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Browns want FirstEnergy Stadium to be 'rocking' for first full-capacity game in 2 years

The Browns are encouraging fans to arrive early and be loud as soon as they reach their seats for their first home game of 2021

Kevin Stefanski is hoping to see no orange seats left unfilled when he walks onto the field minutes before kickoff Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

"I want to get the message out that Coach Stefanski wants you in your seats for kickoff," he said Friday. "No empty seats. I want a full-throated effort for 60 minutes. Get out of the Muni Lot, get into your seats and go back to the Muni Lot after the game."

It'll be up to the 67,000 fans with tickets to the game, the Browns' first in Cleveland this season and first since 2019 with a full capacity crowd, to meet Stefanski's demands. The Browns have sold out their home-opener and are fully expecting the crowd to give them a substantial edge against the 1-0 Houston Texans.

Stefanski coached his first season last year with only limited fan capacity for home games due to COVID-19 restrictions. His message Friday confirmed his eagerness to witness the full FirstEnergy Stadium experience.

"I'm really excited to see that place at full capacity," Stefanski said. "I've heard the stories, so I'm looking forward to all of Northeast Ohio coming up for this game."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Houston Texans

Players share the excitement, too. Many of them who helped the Browns break an 18-year playoff drought last season have been looking forward to Sunday ever since they played their final home game 10 months ago with a limited number of fans in the stadium. 

The Browns defeated the Steelers in Week 17 to clinch their playoff spot in that game. Even though the building was still loud, the atmosphere would've been at a significantly higher level had it been a full house.

That'll finally change Sunday.

"I'm very much looking forward to it," quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "Considering the past two years and all of the excitement that has been building and all the hype here, to be able to get in front of a full crowd in our home stadium, I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully, that place is rocking."

Most Browns players and coaches won't need to experience a full FirstEnergy Stadium to gauge how high the excitement level has been for 2021 in Cleveland. The sights and sounds around Cleveland — from yard signs, to flags, to people donning Browns gear in any public setting — have symbolized the city's passion for the team to a high degree.

One of the best examples came Thursday from guard Joel Bitonio. He spoke with one fan who remembered watching the Browns win their last league championship in 1964 and told him to win one more in his lifetime. 

"I was like, 'Oh gosh, that's a lot of pressure,'" Bitonio said with a laugh. "But it's really excited to be a part of it. These people have memories with their families and with people in their past, and they want to have those memories with their kids now. It's cool how much tradition there is with the Cleveland Browns."

That tradition is one reason why they're expecting a fully-packed, fully-amped stadium Sunday afternoon. The Browns know their fans can make a difference and help them win games this season, and they're eager to see just how much of an edge they can gain in their first game back.

"The home advantage in the NFL is such a huge difference, and I feel our fans make a difference on 3rd down and 4th down," Stefanski said. "We will be looking for any delays of game from them or false starts — those type of things are a direct correlation to our crowd. And when we are on offense, looking forward to hearing a pin drop. 

"Excited to see and excited to experience that for the first time."

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