Dee Haslam's favorite part about the Browns getting their 2020 training camp underway? The people.
For months, the Browns owner hasn't been able to personally interact with the vast majority of players and coaches while working remotely away from the facility. Both she and Jimmy Haslam acknowledged Sunday they weren't able to meet a handful of the team's new coaches and player personnel executives for the first time until the past few days.
The people, though, are what's missing from this year's version of training camp. Outside of the team, team staffers and a handful of media members, there's no one else watching the Browns practice — in person, at least — along with the Haslams.
"It has made a big difference not having them out there with us," Dee Haslam said. "Just really strange and miss our fans so much. I am sure the players do too. That has been something that has been very different."
In a video call with reporters Sunday, the Haslams said they've embraced flexibility and adaptability with just about everything since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic— which has impacted all important decisions and their outcomes since March.
A big one looms for the Browns and many other teams around the NFL as the regular season nears — fans at games. While some teams have already announced they'll begin the year with no fans in attendance, the Browns and a host of others are hopeful they'll be allowed to welcome a small portion of fans for a socially distanced, safe experience.
Jimmy Haslam said the Browns have been part of a task force, which includes other major teams across the state, that is working closely with the State of Ohio to formulate plans and strategy around letting fans in to watch sports events. The Browns have done the same with the City of Cleveland, too, as they await the final word, which could still be a few weeks off.
"We have put a lot of time, effort and resources into ensuring that if we did have '20 percent fans' it could be a safe experience," Jimmy Haslam said. "We feel good about that opportunity. Obviously, the final decision is up to the governor, but we are ready and excited to go, and I think the City of Cleveland feels the same way.
"We have a great plan in place. It will be up to the governor of the state of Ohio (Mike DeWine) to bless or not bless that. We have actually taken them through that, and we will just have to see how that goes. I would not want to speculate that it needs to be a week or two weeks ahead of time. I think you will hear us say this a lot today, everybody has to remain fluid and flexible in everything we do. I think we have all learned to do that over the last four or five months."
The Haslams have learned a lot about their football team over the past five months, and they've liked what they've seen — whether it be from what they've seen on the practice fields over the past couple of weeks or on the numerous video calls they've had throughout the summer.
Jimmy Haslam's biggest takeaway from his encounters with new EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski? Their collective sense of calm amid circumstances that tend to elicit many other emotions.
"Their EKGs are just like that," Jimmy Haslam said, as he steadied his hand in front of his monitor. "Second of all, they are really organized, really organized. They are good at processing. They are both smart.
"What I appreciate the most is neither of them use COVID as an excuse. Kevin can easily do that, right? First-year head coach, new staff, new offense, new defense, etc., and he has not used it as an excuse. Those are the things that they have showed us."
The Haslams understand Browns fans wouldn't accept the excuse if it were presented anyways. Asked for their personal expectations, the Haslams said they're level-headed with a focus, first and foremost, on executing an on-time and complete season.
"I think probably all of us, including ownership, learned a lesson last year about tempering expectations," Jimmy Haslam said. "I do not think we managed that as well as we should have. I think you have to be realistic. This team has not been to the playoffs since 2002, and we are in a tough division. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are arguably two of the best teams and best franchises. I think you have to be realistic there. We are still a young team.
"On the other hand, we feel really good about Andrew and Kevin, our coaching staff, our personnel group and the talent that we have been able to assemble. We are excited going into the year but realistic."
The same can be said for how they view the current odds on fans being welcomed into FirstEnergy Stadium at any point this season. The Browns are preparing as if they will, especially when it comes to implementing modifications to make their home stadium as safe as possible.
"The sooner we can safely get people back to work, the better off we are going to do," Jimmy Haslam said. "We are going to do everything we can at the Browns and would encourage other businesses to do the same. At the same time, at the end of the day, it is not our call about how many fans we have in the stands on Sunday or if we have fans in the stands. We want it to happen for our players and for those fans."
Check out photos from the second day of Browns Camp