The Browns feel as though they're already used to what will be their new normal for the rest of 2020.
The NFL announced that all teams, starting Saturday, will have to follow intensive protocol procedures designed to combat the spread of COVID-19 among players, coaches and other personnel in team buildings. That calls for virtual meetings, face masks being worn at all times at the facility — including on the practice field by all personnel — and a requirement for all meals to be served in grab-and-go style to prevent people from congregating in meal rooms. Locker room use is strongly discouraged on non-game days.
The Browns, however, have been in intensive protocols the last two weeks due to a positive test result with a team staffer and two players. And even before that, virtual meetings were still being held among position groups and coaches to maintain a safe environment at the team headquarters in Berea.
"It is kind of what we are used to," Stefanski said. "A lot of virtual teaching. We are not having any of those meetings in house anymore or out on the field. Guys are wearing the Oakley face shields and masks obviously. For us, it is very much business as usual."
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Those procedures will be how the Browns and all NFL teams will conduct the rest of a unique season due to the pandemic. Stefanski has constantly reminded his team about the "shared responsibility" everyone must take to prevent positive tests, and he has warned players and coaches since the offseason that schedule changes and unforeseen obstacles will arise throughout the season.
The challenge has been being prepared for no matter what's ahead, and so far, Stefanski feels as though his team has adapted well. That's why he thinks they're ready to handle the rest of this season's duties from intensive protocol.
"In a lot of ways, we are very used to it," he said. "The guys are also used to the schedule changing every other day, it feels like. I think that has just made sure that our guys understand that they have to be on their toes and that there are going to be some curveballs coming their way and they can't blink, and they have not."
That doesn't mean there won't be any obstacles, though.
Coaches and players all seem to have a mutual agreement that the hardest part about conducting meetings from home is not having the face-to-face interaction that makes the daily grind of an NFL season a bit more fun. Sure, there's a little time on the field before and throughout practice to chat with teammates, but all other interaction will be confined through video screens.
"That is the toughest part for me," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "I love my job because of the interaction with the players. You do not have that in meetings. You do not get to meetings a few minutes early and see how the guys are doing outside of football. But like everybody keeps saying, we are in 2020. We just have to roll with the punches like everybody else."
The players, however, are prepared for it. Virtual meetings have been conducted since the spring, and the Browns have been able to efficiently prepare for games and practices throughout the regular season by using Zoom calls and other methods of remote work.
No one is experiencing anything new, and that's why the news about the permanent implementation of intensive protocols won't catch the Browns off guard.
"We're just trying to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we are staying safe and that we can come out here on the practice field and do what needs to be done," wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. "I think it's pretty much the same."