Press Conference

Kevin Stefanski: 'We have a pretty good idea of what our strengths are'

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

On if allowing the media to call offensive plays is still on the table:

"Yes, it is." 

On WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. heading into Week 1 and their rehab programs:

"I think we followed the plan so we did not do too much too soon. We listened to the doctors, listened to the trainers, let those guys let their body talk to them and make determinations based on that. I think we have ramped it up appropriately." 

On the stress Landry and Beckham put on an opposing defense:

"I think having two guys like Odell and Jarvis gives us an advantage there like you are saying. It is easier to take away one guy; it is harder to take away two guys, obviously. They do have different skillsets, but they have been doing it for a long time and both have been productive in their own way." 

On how C JC Tretter looked in practice yesterday:

"Looked good. Looked like JC." 

On if there is more comfort knowing Tretter has performed at a high level while dealing with injuries in the past:

"I think we have to be smart about every player individually with their injuries. You always want to protect the player from themselves, and you do not want to put a guy out there that is not ready. We will not do that with JC. We will do that with any player. We will trust the medical staff and we will trust the player in all of the injury cases." 

On his feel he has for how everyone fits in the offense:

"Pretty good feel at what we potentially can be good at. We can only play one game this week, and then we have to play another one the next week. It evolves. The gameplans call for certain personnel one week and different personnel the next week. It is evolving, but I do think as a staff we have a pretty good idea of what our strengths are."

On what makes the Ravens running game so effective:

"Very sound. Multiple. Pre-snap movement. Physical front. Talented runners. It is a really good scheme."

On Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins adding to the Ravens running game:

"I think they added a really good player there. Remains to be seen exactly how they use him, but we know just based on his college he is a very good football player."  

On if he will announce today who will call offensive plays on Sunday:

"Not today. No." 

On the status of the team's chemistry, given limitations due to COVID-19 protocols in the building:

"I think it is much easier than virtual. The offseason, I would tell you, it was hard. Now being in the building, albeit with a mask and Plexiglas, I think it is much easier to get to know people here. You can be outside around each other at the practice field. Easier when in person, but it is definitely a challenge and definitely something that we have tried to be intentional about in terms of building team chemistry." 

On if the Browns will select team captains this year, given the establishment of the Browns leadership committee and social justice leadership team:

"What we are going to do this year is we are going to have 16 game captains. It will be one player per game. To your point, we do have a leadership committee and we do have a social justice committee. My message to the players is you do not need a C on your chest to be a great leader." 

On if he has named captain named for Sunday:

"I do. Not going to share it with you. Just kidding (laughter). I have not told the team yet so I can't tell you guys yet." 

On what CB Terrance Mitchell brings to the Browns defense:

"Veteran presence. Good football player. Really brings a ton of energy to practice and around the building. Teammates really enjoy Terrance. I enjoy Terrance. Very glad we have him." 

On his confidence level with T Jedrick Wills Jr. heading into Week 1:

"I would tell you, it is the same level of every single one of our rookies. They have not played in an NFL game yet. That is just the nature of the beast, and I have not coached an NFL game yet, either." 

On if the Browns will make an effort to help rookies when game planning this week:

"I think you do that every week at every position. You look at matchups and then you figure out the best way to attack the opposing defense or opposing offense."

On the most dangerous aspect of Ravens QB Lamar Jackson's game:

"It is hard to pick one, but speed would probably be the first thing that comes to mind." 

On preparing for a team without preseason film:

"(Ravens defensive coordinator) Coach (Don) Martindale has been there for a little while so we can go back many years as it relates to Coach [Martindale]. The other thing is nobody shows anything in the preseason anyway so I am telling you, in all 32 cities, they have wrinkles that they can't wait to unveil on Sunday or tonight, Thursday night, I promise you. That is just part of Week 1 and that is why you have to have great communication on the sideline with your players." 

On how many wrinkles the Browns have ready to go on Sunday:

"A few." 

