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Notes: Kevin Stefanski says it’s ‘important’ to go back to The Greenbrier for start of training camp

INDIANAPOLIS — The Browns don’t want to mess with success.

The journey to the playoffs last season started with a training camp trip to The Greenbrier, so the players will hop on a plane and the convoy of equipment trucks will hit the highway again this summer for the luxury resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

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“First time for us to go through that experience and really it was coming out of that we all felt really strong that it was a positive experience,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday at the scouting combine. “Now, is it going to manifest itself in wins and those types of things? It’s so hard to know coming out of those, but the staff down there was outstanding. Our staff put on a great operation. We got a lot of work done, so I thought it was important to do it again.”

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The Browns went 11-6 before losing to the Texans in the first round of the playoffs. Throughout the season several players gave unprompted credit to the nine days in the mountains for the outstanding chemistry that helped the team overcome a series of serious injuries.

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The forced bonding was a key part of Stefanski’s plan.

“Part of going down there in the first place was getting our guys under one roof,” he said. “Really bad cell phone service down there, which is a good thing. So just to see our guys spending time together outside of football, I think all of that adds up.”

The Browns had traditionally held all of training camp at their facility in Berea. They finished camp there last year and will do so again this summer.

The decision to return to The Greenbrier began to be made during the visit.

“It’s a beautiful environment, they treated us great down there,” Stefanski said. “So I felt pretty strongly shortly after we left there that it’d be a good thing to return.”

FOND FAREWELL

The Browns parted ways with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt after the season, his fourth with the team. He was offered a lesser role, turned it down and was hired as coordinator in New England, where he’ll call the plays — something he didn’t do in Cleveland.

Stefanski was asked what the Patriots are getting.

“A great one,” he said. “I’ll start with the person. You’re not going to find a better person in this profession. AVP is a great friend of mine. I’m excited for him in that opportunity. Former player, has played in a bunch of different systems, he’s coached in different systems, he’s collaborative.

“Somebody I love as a person, as a coach. Just we make decisions that are tough sometimes in this league, but doesn’t change how I feel about him.”

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New Titans coach Brian Callahan also praised Van Pelt. They worked together with the Bengals.

“Alex is unbelievable,” Callahan said. “Really, really sharp. Players love being around him.”

A PAIR OF BESTS

LeBron James posted a picture Tuesday night of him working out with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett. James plays for the Lakers and the Pacific Ocean is in the background.

“IRON SHARPENS IRON!!” James wrote on Instagram. “Big Bro & Big Lil Bro getting after it! Giving him the full Blueprint and more! P.S. I know y’all know this already but he’s an ABSOLUTE BEAST!!”

“Appreciate the work @kingjames!!” Garrett replied.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

In the aftermath of the 45-14 playoff loss, Stefanski said the Browns “picked a bad day to have a bad day.” He was asked if there’s a better answer for the defensive struggles after taking a longer look at the game.

“It’s a good question,” he said. “It’s something that we’re spending time on. Obviously that was not our best effort as a team. We’re looking at everything right now, the entire season, but that’s certainly not the way we wanted it to end.

“So that’s something that Jim and I are working on.”

Jim Schwartz is the coordinator, and the Browns ended the regular season with the No. 1-ranked defense. It allowed 286 yards in the first half.

MAKING ROOM

The Browns restructured the contract of Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, clearing $11.359 million in salary cap space. He had been scheduled to have a $23.5 million cap hit in 2024.

The move gets the Browns under the $255.4 million salary cap before the deadline of the start of the league year March 13. They had been about $8 million over the cap.

They’ll need to create more room to sign players in free agency and have options with quarterback Deshaun Watson ($64 million cap hit, according to spotrac.com), receiver Amari Cooper (nearly $24 million) and running back Nick Chubb ($15.8 million).

Ward’s five-year, $100.5 million contract runs through 2027.

EXTRA POINTS

Stefanski said the coaches fine players for bad body language. He was asked who’s fined the least.

“The answer is probably Nick Chubb. He’s usually the answer to most of those questions,” Stefanski said.

Chubb has continued to rehab from two knee surgeries at the team facility.

“He’s doing great,” Stefanski said.

** Tackle Dawand Jones, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. were at the Cavs’ buzzer-beating win Tuesday night, and Jones hopped in excitement near the Cavs bench in a No. 73 Joe Thomas jersey.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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