Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (9.7.22)


Opening statement:

“Game-week Wednesday. Excited to be here. I know the team is excited for the challenge and for the opportunity of going down to Carolina. The preparations are underway. This team I think is a good football team. I know (Panthers Head) Coach (Matt) Rhule well and have a ton of respect for him and what he is building down there. Just look at them on all three sides of the ball. Their offense with (Panthers offensive coordinator) Coach (Ben) McAdoo, for us, there is the little bit of unknown with Coach McAdoo being last in Jacksonville, calling it in New York and obviously was in Green Bay. Have some tape on Coach (McAdoo) going back a little bit and then obviously the preseason, but there is unknown. It is week 1. That is kind of how that works. Defensively, with (Panthers defensive coordinator) Coach (Phil) Snow, he has been with Coach Rhule for a long time. Very, very aggressive. High, high pressure rate. Good players at all three levels of the defense so quite the challenge. Then special teams, (Panthers special teams coordinator) Coach (Chris) Tabor, who everybody knows was here, a really good coach and sound schemes. We are going to have our work cut out for us. Again, it is Wednesday of game week so a lot to get done but looking forward to it.


“The team voted for captains. We are going to have five season captains. We will still have a game captain that is unique to that week. Your captains on offense are (G) Joel Bitonio and (RB) Nick Chubb; on defense (DE) Myles Garrett and (LB) Anthony Walker Jr.; and on special teams, (LS) Charley Hughlett. I always think it is a big deal when the team votes and when your teammates vote for you. I think that says a lot. I think those guys are all great leaders in their own way and will provide great leadership for this team.”


On if DE Jadeveon Clowney being listed as an expected DNP on today’s practice injury report due to illness:

“Just sick. Expect him back.”


On the decision to have season-long captains after not doing in previously:

“I have been on a bunch of teams. Sometimes, you have team captains. That was a unique year. Just felt like it was the right thing to do with changing up the captains each week. I thought it was something that we should do this year. I would tell you and I told the whole team this, you do not need a ‘C’ on your chest to be a leader. You just do not. I think leadership comes from a bunch of areas of your football team, but I do think it says a lot about those players – those players that would represent us before the game and go out there – it says a lot about who you are”


On what Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey does to stress an opposing defense:

“He can do it all. He is so versatile. He can run downhill. He can run in the perimeter. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. You can line him up at wide receiver. There is really not much he can’t do. He is just a really, really good football player.”


On Walker being listed as the starting MIKE:

“Yes, Anthony will start.”


On why Walker will start over LB Jacob Phillips and if Phillips will get a lot of playing time, given the number of reps taken in training camp and preseason:

“Jacob is going to play a ton. You have 11 guys who are ‘starters’ on either side of the ball and then you have guys that play a ton of football for you and help you win. I would highlight (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.), going to be playing a ton of defense for us and going to be playing a ton of special teams. Is he ‘a starter?’ I guess not, but to me he is. We look at it as you have got 53 guys on the active [roster] and 48 up on gameday, and they are all going to play and we are going to need all of them, but obviously, you are going to have to start with 11 on either side.”


On Chubb appearing bigger than previous seasons:

“I do not know that he is bigger just from weight and lean mass. I am not sure. He looks great. He is in great shape. He is ready to roll. Obviously did not play in the preseason. He is fresh. He is ready for a good day’s work.”


On when a Browns player misses time due to an illness if his mind wanders back to COVID-19 protocols:

“I do not know what you are talking about (laughter). As you can imagine, with every player and staff member, if you are sick, we will just always be smart, but I do not want to talk too much about it.”


On if the Browns review any of their past offensive film when studying Panthers QB Baker Mayfield ahead of Sunday’s game:

“Yeah. When you are studying any of the players, I think you have to look at the full body of work. Obviously with Baker, we had two years of work with him in our offense. You watch the preseason. You definitely go back and study players. You want to have as big of a sample size as possible to prepare for a guy.”


On the locker room spots not being sectioned by position:

“Just how we like to do it around here. Just forced interaction.”


On if the goal of the locker room positioning is to get younger guys closer to older guys and/or offensive players around defensive players:

“Yes, all of the above.”


On T Jack Conklin’s status for Sunday:

“He is practicing today. Again, he is hitting all of the benchmarks, and we will just continue to bring him along.”


On the Browns typically striving to get up early and then rotate RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to control the pace of the game and if the team will have the same approach this year:

“Honestly, I think every team is trying to do that. You are trying to get the lead and then get into four-minute offense so of course for us, yes, whatever formula it is, you would love to get a led early and be able to run the ball when they know that you are running it – that is four-minute football, but you have to call and play the game that is called for.”


