The Browns are taking a break.
It's a short one, of course — their Week 1 game in Kansas City kicks off in 10 days on Sept. 12 — but it's needed. The Browns, as well as all NFL teams, are stopping practice and meetings for three days from Friday through Sunday before reloading and going all in on preparations for the first regular season game.
The break is now mandated by the NFL, which incorporated a few tweaks to its schedule for 2021 as it absorbed a 17th NFL game and shortened its preseason to three games rather than four. Under the old schedule, all NFL teams would have played their final preseason games in the middle of the week before Labor Day, with Saturday of the holiday weekend devoted as cut-down day across the league.
Now, 53-man rosters are trimmed on Tuesday of that week, and players have a few days of rest before fully entering the regular-season grind.
"We have to charge our battery up," head coach Kevin Stefanski said Thursday. "They have to be smart in their rest and recovery, we talked about that this morning. We are very mindful that we have seven weeks until that mini bye after the Thursday Night game. We have 12 weeks until our bye. We need to be real intentional as a team about how we rest and recover."
Browns players might be off, but the coaches are not. They'll be fully entrenched in preparations for the Chiefs, the reigning AFC Champions, and outline what they'll run in practice to prepare for them.
"We have plenty of work to do," Stefanski said.
The Browns won't have another prolonged break in their schedule until their Week 13 bye week, which happens to be wedged between both games against the Baltimore Ravens. Stefanski said the team has already structured part of its weekly workload schedule throughout the season around the bye week and its close proximity to the 17th and final game of the season.
The Browns have a long way to go until that week arrives, which is why Stefanski has encouraged his players to make the most of the three-day break in front of them.
"I think we are where we need to be — with a bunch of work left to do," he said.
Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Falcons yesterday by the Browns photo team
3 key players return to practice
The Browns took a big step toward attaining a healthier Week 1 roster Thursday before departing on their three-day break.
S Grant Delpit (hamstring), CB Greedy Williams (groin) and LB Sione Takitaki (hamstring) all practiced for the first time Thursday after missing the past week or longer with injuries. The Browns had no updates, however, on whether any of the players would be ready for Week 1.
"No update other than to say that everybody is progressing," Stefanski said.
Stefanski discusses play-calling
Stefanski's first experience into NFL play-calling started the same way as many young football fans who are into video games.
"I played quite a bit of Madden growing up," he said with a smile when asked about his prior play-calling experience before he was tasked with doing the real thing in the NFL.
Ever since that first game, Stefanski has learned more and more about what it takes to be an efficient play-caller that keeps the opponent guessing. He declined to single out anyone in particular who has influenced him the most, but he said many of his play calls on gameday come after quick discussions with his assistants.
"I think any coach period, you are calling the plays with the play caller throughout the game — 'Hey, I really like that call,' or 'I would not call that,'" he said. "I can't tell you how many times as a young coach I would hear a play call come in and be like, 'Oh, I would not call that.' And then, first-and-10 or touchdown. I think all of us when you are not calling plays are in that rhythm thinking about what you might call next. I know for us offensively, and even (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) defensively, I think it is a really collaborative effort on game days. Ultimately, I am making those calls, Joe is making those calls, but we have a lot of help along the way."