On how the Browns OL has been able to pick up the new running scheme:

"I think they have done a nice job. I think the credit goes to (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line coach) Scott Peters. They really are excellent teachers. It is something that you start in the classroom, then you take it out on the grass and you drill it over and over and it is repeatable. You mentioned having the two rookies in there at times. I think all of those guys are working very hard in all schemes as it pertains to the run game, but I would tell you that the preparation from the classroom is really the vital part of that."

Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt:

On if he has a good feel for how everyone fits into the Browns offense now, given the changes to the offseason and training camp:

"I think the training camp gave us the idea of how we are going to use guys within the system. Definitely, we were trying to figure out how guys fit and play to the strengths of our guys. Now, I think after the month of training camp, we have a really good idea about where each guy fits and what roles they will play." 

On how challenging it will be for most players playing their first game and first real contact since December:

"I am sure it will be. Ball security is a premium. That is one of the things you can't really practice unless you are hitting. Not having the preseason, we have to be conscious of the fact of protecting the football. Like most guys, once you get hit, you realize you are back into it and it is kind of like riding a bike." 

On if he has a sense for how determined WR Odell Beckham Jr. is this season, especially given that he is healthier:

"I think he is very excited about the season. I know he feels great. He has been working his butt off in camp so far. I know he wants to be successful this season. Coming off of last year not feeling great the whole season, I think he is really looking forward to the opportunities he will have this year." 

On how dangerous it can be with both Beckham and WR Jarvis Landry on the field:

"Having just those two guys would be great, but we have a bunch of guys that can make plays. We will see how defenses play us this season, but having Hoop (TE Austin Hooper), (TE David) Njoku, (RB) Kareem (Hunt), (RB) Nick (Chubb) and those guys, that is exciting." 

On how realistic it is to 'expect things to run smoothly' on Sunday, given changes to the offseason and training camp:

"Obviously, we expect to come out and operate with precise and clean execution. The reality is that is probably not going to be the case early on. We are anticipating coming out and playing error-free football from the start. Everybody is in the same boat so the teams that can adjust quickly, adapt and get back into the swing of the season, those will be the teams that are successful. We hope to be one of those teams." 

On the impact that limited live reps in training camp may have in the first year of a new offensive system:

"I think everybody is kind of in the same boat. I think the real limitations are not going to be there. We expect our guys to come out and play like they have played. I am sure every coach is saying the same thing across the league right now. The fact that we did not have a preseason, that is the way it goes. Thirty-one other team did not have one so there will be no limitations." 

On his emotions heading into the first game on Sunday, given the adversity of the past few months:

"I am excited to see what we have. Really, you do not know at this point. I think we have a good feeling about who we are and who we are going to be. Without any preseason games and without any of that kind of thing the whole offseason, I am just really excited to see what we have and who we are. I think we will evolve as the season goes."

On if he believes he and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski may have significantly different play calling styles, given the team has not announced who will call offensive plays:

"I do not think so. I do not think it is for us to say anything at all at this point. Just for the competitive advantage, I think we will figure it out on gameday. No, I would not think so."

On how much playing games with no fans could help T Jedrick Wills Jr.:

"It will definitely benefit him. Going into a loud place as a rookie in your first start, being in tune with that snap count or the silent cadence, as well, those can hinder a young guy. Him being able to hear a snap count, we do not anticipate the noise level to be too high so that will definitely benefit him."

On recent improvement of the Browns offense:

"I definitely think so. I think the last 10 days have been some of our better practices offensively. Like I said, we are starting to understand who we are, how we can use each guy in their roles and highlight what they do well. I think we made strides over the last week to 10 days."

On if it is meaningful that TE David Njoku is listed third on the depth chart:

"We will have packages for each guy. I think David was hampered by a little limitation of injury early on that kind of set him back, and then (TE) Harrison's (Bryant) performance kind of elevated him above him at this point. We are a team that is going to be multiple and versatile so having three tight ends on the field is something you will see from us. We will use all of our personnel, and David will be a big part of that."