On if the Browns can learn about strategies to get to Mayfield by reviewing film of the final Browns-Steelers game of 2021:

“Again, we have two seasons worth of Baker with us in this offense, but that was the Cleveland Browns offense so hard to say exactly what the Carolina Panthers offense will look like. Again, with a new coordinator, you are watching a lot of tape and you are making some assumptions based on their personnel, but it is hard to say until we get to Sunday at 1 p.m.”


On the ‘inside track or thoughts’ on Mayfield after coaching him for two years:

“Really good football player. Has made a ton of plays. Can make plays on schedule or off schedule. A ton of arm talent. We have our work cut out for us. We have seen him make a ton of plays so we know he is a good football player.”


On how to help ensure Browns players do not get caught up in the excitement and hype around Mayfield playing against his former team:

“For us, it is Browns versus Panthers. It is pretty simple. We have to prepare for their offense, their defense and their special teams. That is really where our focus is.”


On if the Browns have to change any offensive audibles or signals this week, given Mayfield’s familiarity with the Browns offense:

“There is a little bit of that. We talked about it the other day. You don’t want to overthink those type of things, but you understand that he was in our system for two seasons so knows code words, hand signals and those type of things. Sure, you assume that their coaches know all of that, as well.”


On if Mayfield gave the Browns a ‘softball’ with the reported comments surrounding Week 1 since coaches are always looking for ways to motivate their teams:

“No. Really, no. The motivation is we are playing a good football team on the road Game 1. That is really all you need.”


On the trend for more teams to player fewer starters in the preseason and if that leads to more big surprises in Week 1:

“Not really. Like you mentioned, we held some guys out of the preseason. Some teams don’t play anybody. Some teams play a ton of people. I do think Week 1, the preseason is a distant memory for a lot of people. I know we have guys who did not play in the preseason who are chomping at the bit.”


On who will be the primary KR and PR:

“We will see.”


On if the Browns can expect Conklin to play all offensive snaps, if Conklin is available:

“Those are obviously things that we are talking about. I would just tell you, with Jack, he has worked very, very hard this offseason and he continues to work hard. He is progressing.”


On if the Browns have determined who will serve as the primary KR and PR:

“We have a good idea. It is kind of like we talked about previously, we have a bunch of guys on this roster who can do it. I am very comfortable with multiple guys. Who we put out there the first time on punt and kickoff, we will see on that.”


On if the contract situation with Hunt earlier this summer will impact how the Browns use Hunt at all this season or if that is ‘water under the bridge’:

“No. Anything that happened previously – to use your words – ‘water under the bridge.’ He is a big part of what we do.”


On confirming he will call offensive plays, given other coaches received opportunities to call offensive and defensive plays during the preseason:



On if K Cade York’s strong leg has led the team to recalibrate its decision-making process related to third and fourth downs:

“Yeah. Now, we have a rookie kicker so we have to be smart about that and understand he is not going to be perfect right away. Rookies have to grow as the season goes on. Having said that, we think highly of the kid so that will affect decision making, sure.”


On balancing younger Browns WRs need to produce for the team while also understanding they are still developing:

“Specifically to the young players, (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) doesn’t feel young to me anymore. (WR) Anthony Schwartz is a very, very intelligent football player. I think that room as a whole is so mature and professional, I don’t worry about the ‘is it too big for them’ part of it. I think they are ready to go.”


On if he will reference the Browns’ record in season openers since 1999 with the team:

“No. You will, but I won’t (laughter).


On Walker being named a team captain and listed as starting MIKE despite missing time due to injury and LB Jacob Phillips taking many reps with the first team defense training camp and preseason:

“I will talk about Anthony, but it gives me an opportunity to talk about Jacob. I think very, very highly of Jacob the player obviously and the person. Just because Anthony is the ‘starter’ does not mean that Jacob does not have a huge role for us moving forward – he is going to help us win. Anthony Walker, as we have been around him the last couple of years, there is a reason we kept him around. There is a reason we wanted him back here in this building. He provides great leadership, a very good communicator, does a great job running the defense, if you will, so excited about him. You are right, he worked through injuries, but he is somebody who you can count on to stay engaged throughout. Whether he is in the huddle or on the sideline, he is always staying engaged.”


On if TE Jesse James will be active on Sunday after joining the team earlier this week:

“I think we are working through it. I would tell you, he is very intelligent. I don’t think it will be something that he can’t do, but we are working through it.”


On confidence in the Browns’ depth and rotation at DT:

“Those guys have worked very hard. I have seen it in practice. I kind of know what they are capable of. I think we have played good defense at that position the last couple of years. I think these guys are ready to do the same.”


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