I’ve seen him let it go, so to speak. So that was not surprising to see him do that.”


Can you leave here just with even more glory about what he was able to accomplish? I mean, I know some of us are looking out there saying, “wow, I’ve really done it right now.” But, I mean, did it exceed your expectations in any way? 

“I don’t look at it that way necessarily. He’s been here every day. He’s been getting better. I get to see him really through the course of his entire rehab. Go through the throwing sessions off to the side, go through the throwing sessions to the players. Go through the throwing sessions now at 7-on-7. So, I’ve seen this improvement from him, both in terms of how he’s feeling and also just those hitting those mile markers of when he’s allowed to do what he’s doing. He’s right where he needs to be, and I’m pleased with how hard he’s worked.”


Do you have any reason to believe that the (Amari) Cooper situation will be resolved by training camp?

“Yeah, I’m a day-to-day guy. I’m really focused on today, but I’m sure we’ll have maybe an update when we get back. We’ll talk about it, but I have no news on that.”


Kevin, for Deshaun, what is kind of the plan over this next month?

“Well, it’s a dead period, as you know, so we can’t direct any of it. So, ask Deshaun. But, yeah, he’s got a good plan. Like all of our guys, we talked about it today, establishing a routine, making sure that they’re staying healthy, that they’re getting their work done, that they’re still in their free time. If they want to do some summer reading, they can crack open that playbook if they want to, of course. But, yeah, he’s got a good plan of attack and how he’s going to get his body ready.”


Have you been pleased with how he’s responded?

“Yeah, he’s done a nice job. Again, he is the type of person, which should be no surprise. A lot of our players are like this that they always want to do more. They’re chomping at the pit to do more. We will lean on the medical staff and obviously the player in this case on DeShaun, to kind of lead the way in terms of what he does, but he’s done a nice job.”


We’re going to talk to Tommy Rees today for the first time. What appealed to you to give him his first NFL trial?

“I’ve known Tommy for a little bit. He came up and visited with us a few years back, so developed a relationship with him. You know, I’ve gone back, way back, I remember George Payton talking about Tommy when Tommy was at Notre Dame because George Payton had worked with Tommy’s dad at the Chicago Bears. So, Tommy’s very, very well respected in our business. He’s had some very high-profile jobs with both playing and coaching. And when the opportunity came where we could add him to our staff, we thought we were adding a really good young coach with a ton of versatility. He’s going into that tight end room, which he doesn’t have experience in that room, per say, but he’s around some really good coaches that can help him there. But he’s made a huge impact already today.”


Does any of it talk about in addition to the pass game as a specialist? What does that entail? Does any of it contribute to the gameplan?

“Yes, he’s going to specialize in the pass game, I guess.”



Kevin, when you’re putting together a coaching set, especially when you have a lot of them. Do you know, kind of what the puzzle should look like when it’s in. What are you specifically looking for as you fill each of those pieces?

“Yeah, I do think about it as a puzzle, and every piece is important in a puzzle, and some pieces are bigger than others, but you need every piece to put it together. And that’s kind of how I think about putting a coaching staff together. There are some big pieces that you gotta get right, but all those little pieces finish the product, finish what it has to look like. So, we think long and hard about that and then fitting those things together, making sure you have people in roles where they’re gonna grow and roles where they’re gonna make a big difference.”


It’s pretty easy to see why you’re going back to the Greenbrier to start training camp…

“So Tony can get some golf in is why we’re going back.”


How do you make that a unique trip? Doing it in back-to-back years, like last year obviously was unique and things like that. 

“Yeah, obviously inaugural year, last year. But we will do a few things differently. The schedule, how it shook out. We’ll have one day here before we go down, which is a little bit different. We’ll have a five-in-a-row block down there, which is a little bit different. So, we’ll adjust a few things. Whether it’s practice, playing or how we meet, we’ll do a couple things different.”


Kevin, going back Tommy, that tight end coach position has been a starting point for a lot of guys. I mean, think of like Drew (Petzing), but other guys too. It’s been a starting point for them. What is it about that position, that coaching position that kind of allows a guy to kind of learn? 

“Yeah, it was a start for me as well. You know, I think highly of that position, both as it relates to football, but also for young coaches, it is a great spot where you get a ton of run game, you get a ton of pass game, you get protection. So, you’re really exposed to so many areas of offensive football. Tommy’s been a coordinator, he’s been a quarterback, you know, so this is a different role for him, but one that I know I’m really excited about. I think he’s excited as well.”


Do you think the positive experience Greenbrier last year and then how you guys did throughout the season and guys kept referencing it, do you think that won guys over? Like initially they were not thrilled about going down there, but now they might be excited.

“It’s a good question. I didn’t poll them when we were asking if they want to go back down. I don’t know. I think the guys recognize, at least I believe they recognize that it’s good to be under one roof, it’s good to be together. It’s good that they get x number of ping pong games in. All of that adds up. You can do team building exercises. You could also just put everybody under one roof and organically that those type of things happen, so. But I don’t know that the guys view it any differently. I think it’s we’re going down there to get our work done, but we also get to be around each other.”


Andy’s (Dickerson) obviously throwing big shoes. Place and fill as a coach. Generally, when you’re replacing an established coach like that, how do you try to not fix what ain’t broke, but at the same time differentiate yourself?

“Andy’s very smart. He knows that he needs to be the best version of himself. I think when you get in trouble in any line of work, in this case in coaching, when you try to be something you’re not. So, he’s going to be himself. He’s going to do it how he knows how to do it with a ton of help. We got some great coaches on this staff, obviously some players that have done a nice job. But when you are coming into a position like Andy’s coming in and I’m sure there’s others that have been in similar positions, you just have to worry about being the best version of yourself.”

Kevin, what does (D’Onta) foreman bring to the running back room? And what kind of role do you think he might be able to have? 

“We’ll see, Nate (Ulrich). I think all those type of conversations about roles, they all get figured out over the course of time. He’s a big physical runner that’s played a lot of football, has had a lot of success and recent success at that. So excited to add his skillset, but in terms of roles, it’s just so early to say.”


Kevin, you guys had so many injuries in that safeties room last year, just getting a chance to feed those guys out there this spring. What has that been like? And to get Rodney (McLeod) back, too, especially. 

“Yeah, that’s a really strong group. Like you mentioned, Ashley (Bastock), there’s young guys in there, there’s some older guys in there, some established veterans. It’s a group that works really hard, extremely intelligent at minicamp. Getting everybody out there so we can see everybody work together, I think was a huge bonus.”


Kevin, there was a lot of chirping out there at the end of practice on each side of the ball. How good is that to see at the end of this minicamp? 

“Yeah, it’s outstanding. Yeah, we love it. And part of it is one of the core things we’re built on is competing. And you can compete in a seven-on-seven. Now, we don’t want any collisions, but you can compete like crazy. I saw the guys competing like crazy. And listen, we whistle while we work. We want to have fun out here. So, when it’s coming from both sides. And to me, it just elevates the level of competition. And when you do that, it’s the old iron sharpens iron, and that’s what it is. When you good versus good, you’re trying to make each other better. And if you got to talk a little trash along the way, that’s fine, too.”

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