A full week at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WVA, will kick off Kevin Stefanski's fourth training camp as coach of the Browns.
Kevin Stefanski seeks to bond his team through an unusual training camp and preseason
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Kevin Stefanski’s three previous training camps and preseasons have been disrupted by things beyond his control. Things like COVID-19 and follow-up protocols, and the uncertainty of Deshaun Watson’s legal problems, and the burden of getting two quarterbacks with diverse skillsets ready for the season knowing Watson wouldn’t be available until the 12th game.
Stefanski’s fourth preseason will be unusual mostly because of his own doing.
Although the Browns have not yet announced their training camp and preseason schedule, most of it can be pieced together from other sources. Their build-up to the Sept. 10 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals will be anything but dull and routine.
One thing out of Stefanski’s control was the Browns’ assignment to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the New York Jets. That game – the traditional lid-lifter to the NFL preseason -- was the direct result of Browns legendary offensive tackle Joe Thomas earning induction to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
As a result, the Browns (and Jets) will report to training camp a week earlier than the rest of the NFL. Stefanski added a unique twist.
The Browns will report to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus unofficially on July 22. They will immediately depart as a team to The Greenbrier, the 245-year-old resort in White Sulphur Springs, WVA, that has hosted five sitting U.S. Presidents in the 1800s and 28 overall, and launched the professional golf career of Sam Snead in the 1930s.
The medicinal properties of the springs surrounding the 11,000 acres in southwest West Virginia has made The Greenbrier a legendary retreat for the rich and famous. In recent years, The Greenbrier has recruited NFL teams to hold portions of their training camps on the property’s luxurious 11,000 acres in southwest West Virginia.
Watson experienced The Greenbrier with the Houston Texans in 2018 and 2019. The Texans went on to win the AFC South division both times. Don’t think that Watson wasn’t consulted before Stefanski and owner Jimmy Haslam signed off on this excursion.
Stefanski considers this initial portion of camp a bonding experience. The Browns will stay through July 30 and may hold six practices, with a CBA-mandated off day in between, before departing home.
The Browns then could have their first two practices in Berea open to the public on July 31 and Aug. 1 before facing the Jets in the Hall of Fame game on Thursday night, Aug. 3.
The Browns’ first two preseason games are in Northeast Ohio.
Aug. 3, Thursday, 8 p.m., Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, v. New York Jets
The Thomas induction ceremony is Saturday, Aug. 5, in the Canton stadium. Stefanski intends to practice his team in the morning on that day. It is not known at this time how the Browns intend to honor Thomas’ induction, whether the entire team will attend the ceremonies or only a portion of the team.
Aug. 12, Saturday, 1 p.m., Cleveland Browns Stadium, v. Washington Commanders
The period between the Thomas induction and the second preseason game will be the last opportunity for fans to attend training camp. The day after the game, the Browns plan to depart to Philadelphia for joint workouts with the Eagles on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15.
This will be the highlight of Stefanski's training camp regimen. Again, Stefanski considers this an opportunity for the players to bond and also to get in good work with the NFC champions. Stefanski will be on his home ground, and he intends to treat his players on the off day on Aug. 16 to a bonding experience.
Aug. 17, Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, v. Philadelphia Eagles
At this point, the Browns will taper down their preseason regimen They should have six practices (closed to the public) and an off day prior to the preseason finale in Kansas City.
Aug. 26, Saturday, 1 p.m., Arrowhead Stadium, v. Kansas City Chiefs
Upon return to Berea, the Browns will begin making cuts to their roster. Owners agreed to have only one mandatory roster cut this year, from 90 to 53 on Tuesday, Aug. 29. This change allows teams to use all 90 players through the exhibition schedule of games. The Browns were one of the teams in favor of this rules change.
After their fourth preseason game, the Browns will have 14 days to prepare for the season opener at home on Sept. 10.