1. Almost the real thing
The Browns ran out of the tunnel. The coaches wore their gameday attire and donned head sets. Scoreboard graphics, popular music and the hum of crowd noise filled FirstEnergy Stadium on a perfect Friday night by the lake.
It was almost the real thing, and that was the point. This was one of the last steps before the regular season kicks off next Sunday when the Browns take on the Ravens to open the 2020 season.
Though it may have felt like a game and looked like a game, on this night it was a practice — one of the quickest and most efficient of training camp. The Browns' first-team offense ran through a series without the defense on the field. A few more half-speed periods followed before Austin Seibert got a chance to kick field goals. A 2-minute drill ended things, as undrafted rookie Javonte Moffatt provided the biggest highlight of the evening with a drive-stopping interception.
A thankful Stefanski addressed the team at midfield before sending the players on their way.
"From the moment we got started in April on the iPads to finally get them in the building there in July, every step along the way they have worked," Stefanski said. "We have changed schedules on them and we have thrown curveballs at them, and they have not blinked. So, really appreciative of the men in that group."
Stefanski said he intentionally throttled practice back a bit over the past few days after a highly productive August. The Browns not only have the opener in their near future, but also a four-day turnaround for a Week 2 Thursday Night Football game with the Bengals.
"We have two games and five days there," Stefanski said. "As we put this plan together we wanted to make sure that we would have a very crisp football team Week 1."
By 4 p.m. Saturday, the Browns must drop their roster to 53 players. Tough decisions lie ahead, and Stefanski stressed that Friday's practice was not the "be all, end all" on some of the looming ones.
"I think your idea of the 53 evolves over the last couple of weeks," Stefanski said. "You kind of have a baseline of what you think. You get a couple practices in last week and maybe adjust a player here or there. I think we evaluate these guys every day at every meeting and every opportunity on the grass."
2. A message for the fans
Before the Browns ran through their mock game, Stefanski grabbed a microphone and addressed the couple hundred friends and family who watched from the stands in socially distanced groups. He expressed how much the team has missed the fans and promised this year's Browns were all about "work."
"This team that you'll see out here is a team that's not afraid to work, and that's what they've done from the moment we got started way back in April," Stefanski said. "They've worked. And that's what I appreciate about this group. We have a saying here: 'We're no bark, all bite.' And I think you're going to see that from this group that at the end of the day, it's about the work. We're really excited to get started on Sept. 13, and again, thanks for being here."
3. Waiting for Harrison
S Ronnie Harrison, who was acquired in a Thursday trade with the Jaguars, wasn't at Friday's practice. Harrison will have to clear the necessary testing protocols before he's allowed to enter the team facility and engage in activities with his new teammates.
Stefanski said it was too early to tell if Harrison, who started 22 games for Jacksonville over the past two seasons, would be ready enough to make an impact Week 1 in Baltimore.
"We really have to get our hands on him and see what he can learn and get up to speed quickly," Stefanski said. "Anytime you have a safety that can play down and in the post, obviously, that is important for what you are trying to run. We will determine that over the next couple of days, but there is a common thread schematically that runs from Jacksonville to us with that Seattle Cover 3 defense."
4. Here and There
- A handful of Browns, including S Andrew Sendejo and DT Larry Ogunjobi, did not dress for Friday's practice. Stefanski said it wasn't injury-related. They simply got the night off.
- Before team drills, Stefanski summoned DT Sheldon Richardson and C Jon Toth to field a punt from P Jamie Gillan. Toth misjudged his and stumbled to the ground while Richardson caught his before pretending to take off on a return. "He has been asking to be a part of the offense for a very long time," Stefanski said.