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News & Notes: Kevin Stefanski 'back to work' and couldn't be happier

Browns head coach cleared COVID-19 protocols and returned to the building Thursday

Kevin Stefanski was understandably happy to be back in the Browns facility Thursday, and it only got better as the day progressed.

For the first time in nearly two weeks, Stefanski, who was sidelined by COVID-19 for the past 10 days, was able to run his team through a practice. On Sunday, he'll be back on the sidelines, of course, after watching last week's Wild Card victory over the Steelers from the comforts of his basement.

"Feels good to be back. Back to work," Stefanski said before Thursday's practice. "It will feel really good when I am out on the field with the players." 

Stefanski never complained about the circumstances in which he found himself, but he didn't rejoice, either. Asked if he gained a new or different perspective from watching Sunday's game from his home, Stefanski said, "I don't think so. I'm looking forward to not doing it again."

"Those walls were closing in on me," Stefanski said. "I am enjoying this big building. Those fields, I can't wait to get out on them."

Stefanski is the latest Browns coach to return to action following the news of offensive line coach Bill Callahan's return Wednesday. Assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters, defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing were also unable to make the trip to Pittsburgh and have yet to return to the facility.

Just like the players, Cleveland's coaching staff has relied on the next man or woman up to make sure the team doesn't miss a beat.

"That is why we have these contingency plans," Stefanski said. "Regardless of who is out there, we expect the communication to be on point."

Injury Update

T Jack Conklin (hamstring), LB B.J. Goodson (shoulder) and TE David Njoku (hamstring) remained sidelined at Thursday's practice. WR KhaDarel Hodge was back on the field after his activation from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Stefanski said all of the injured players were making progress and considered them to be day to day. Goodson on Wednesday said he'd be ready to play Sunday, and Stefanski said he was in no position to disagree.

"If he said that, it makes me feel good, too," Stefanski said. "I will just let this thing go day by day and take information from those guys and from the trainers."

More Ronnie

Stefanski said it's safe to assume S Ronnie Harrison Jr. will see an increase in playing time Sunday after only logging 11 snaps against the Steelers. Harrison was a part of one of the defense's biggest plays of the game when he stuffed FB Derek Watt for no gain on third-and-1 on a Pittsburgh drive in the first quarter.

Harrison was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last Thursday and missed Friday's practice. He came off the list Saturday and made the trip to Pittsburgh. The Browns relied heavily on a three-man rotation of Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo and Sheldrick Redwine against the Steelers, but the distribution of snaps could look a little different against the Chiefs.

"I do expect more from Ronnie. He is ready to go," Stefanski said. "He was kind of in and out of the lineup, so to speak, during the week last week, where he was ruled out and was able to come back. With a normal week of practice, I do expect him out there."

Way to Play

C JC Tretter on Thursday was named the NFL's "Way to Play" player of Super Wild Card Weekend.

The weekly award recognizes "the excellence demonstrated by NFL players who exemplify proper technique to make impactful plays."

Tretter will receive a $2,500 equipment grant through USA Football to be awarded to the local youth or high school football program of his choice.

Wake Up Call

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, a Cleveland native who served as the Browns' acting head coach Sunday, had a lot of phone calls and text messages to answer following the 48-37 victory.

One of the recipients, his mother, wasn't exactly ready to answer when he finally was able to get back to her.

"My mom was asleep, but we woke her up and talked to her real quick," Priefer said. "Obviously, very excited for our whole family, for our city and for all of our fans.

"I told you guys that after the game, that was very emotional and it meant a lot to me. It is something that we will never forget as a family and the opportunity that the Browns organization and Kevin, (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) and the Haslam family gave me to be in charge for that three-hour period was something I will never forget."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their AFC divisional round matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs

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