Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (5.10.24)


Opening Statement:

“Beautiful day in the neighborhood. Really fun being out here with these guys. We love having rookies in the building because they’re seated in their chairs 15 minutes prior to the meeting. All the notebooks are opened, pencils in their hands. Very eager learners. Same thing out here. I think the walk thru this morning started at 10:45 and I think at 10:25 all of them were out here. Little bit different than their veteran counterparts, but really fun for us to put them in a helmet and put them through an individual drill. The emphasis today and certainly this week is on teaching, on learning. Not just the system, but getting to know our teammates and them getting to know our coaches, our staff, etc. Really pleased with how those guys handled today and there’s more work to do. They have some studying when they get back to the hotel tonight and we’ll get ready tomorrow for Day 2 of rookie minicamp. Really pleased with where these guys are.”


How do you think Zak looked?

“Yeah, he said his last time was his last game putting the helmet on. He looks good, he’s comfortable. He’s working very hard with Andy and Roy and those guys. Just really pleased with where he is, but he looked comfortable today.”


Is it more conditioning for him than anything else?

“I think you could probably say that about everybody. What happens is you’re in really good Pro Day shape and you’re in shape for the combine and you’re getting ready to run 40-yard dashes and that’s not really football. I think a lot of these guys are going to work themselves back into football shape. Zak’s no different than a lot of those guys.”


Was there any thought of having DTR (Dorian Thompson-Robinso) up here or is he just not ready?

“I don’t know that he’s eligible to be a part of rookie camp. I don’t know if he’s ready to be throwing.”


What do you hope to take away from this weekend?

“We look at it as this week is the start. Then going into next week, it’s really ramping these guys up as quickly as possible so that when they get dropped into the general population, they kind of know what the system’s about, they know what the coaches are about, they know what to expect in the meeting room. All of this is a process. They’re going to be overwhelmed today with information and that’s okay. We have time to work through it. It may feel like they’re drinking out of the fire hose with some of the things we give them, but that’s a very natural reaction to getting new information. A lot of it, there’s no secret to it, there’s no snap your fingers and figure it out. It’s just, sit down and spend as much time with the playbook as you can.”


What have you guys seen in Jowon and what are your first impressions of him physically?

“There’s different schemes as we all know. Our scheme is about attack and getting off the ball, so that’s something that Jacques was working hard at with the defensive line today. That’s something that we think Jowon has in him and certainly something that we think he is capable of doing. Just watching him move in these drills I think he is capable of doing that, so there is a definite learning period with all of that. I can think of different players that have played in this system, that it doesn’t come right away for some guys if you’ve been playing in a different system. It might take a week, it might take some months. That’s why we’re here, we’re here to work.”


Are there things that you feel the need to tell them right away when they got on campus for the first time?

“Yes, there is definitely. Where they’re going right now is with Ron Brewer and our player programs and talk about some of those things as a rookie that goes on. There’s a lot that goes on in this NFL, there’s a lot of different challenges that are coming at them. We look at this as a way to be a resource to them. These are young men coming into the league and making some money and trying to make sure that we have all the resources available to them so that they make smart decisions off the field as much as on the field.”


Did you know anything about Nathaniel Watson before this and what have the impressions been so far?

“Well we liked him as a player, we liked the tape. He’s a very physical player, he goes by Bookie, he’s a good kid. Doing a nice job of making some calls initially. A very physical linebacker and we think he fits what we do.”


What were your first impressions with Mike Hall’s first step and his explosiveness?

“I thought Mike did a nice job. Again like you said, first day of school. To see them take coaching, that’s something that I think is so important for young players. You have to take coaching. I think Jacques and Jordan Thomas do an outstanding job with our defensive line and if you were watching, he’s in a stance and Jacques is walking around and looking at every foot and where it’s placed, how high he has his rear end, how he’s bending out of that, where his hands are. There is so much nuance that goes into it that he will work really hard at. He did a nice job today and we want to build on that each day.”


