On Monday, he’ll get to do it with the entire team.
It was a welcome change, and slight return to normalcy for Stefanski, who has been limited to talking to players through a camera for the better part of four months but now is tasked with preparing them for a season with no preseason games and a reconfigured camp schedule.
“We have to make every day count,” Stefanski said. “We will be efficient. I think we have a really strong plan in terms of how we are going to ramp it up. Obviously, the NFL gave us a very strict guideline on how to do that, but even within those guidelines, I think we have a really strong plan and are making sure that we safely acclimate the players and then continue to teach these systems.”
Stefanski believes the virtual offseason was a success and has set them up to hit the ground running once practices are allowed to begin on Aug. 12.
“I was really impressed with the amount of work we were able to get done back in the spring so then that is something where I feel like we have built a foundation,” Stefanski said. “Now, we get to build upon that foundation here in training camp.”
In what has been a difficult and unprecedented year to date, Stefanski and the Browns have left no stone unturned to plan for anything and everything when it comes to adjusting to situations involving COVID-19.
Since Sunday, two players have opted out of the season and three have been added to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Should executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry, Stefanski or any member of their staffs become ill, they’ve got succession plans in place.
“We have talked a lot about contingency plans for everybody at every position – players, coaches, front office,” Stefanski said. “We have a contingency plan for all of us.”
Stefanski declined to provide specifics about the plan.
“The worst thing you can do is not have a plan in a year like this,” Stefanski said. “For every single position – it is not just the coaching staff – we have really done this throughout our football operation. We have made sure [we identified] who is the next man up, the next person up. We have that laid out. We talked about what your roles, what your duties and what your responsibilities are day to day because the bottom line is we have to be prepared.
“The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is not be prepared and start to have those conversations in the moment. We really made sure we had those conversations in the last few weeks.”
Some teams have reportedly talked about quarantining key players, including starting quarterbacks but Stefanski didn’t sound like the Browns plan to put Baker Mayfield in isolation just yet.
“We are going to put a plan in place that we feel really confident in keeping all of our players safe,” Stefanski said. “Obviously, I understand the quarterback position and a lot of people are discussing that, but I feel very strongly that the protocols that they have given us, we have adhered them to a tee. The truth is we have gone past them. We are doing things in an abundance of caution that we do not even have to do.”
Veterans, who reported Tuesday will be tested for a third time Friday and if they test negative, they can take their physicals Saturday or Sunday.
The strength and conditioning phase starts Monday and the first practice isn’t allowed until August 12. The Browns are scheduled to hold their first practice on the 14th and first padded practice on the 17th.
For phase one, Stefanski is splitting the team into two – an orange and brown team. One will work out in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
“We are going to do that just to limit the people in the building,” Stefanski said.
They’re also continuing with virtual meetings through at last August 9th, maybe longer.
No preseason means that there won’t be game film to dissect of players on the bubble and Stefanski won’t be able to let offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt take play calling for a spin.
That’s OK, because Stefanski has a plan for that, too.
“It is definitely unique,” Stefanski said. “I think it is our job to create as many moments in training camp and as many times we can in practice to mimic game-like settings and put the players in some situational football so that we do not lose those four games.”