“It’s great. He deserves to be back,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who filled in as acting coach against the Steelers. “Anytime your leader comes back to the building and he’s going to lead us into battle this weekend, it’s a great thing for our football team.”
There's plenty of work to be done, but Stefanski, who only had mild symptoms of the virus, was taking a moment to savor the company of his team and staff. He missed everything.
“On a professional level, just being around the coaches and players and then isolating from my family is no fun,” he said with a smile. "I should mention that.”
Stefanski is in his first season with the Browns after spending 13 years as an assistant in Minnesota. The 38-year-old’s steadiness has been credited in the team maneuvering around many issues tied to the pandemic as well as injuries.
“He never panicked at any point along our journey of this season,” linebacker B.J. Goodson said. “He never panicked. He stayed the course, and we are here.”
Until Stefanski arrived, Cleveland hadn’t been in the postseason since the 2002 season.
The Browns are slowly getting healthier.
On Wednesday, top cornerback Denzel Ward and defensive back Kevin Johnson were activated from COVID-19 list and are expected to play against the Chiefs and their potent passing attack.
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge was activated Thursday after missing three games.
However, the team still does not have Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio, who has been out since testing positive Jan. 5 along with Stefanski and several assistants.
“Getting Joel back, obviously, would be big, and hopefully that’ll be the case,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. "We’ll see here later in the week. Joel’s a huge part of our success offensively on that left side and to plug him back in there would be huge for us.”
And while Stefanski was looking forward to getting outside on the practice field, at some point he's going to have to address something else.
While he was away, Browns backup quarterback Case Keenum hid something in his office.
“He asked if I smelled it yet,” Stefanski said. "But I don’t because I’ve lost my sense of smell.”
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