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News & Notes: Browns have productive week despite adjusted practice schedule

Cleveland holds its 1st full-team practice of the week Friday

Jarvis Landry was asked Friday if he's ever experienced a week of practice like the one the Browns just went through.

The veteran wide receiver could only shake his head.

"I don't think anyone has ever been through a year like this one," Landry said. "We are just kind of rolling with the punches." 

That's the kind of mentality Cleveland has carried throughout the offseason and into a season that has been affected one way or another by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This week was just another series of adjustments during a year chock full of them.

The Browns on Wednesday and Thursday awoke to news the team facility was closed for contact tracing in the wake of a player's positive COVID-19 test. They eventually returned to the building both days but their practices were far from normal.

On Wednesday, the offense and defense practiced at separate times. On Thursday, the offense practiced while the defense went through virtual meetings. Friday marked the first day in which the team had access to its facility all day and could practice together.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said it was a "good week" despite the hurdles that needed to be cleared.

"You just double down on your preparation," Stefanski said. "You make sure that you are being efficient in how you run your meetings in the morning. I think that is a big part of it.

"I give (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods and the defensive staff a ton of credit. I told them that yesterday was going to be virtual for them, and they were prepared and I think this offseason prepared them. They had a bunch of different things that they wanted to accomplish together online, and I think they were able to do that." 

Woods admitted the week was a little bit "hectic" for the defense but he was proud of the players for how they responded. This wasn't their first rodeo, after all.

"It really felt like, 'OK, we have been there and done this before.' That part of it was normal," Woods said. "The guys handled it really well. It is right before a game, but you just have to deal with the circumstances. We do not want to be in the business of making excuses. There are a lot of other teams that are dealing with similar issues across the league. 

"We did the best we could. I feel like the guys are prepared and ready to go."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars

Familiar Face

The Browns know plenty about the Jaguars' leading tackler.

LB Joe Schobert, who played for the Browns from 2016-19 and made a Pro Bowl during his stint with the team, leads Jacksonville and is tied for eighth in the NFL with 85 tackles on the season. He's been a bright spot on a Jaguars defense that has labored throughout the season and has allowed at least 24 points in each game of its nine-game losing streak. 

"Joe is a very consistent vet," Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. "Having played against him in Cincinnati for two years, I obviously know what he brings to the table. He is a smart guy. He is going to be in the right place, you see that on the tape. He is a solid, very good linebacker for them. That is probably, in my opinion, the strength of that group is the linebacker corps."

QB Baker Mayfield, Schobert's teammate in 2018 and 2019, said Schobert wouldn't have much of an advantage because of all of the changes Cleveland has made on offense since his last game with the team.

"He is a guy that is a smart player, obviously," Mayfield said. "He is always getting guys lined up and in the right spots at the right time. I am looking forward to playing him."

Open Competition

For the first time in more than a month, the Browns used a different player on kickoff returns last week when they faced the Eagles.

RB D’Ernest Johnson fielded kickoffs, replacing Donovan Peoples-Jones. The rookie WR maintained his spot on punt returns and was also the deep man back on Philadelphia's kickoff following a safety.

Priefer said it was an open competition between Johnson and Peoples-Jones each week in practice. Friday's practice, the first in which Cleveland could work on special teams this week, would play a big factor in who fills the role Sunday in Jacksonville.

"Today's big focus will be making sure that Jacksonville's kickoff team does not have any free runners," Priefer said. "We are going to make sure that we count it up right and block it up correctly, and whoever the returner is, we will give them an opportunity to get rolling."

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