Kevin Stefanski returned to the Browns facility in Berea on Friday for the first time since mid-March. Needless to say, with just a small number of employees back in the building and a slew of new protocols in place, the everyday experience has differed dramatically from what Stefanski experienced in his first two months as Browns head coach.
"The building, I would say, it is interesting," Stefanski said Wednesday in a call with local reporters. "There are some street signs and one-way hallways, and you are wearing your mask everywhere and you maintain social distance. These are the protocols, and this is to stay safe and this is to make sure that we have a safe environment for our staff, for our entire building and for our players. This is what is required, and we are going to adhere to the protocols to the T.
"It is different, though, as you can imagine."
What isn't different? Basically everything else the Browns are doing as they continue to put in good work through a virtual offseason program.
Stefanski and a handful of his assistants are working from their offices in Berea, but a number of others are still at their home offices. Per league policy, all of the players remain at their respective homes.
Stefanski and Browns players haven't complained about the unique situation or made excuses when it pertains to what they've been able to accomplish. That's certainly not changing now that Stefanski is back to some semblance — albeit a small one — sense of normalcy.
The Browns have spent the bulk of the offseason program installing new systems on offense and defense. Starting next week, the team will review those concepts because "you can't just hit it once and it is done ... we have to go back, review and build upon the foundation we have started to lay," Stefanski said.
"We are like every other team. We are all in the same boat," Stefanski said. "I think the message has always been and will continue to be, we just have to find a way. To our players' credit, the way they are learning on these Zoom calls, to our coaches' credit, the way they are teaching, the workouts that the players are doing and some of them are in their garages that have been retrofitted as gyms, they are just finding a way. I think it is a great message that the players are in living color here because that is a message we talk about during the week leading up to a game. We are aware of the rules and we will play by the rules, just like the other 31 clubs."
Because he's a first-year coach and the COVID-19 outbreak hit before the start of the offseason program, Stefanski has yet to meet with his players as a full team in an in-person setting. That just hasn't stopped him from putting his personal touch on the program, which has included a handful of guest speakers and some unique ways to keep the players engaged.
One week, he had different position groups test out their Photoshop skills by inserting their teammates into famous movie posters. During another, he had them participate in a virtual slam dunk contest.
"The challenge has been to come together while many miles apart," Stefanski said. "It is a challenge but not something that we can't do. We have tried a few different things. We have some unique people on this team, I will tell you. Again, anything to kind of get a laugh, keep this thing as loose and start to come together. That is going to be a challenge when we do physically come together, as well. It is something I am thinking very seriously about.
"As important as the Xs and Os are, we are working really hard on the team building aspect, as well."