On RB Kareem Hunt's role this season:

"Kareem is going to spell (RB) Nick (Chubb) when Nick needs a spell at the running back position. There will be other opportunities for him in different spots, as well. Extremely excited to have him signed with his extension. He deserves it. He has been nothing but a great teammate for the group so far and expect nothing less. Very excited to have him on long term now."

On if Hunt will get reps in the slot:

"Would not want to talk about that as it relates to game planning, but Kareem has a different skillset. He can do multiple things."

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods:

On the challenges preparing to slow down Ravens QB Lamar Jackson:

"Do you guys have any ideas (laughter)? It is a very different offense. He makes everything go. They are big up front. They are physical. They can knock you off the ball so they can run the ball downhill at you. Then obviously, they can get on the edge. If you do everything right, you still have to tackle. That is the problem. They really limit what you are trying to do defensively because of all the different things they do."

On what S Ronnie Harrison Jr. can contribute this week and if Harrison helps with versatility following S Grant Delpit's season-ending injury:

"Right now, it is still a working progress. He has only been here for a couple of days so we are really trying to feel him out just in terms of what he is able to do and how much of our system he can pick up. There is some carryover from Jacksonville, but at the same time, we do some things a little bit differently. We are going to keep evaluating him throughout the next couple of days and try to fit him in where we can."

On if it helps him that he played Baltimore last year with San Francisco:

"Yeah, it definitely helps because just being on the field, seeing it at field level and feeling the speed of the offense and what they do, that part it helps, but we have a different group of guys and there are some different things that we want to do. You can't do a whole bunch, but that experience definitely helped me in terms of what to expect."

On if it helps that the Browns starting DL returns from last year:

"Yeah, it definitely helps. I have been fortunate enough wherever I have been, going back to Minnesota, we had a good defensive line there, Denver, good defensive line and San Francisco. When you are able to pay well against the run and rush the passer with your front four, it makes things easier. The challenge we have this week is a little bit different. We have to try to get them to third down and throw the ball a little more, but it definitely helps having those types of guys."

On if Ravens QB Lamar Jackson's speed influenced the defensive acquisitions:

"For us, it is just, what is the best team we can put together? It is not really about who we are playing because each team, there are different challenges. Week to week in the NFL, it always comes down to matchups and can you win your one on ones. We want to have athletic players, but at the same time, we want football players that have high football IQ and that can play fast on the field. That is really first and foremost what we look for, and hopefully, we do our job right and put together good defense." 

On if he believes that speed is the way to go whenever possible:

"Absolutely." 

On why speed is the way to go whenever possible:

"It is dependent on position, too, but I think at your skill positions, you always want guys that can run. Especially offensively now, they are spreading you out a little bit more and some of the college game is starting to come to the NFL. You want guys that can match up with receivers, tight ends in and running backs. I think from the back seven standpoint, you are looking for guys that are good football players but maybe guys that can run a little bit faster." 

On the possibility of going into the season opener without the Browns' top CBs, including CB Greedy Williams:

"He is going through his rehab so we have to evaluate that day to day. He has been around everything. He understands what we are doing. We just have to see where he is at going into the weekend. We really have a good group of guys in the backend. It is an opportunity for guys to step up. We have guys back there that can play multiple positions. T Mitch (CB Terrance Mitchell), as they call him, he is really kind of like a crafty veteran – very high football IQ, a very instinctive player. I feel very comfortable with the guys we have and playing on Sunday." 

On his confidence in the Browns LBs this week without LB Mack Wilson:

"That is another group that they have really played well throughout training camp. Just the additions we made and draft picks, I think we really have a good group of linebackers. I really think it will come down to those guys getting on the field, playing with each other and getting comfortable with each other in terms of communication, but I do feel good where they are at right now. We will see what happens on Sunday."  

On how the Browns are preparing for Jackson with their own personnel this week during practice:

"You try to get the speed so we use different guys. The one thing with Lamar is he can run it, but he can also throw it. We use really a combination of guys and just mixed them in throughout different plays just to try to give us the best look this week."

