Kevin Stefanski gave Browns players a surprise in their final meeting of organized team activities Thursday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
Instead of using the final day of OTAs for another practice, Stefanski treated the team to a trip to the Cavaliers' practice facility for a morning of shooting hoops. Players and coaches hopped on buses after the announcement and traveled to the Cavs' facility in Independence, where two open courts and several basketball racks awaited them.
"They've worked their butts off this offseason," Stefanski said. "I'm very appreciative of the work they put in, and I felt like this was a nice prize for them. It felt like today was a good time to get away from the facility and have some fun and do some team-building."
Stefanski organized the trip with Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff and President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman, and the idea stemmed from Stefanski seeing the amount of Browns players who have enjoyed shooting at a hoop the Browns have at their own facility. Players have taken shots on the hoop after several practices this offseason, so Stefanski wanted to give them a chance to shoot in an actual basketball setting.
"They love to shoot hoops," Stefanski said, "so we're very fortunate that J.B. and Koby and the Cavaliers were gracious hosts to allow us to come over here."
Players mostly did shootaround drills and split into groups for a few rounds of free-throw contests. The winners of the contests — Jacoby Brissett, Blake Hance, D'Anthony Bell and Parnell Motley — competed in a 3-point contest in front of the team, with Brissett ultimately drilling 9 of 15 attempts to take the crown.
Brissett, who played basketball at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach, Florida, took full advantage of the bragging rights that came with the win.
"I'm trying to get a 10-day deal with the Cavs," he joked. "I expected this. This is what I came and prepared for. I've (practiced) throughout the offseason, so I came here expecting to win."
The trip was one of three big team activities the Browns scheduled in June to build team chemistry during the offseason program. The first happened Monday at Westwood Country Club, when players participated in the Browns Foundation's annual golf outing. Next week, they'll head to Canton for the second day of mandatory minicamp to conduct a practice and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Stefanski has prioritized such team building activities this offseason, his first as a head coach where he didn't have to navigate obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It shows that Coach wants us to have fun and wants it to be a player-led team," Greg Newsome II said. "It's a credit to us all working hard. We earned it, and it's definitely been a cool experience. Basketball is my first love, so it's been cool to come out here and shoot a little."
The Browns will be back to business next week when mandatory minicamp begins, which starts June 14 at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. The trip to Canton follows June 15, and the team will close minicamp with a practice at FirstEnergy Stadium on June 16.
It's the final leg of an offseason program that has been all about finding opportunities to build team chemistry. The Browns ended OTAs with another Thursday, and the team certainly embraced it.
"Anytime you get to play 'hooky' from school, the guys will be excited," Stefanski said. "To be able to come out and shoot some hoops, that's kind of an ideal day for them."