Kevin Stefanski says Browns 'will be ready' and 'ready to pivot' during training camp

Kevin Stefanski can't say with certainty what the next two months in the NFL will look like.

In all fairness, no one can. Stefanski, who completed his first — and hopefully, only — virtual offseason Thursday as coach of the Browns, is prepared for players, coaches and team personnel to return to Berea in July for the start of training camp. He hopes players will be able to practice together on the same field, lift in the same training room and build the off-field chemistry so crucial to success on Sundays.

He is also prepared for all of that to not happen.

"All offseason long, we've had a plan, and we're ready to pivot," Stefanski said in a Zoom call with local reporters. "We have a plan for the players to get back up here. I've encouraged our players to stay safe, and that's from the moment we started talking to these guys back in April. I've told them that the No. 1 priority is their safety and their family, and we want to make sure we're here for them and providing every resource for them."

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, the NFL can only hope that training camp can safely begin in five weeks. 

On Thursday, the NFL announced the cancellation of the annual Hall of Fame game scheduled for Aug. 6 in Canton. Multiple players and team personnel from across the league tested positive in June for COVID-19. Any changes to the preseason could impact the structure of training camp and, perhaps, the rest of the season. 

For now, all that Stefanski and the rest of the league can do is wait.

"If (preseason game cancellations) happen, we'll be ready," he said. "I think, obviously, you want reps from your players from a learning standpoint. You want reps for players from an evaluation standpoint, but I'm sure whatever the rules are, they'll be the same for all 32, and we'll deal with it as it comes."

Stefanski has spent the last two months leading the Browns through their virtual offseason. The program started in May, when rookies were introduced to the team and their new position coaches through Zoom meetings and remote workouts, and expanded to the full team in June.

The Browns attempted to make the virtual training as rigorous as possible. The process started with lectures and short video assignments from coaches, then transitioned into more live work that featured on-the-spot tests and exercises to grade how quickly each player was consuming the playbook. 

Eventually, Stefanski was able to run meetings that consisted of players individually drawing route assignments on the same screen immediately after hearing a play call from offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

"We've used different tools and different ways, and we've tried like crazy to reach these guys," Stefanski said. "The coaches did that, but the players were so responsive to that. I think the guys were really yearning for understanding and getting all the information they could. I was very impressed by that."

Until July 24, when rookies and quarterbacks are scheduled to arrive for the start of camp, Stefanski will spend more time working from his office at the Browns headquarters. The facility and FirstEnergy Stadium were opened for a combined 75 staff members at the beginning of June, and employees in the building are subject to daily temperature checks and hallway procedures designed to keep everyone 6 feet apart at all times. 

"Whatever the rules are," Stefanski said, "I am ready to abide by them and adhere to them."

Eventually, players will be allowed to return, too. That's what Stefanski hopes to see at the beginning of training camp.

No matter what, though, the Browns will be prepared.

"I wish I knew," Stefanski said when asked how training camp might look. "That is one of my questions. I do not know. Again, that is OK. We have a plan. If that plan won't do, another one must. We will be ready."

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