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On who the Browns may use in the return game:

"The guys getting work this week are still (WR) JoJo (Natson), (RB) D'Ernest (Johnson) and (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones). Those three guys are still getting work there at both punt return and kickoff return. (WR) KhaDarel Hodge has gotten some work on punt returns. (CB) Tavierre Thomas has been a kickoff returner before, as well. We are trying to create as much depth there as we possibly can, and then going into the week, that is where we are going to do. One of those top three guys will be it."  

On Hodge's contributions on special teams:

"KhaDarel Hodge brings a toughness. I have coached receivers on special teams before, and the guys that are really good, they play like DBs, and sometimes receivers do not like to hear that. He plays fast. He plays physical. He is smart. Like I said, he is tough. Everything we believe in on special teams in terms of discipline and plays with enthusiasm and passion, those are the things I like about KhaDarel. He is mentally tough, physically tough, and he plays with great effort. Those are kind of the four words we have talked about before – toughness, effort, discipline and enthusiasm. That is what he brings to the table."

On if the Browns signed K Cody Parkey to the practice squad due to the pandemic or to add competition for K Austin Seibert:

"Probably the pandemic. The COVID rules now, if something happened to Austin or if he came back positive, we do not have a chance to bring in a guy and not even work him out but if that happened on a Saturday, we can't just sign a guy on a Saturday and play on Sunday with the testing rules and all the different protocols. What we did is obviously (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry), (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski), our personnel department and coaching department, we made the decision that the best thing for us was to bring in a guy that could go out and help us score points if we needed to and we could bring him up Sunday morning if we needed to if something happened to Austin. Competition, it obviously makes everybody better. It makes coaches better. It makes players better. It can't hurt that Cody is a very good kicker, as well, that he will push Austin a little bit, but Austin is our guy. He is the guy we believe in. He is the guy that is going to help us win games this year. We firmly believe that." 

On signing Parkey over other Ks available:

"Quite honestly, we felt like he was the best guy available that was on the street that was a free agent that was not with a team already. He came in here, and he had a phenomenal workout. About three weeks ago, we had the kicker workout. He was the best one there. (Patriots K) Nick Folk did a nice job. Of course, he is with New England now. (Free agent K) Kai Forbath did a nice job. We felt Cody was the best combination field goal and kickoff guy that we could sign that could help us win games if we needed him to." 

On if Natson's size impacts the decision to be the kickoff returner:

"That would be a concern if he was fresh coming out of college. I think he has some kickoff returns under his belt. The thing that JoJo does a good job with is he can make you miss. When people need to tackle him, they have to throttle down a little bit sooner than some other returners because he is so quick or they are going to miss him. Hopefully, they do not hit them quite as hard that way, No. 1. No. 2, he definitely knows how to avoid that contact. He has been doing it a long time, and when you are 150 pounds, you have to learn quick or you are not going to be around very long." 

On Browns players who are standing out on special teams that contributed last year:

"(TE) Stephen Carlson is guy that comes to mind. I think he has done a nice job. He actually contributed a lot last year in the seven or eight games that he played. We are going to rely more on him. (S) Sheldrick Redwine is a guy that played for us last year, but he started down the stretch towards the end of the season. He was a guy we could not use as much at the end of the year. He is the guy we are going to rely on a lot. (CB) Robert Jackson is hopefully a guy at some point will be on the active roster so we can use him and guys on the practice squad right now. (RB) D'Ernest Johnson did a great job for us last year because he is not a rookie anymore, we are going to expect more from him. The guys that played for us last year a lot of special teams reps that did not have a lot of experience coming into last year that were younger players, those are the type of guys that are going to be more leaders on special teams. We have talked about that before. Those are the guys – the second, third-year players – that are really going to provide that leadership for the younger guys to help us get better."

