Skip to main content

Kevin Stefanski says Browns are undeterred while staying safe, working hard from home

Kevin Stefanski said Thursday he's throwing the "kitchen sink" at his four children to keep them entertained while staying safe inside and around their house in Minnesota.

The same can be said for Stefanski, Cleveland's coaching staff, front office and personnel groups as they press forward with their preparations for the draft and upcoming season from the comforts of their respective homes.

"You've just got to make it work," Stefanski said. "I do not look at it from any other perspective than that. I think all 32 teams are at the same disadvantage and that is the truth."

The COVID-19 outbreak has been the great equalizer across the country and throughout the world. NFL franchises -- the Browns very much included -- have fully embraced the "stay-at-home" movement that will hopefully stem the spread of the virus and, ultimately, save lives.

Just three weeks into the vast majority of the franchise working remotely away from the team facility in Berea, the Browns have already tackled one major part of their offseason.

The first wave of free agency is in the rearview mirror, and the Browns were able to add numerous, talented players to the roster, many of whom could be starters when the season arrives. The group includes Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin, veteran backup quarterback Case Keenum and a number of defensive players who are viewed as "systematic fits" for what coordinator Joe Woods wants to accomplish in his first season at the helm.

It was all accomplished without the ability to host players for visits or gather together in one big room at any moment during the process. That's a testament, Stefanski said, to the work that was put in ahead of time.

"Credit to Andrew Berry and his staff. I think AB sat out a plan and followed through on it," Stefanski said. "And you never know, as you go through a player acquisition period of exactly how it is going to play out. We identified what was really important to what we want to do and who we want to be."

The 2020 NFL Draft, just three weeks away, will be the next challenge Cleveland and the rest of the NFL tackle while working in disparate fashion.

Without Pro Days or in-house visits, teams have scrambled to adjust to their newfound circumstances. Stefanski said a handful of his assistant coaches have participated alongside the team's player personnel staff on video calls with prospects. The meetings that would be typically happening all day and all night during the buildup to the draft are still happening -- just virtually.

"If it is a disadvantage for all 32 clubs, then we are all in the same exact boat, so I do not think it is a disadvantage for anybody," Stefanski said. "We are all dealing with this. We have our information. Our scouts are working hard still. They have done a great job throughout the fall and through the combine gathering information. We will be ready to go, but it is a unique year. Would we love to have more medical information? Would we love to be able to go out to these pro days? Of course. 

"We are dealing with what is out there and it is our job to be able to adapt."

The one advantage Stefanski was supposed to have as a first-year head coach was the early access to his players via an early start to the offseason workout program. Monday was supposed to be the first day Browns players walked through the doors in Berea, sat through their first official meeting with Stefanski and their (mostly) new position coaches and go through workouts together as members of the 2020 Browns.

That gathering won't be happening in a traditional sense anytime soon. Stefanski, though, said there are plans in place for whatever the league grants as permissible as it works through this once-in-a-lifetime, fluid situation.

"We have plans and the contingency plans, and then contingency plans for those contingency plans," Stefanski said. "We are trying to think about this thing and hit it from every angle pending the rules and structure the NFL and NFLPA agree upon. Whatever that may be and I do not have the answer on what that is just yet. 

"We are ready."