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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis. Stefanski said Thursday, July 30, 2020, that he still hasn't met many of his players in person and he outlined some of the team's plans for practices next month while adhering to strict protocols laid out by the NFL to keep players, coaches and other personnel safe from COVID-19. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy,File)

CLEVELAND -- Instead of a whistle dangling from his neck, Cleveland Browns Coach Kevin Stefanski wears a sensor that blinks and beeps whenever he's within 6 feet of someone in the team's facility.

Nothing could have prepared him for his first training camp in Cleveland.

Stefanski said Thursday he still hasn't met many of his players in person, and the first-year coach outlined some of the team's plans -- and contingencies for players opting out or getting sick -- for practices next month while adhering to strict protocols laid out by the NFL to keep players, coaches and other personnel safe from covid-19.

On yet another Zoom call with reporters, Stefanski, who was hired in January after 13 seasons as an assistant coach in Minnesota, said he'll preach more patience to his team as he begins preparing the Browns for a season that still isn't certain.

But he's confident it will happen.

"I am optimistic" he said. "I believe in this bubble."

The scheduled opener against the Baltimore Ravens is seven weeks away, but Stefanski said the worst thing he can do is rush things. Now is not the time.

"I have told the players this, I told the coaches this: We will not do too much too fast," he said. "Just not in anyone's best interest. There are small concessions that we have to make that put us out of our comfort zone to make sure that we are staying safe and especially early on in this thing, and that is just on the advice with the medical experts."

It's been a strange few months for Stefanski. He climbed to the top of his profession only to be faced with the unique challenge of coaching during a global pandemic. Nothing has been easy, but now that the Browns are reporting, he finally senses some normalcy.

"I can't tell you what a great feeling it is to look out a window and there's a practice field with football players on it. It's been a long time coming," he said.

Stefanski remains optimistic there is going to be pro football this fall. He's been encouraged by the steps the league has taken to make it possible and called the Browns' repurposing of their building to assure social distancing "nothing short of a miracle."

The Browns have had two players -- guard Drew Forbes, who was in the mix for a starting job, and tackle Dale Dorbeck -- opt out of this season.

Stefanski doesn't know if any more players will decide not to play and he didn't want to speculate, "but I respect the decisions."

And as he tries to get to know the players who have reported -- "when you're wearing these masks you got to look pretty closely because it's hard to tell sometimes when you haven't met somebody who it is" -- he's made sure the Browns know what's at stake.

Stefanski has spoken to them at length about making good decisions when they leave headquarters. That's important to stop the virus from spreading.

"Our first team meeting was Tuesday night and we talked a lot about it," Stefanski said. "It's a shared responsibility. It's something that it's not just one person's responsibility to stay on top of, so we're going to be counting on our veterans to show some good leadership here."

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