On the differences between last year's team and this year's at this point of the year:

"I think it way too early to tell. Last year, we had higher expectations coming out, and I think that was more media driven. This year maybe not as much, but we expect to be good. We expect to go out there and play hard. We expect on special teams to score, set up scores in the return game and to give our defense great field position, and then in the coverage phases, score when we need to on field goal or force or block a kick on punt return, punt block and field goal block. As far as special teams is concerned, I think we should be better. I thought we did some good things in the coverage phases last year. We need to be better in the return game, which is why JoJo is here. Hopefully, we will block better than we did a year ago. We still have to play penalty free. We have to be more disciplined than we were at certain times last year. We have a ways to go on special teams. That is the way I look at it to be quite honest with you. It is too hard to tell right now as a team, but I like our team and I like our guys. I think we have a good group. We have a good locker room, and we have a good coaching staff. Let's go win a bunch of games."

On how he feels heading into his second season with the Browns:

"A little bummed out that I can't go to any Cleveland Indians games. Other than that, I feel pretty good."

On if there will be opportunities to use WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on returns:

"I think if they are 100 percent healthy, it is something that I think Coach could consider. At the end of the day, right now, I would say they are emergency guys that can go out and do it. They do not need a lot of work. They are so talented at catching punts and kickoffs and fielding punts. I would not hesitate to put Jarvis out there to help us win a game if we needed him." 

On if there is more anxiety heading into Week 1 this year due to the lack of live reps due to no preseason games:

"I think a little bit. If you really look back at it, though, before we opened up last year against Tennessee, I had a rookie punter and a rookie kicker. Talk about anxiety, I do not think I slept much that week. We are playing a really good Baltimore team, and I think because they are so good on special teams and they are so-well coached, (Ravens Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh has done a great job with no matter who their coordinator is. (Ravens special teams coordinator) Chris (Horton) does a great job as a coordinator there, just like Jerry (Rosburg) did before him. They are very well-coached. They are disciplined. They play hard. That provides a lot of anxiety on top of which, obviously, we have not tackled and we did not see any live reps in any preseason games. Everybody, all 32 teams, are like that so obviously, there will be no excuses there. We just have to go out and execute." 

On if the fact the Browns play the Ravens twice every year helps plan for their scheme and eliminates the mystery, given there were no preseason games this year:

"I don't know. Probably for us, too, because they played us twice and play us twice a year. I have been studying Baltimore since the spring. The three divisional opponents that we have – Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – I have studied them hard all offseason and all summer, and I am sure they have done the same for us and for the other divisional teams. Is there mystery? No, we just have to go out and play hard and play tough. We have to take away their punt fakes. Their punter (Ravens P Sam Koch) is six for six in his career on fake punts. No. 41 the fullback on the punt team is the personal protector (Ravens DB/LB Anthony) Levine (Sr.), he has done a great job of running fakes, as well. Our task is to stop the fakes and stop what they do well. They have the best kicker in the game in (Ravens K) Justin Tucker so we have to provide as much pressure on him on field goal block as we can. We have our work cut out for us, like we do every week in this league. They are an outstanding group. They have guys who play hard. (Ravens LB) L.J. Fort, he is starting on defense but he is still going to be playing on special teams, I am sure, at some point. Whoever they have backing him up on teams will probably play just as hard as him. That is the anxiety that I have, that I have had the past couple of weeks and will have the rest of this week."

On his relationship with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and how he has supported Stefanski in his first year as head coach:

"More than anything, just a sounding board. He will have ideas about everything that we have gone through, and myself, (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan, (offensive coordinator) Coach (Alex) Van Pelt, (defensive coordinator) Coach (Joe Woods) and other guys on the staff who have been around awhile, I think we have all done a nice of being a sounding board for him, providing ideas when he needs them and if he has ideas that he just wants to throw at us to see what we think and what our opinion is. I think as a staff, we have done a nice job of supporting him and we will continue to do so. It is a tough year? Absolutely. Has he done a good job? Absolutely. Now, we have to go out and perform on Sundays."

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