Kevin Stefanski's first offseason with the Browns has come to an end.
After months of virtual meetings, unusual training camp procedures and uncertainty about how the NFL will proceed through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Browns are in full prep mode for Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. The 53-man roster is set, and Cleveland will now put its full focus into opening the season 1-0.
"We've thought long and hard about how we were rolling out this program going all the way back to April," Stefanski said Sunday in a video call with local reporters. "I feel confident in what the coaches were able to get across to the players, and I do feel confident in what the players were able to learn.
"I understand that this year and this season is unique, so we just have to be ready to put together a plan in Week 1 that we're confident that guys can go out and execute."
The regular season will finally arrive in seven days, but there's plenty of things that will be different to football this season. From a roster perspective, the Browns will be able to keep 16 players on their practice squad instead of 12, the total previously approved between the NFLPA and NFL in July. The Browns will be looking to bring back several players who didn't make the cut in training camp but could be asked to fill a spot on the 53-man roster on a quick notice.
The expanded practice squad rosters certainly carried some impact on final roster decisions, which included keeping two quarterbacks and four tight ends — two of the most notable traits of the Browns 53-man roster.
"I think we are lucky to have expanded practice squad rosters to start with and then we have a lot of guys who have been working extremely hard that unfortunately did not make the 53, but we are counting on them to help us prepare and then help us stand at the ready should we need them," Stefanski said. "It always is helpful when guys have an understanding of what we are doing on offense, defense and special teams."
Check out exclusive photos from Sunday's practice in Berea
Full prep for Week 1 starts Monday, and after the completion of an arduous, unusual first offseason as head coach, Stefanski is ready to complete his game plan for the Ravens.
"You are always looking at that first game – first things first," he said. "We put a proper amount of emphasis on Baltimore, and we will really dig into their team and gameplan starting today and tomorrow with the players. This is a long season. Really to get this thing started, you have to set your sights on the first opponent, but there are games coming after that one and after that one and so on. We just have to make sure we play good football."
-The Browns did not have their offensive or defensive linemen practice Sunday in Berea. Stefanski said he wanted to "take care of the big guys" and limit their Sunday workload to just weight room activities before beginning Week 1 prep.
"They have been grinding," Stefanski said. "They have been working very hard, and I appreciate that. We have not gone easy on those big men. I thought today was a good way to get them in the weight room. It is not like they are sitting on their rear ends there. They are working. We took the skill guys out and got a nice, crisp practice."
-The Browns acquired S Ronnie Harrison in a trade Saturday with the Jaguars. Harrison, a third-year veteran who started 14 games last season and finished second on the team in tackles (70) and passes defensed (nine) while adding two interceptions, was in Berea on Sunday to meet his new teammates and coaches.
It's too soon to tell what role Harrison might have at safety for Week 1, but Stefanski said the Browns will spend plenty of time helping him acclimate to the defense this week.
"I did talk to him," Stefanski said. "I will tell you, over the course of the next few days, our defensive staff is going to spend a lot of time with Ronnie and see where he is and what he is comfortable with, but he is a smart young man."
-Stefanski has been encouraged by the progress from WR Jarvis Landry (hip) and S Karl Joseph (foot). The two have been limited participants throughout team practices as they attempt to arrive in full health for Week 1.
"I am comfortable with the rehab plan," Stefanski said. "Singling both those guys out, they work really hard when they are not on the practice field. To their credit, they have worked very diligently on their bodies, working with our medical staff and working with our strength and conditioning staff. We will see how it goes over the next few days, but really pleased with how they attacked that plan."