You have 7 tryout players and 6 draft picks, what do you tell these guys that are coming in on these tryouts?

“We really don’t care whether you’re drafted or a college free agent or you’re on tryout for us right now. This is an evaluation period, so all of those guys will get a fair shot as we look at them and see how they do in the meeting room, see how they do out here on the practice field. I’ve been around guys that have really impressed during their rookie minicamp and turned that into a job. That does happen, so we are certainly looking at all of these players and seeing how each of them can help us in the future.”


How much does it resonate for you when a guy like Jowon, who’s not just playing for a spot on the team, but for a family of 4 and he’s just really dedicated himself to his family and his children?

“Right, I think he does a great job and he shared with the team that he has 3 young kids, he’s got a lot going on. He’s probably enjoying the sleep here in the hotel, but I think all of these guys have a story and all of these guys have a Why. They’re all doing it for different reasons and certainly that’s a big part of who he is. Spending time with him this offseason, we all got a feel for him and I think you guys will as well.”


This is not a rookie question but Andy Dickinson, stepping in for Bill Callahan. What’s that like for the veteran players? How does he earn their respect?

“I think Jeff with any person coming in to replace anybody, you want to just be yourself. You are not going to replace the person who came before you and that is for players, coaches, Head Coaches, coordinators, position coaches. In Andy’s case, he has had a really interesting career already. He has been in different places, he has worn different hats, played different roles. Very very smart. So he is going to be himself and I think players repsond to that.”


You have had a busy week preparing for rookie minicamp and all of the things, but you took time earlier this week to go to the Girl’s High School Flag Football Championship. Why was that so important to you and how did you feel being up there?

“I saw you down there, Cam (Justice). That was awesome. What a cool event. I can not tell you how much fun I had down there. I wish I could’ve stayed. I wish I couldv’e gotten there a little bit earlier to see some of the games. I think there were 28 teams down there. Some incredible atheltes. Some of the plays, some of the throws rthat were made. Just the time I was there was very very impressive. That needs to be a varsity sport. The fact that that is not sanctioned yet is crazy to me. Just go down there and watch those young ladies run around and enjoy that sport was so fun for me to see. I know a bunch of our coaches went down there and it was not coordinated, we all just wanted to go down and watch some really good football. That was a great night. There is something about being in your stadium, in your hometown stadium playing football and something as a kid I was able to do and I know how important that is. It is part of the reason why in June, on June 6, our Foundation is going to host a co-ed flag football tournament down there on June 6. Just for me watching the girls at a high level, at high school do it, was inspiring and I am excited that we will be able to go down there and do that with some kids on June 6. And for more information on that, Tony (Grossi) — AboveKeepersFoundation.org.”


Why is not the right time for you to start your own foundation?

“Good question. My family and I, it started with a conversation and I have young kids and wanting to stress upon them that it is so importnat to give back. And when you have been blessed, you want to give back even more. And this community – Northeast Ohio/Cleveland – people have just been so good to us. That is the truth. And people have been so supportive of us. We want to get out there in the community and we want to do that for the reasons of helping and also for our kids to see this is so important. There is young kids in this community in particular that need our help.”


Is part of it too this is your fifth year here. You have had time to settle in.

“It took five years to come up with a name, that’s what it was. Truthfully, this is home. So we want to make sure that we make this foundation a group that makes a lasting impact.”


Do you have any preferences of how you’d like to start the season? What do you think about the possibility of going to London?

“I really don’t. I like schedule release day as much as everybody does. I know everybody goes down the schedule and comes up with a record at the end of it. As I’ve told you guys before, I like to see where our Bye is, where the primetime games are, how many road games in a row, all those types of things. It’s exciting for our league. We have no preference on where they place these games. We know who we’re playing, we know where we’re playing them, but we don’t really care when the league decides to put them on our schedule.”


Did you make any special requests?

“Nothing specific.”


Do you need a fifth quarterback for training camp?

“We’ll see. If we have a fifth quarterback that we deem worthy, then yes.”