Kevin Stefanski is one of five members of the Browns’ organization who has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced on Tuesday. Stefanski, two other coaches, left guard Joel Bitonio and receiver KhaDarel Hodge also tested positive, via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The Browns’ facility has been closed to conduct contract tracing. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the Browns’ acting head coach. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call plays in Stefanski’s absence, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Despite the new positive cases, the Steelers-Browns playoff game is still scheduled to kick off Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. ET, according to Pelissero.
Stefanski, with a positive result, cannot return for at least 10 days, per CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. This would rule him out for Sunday’s playoff game against the Steelers, who will likely be without starting cornerback Joe Haden and tight end Eric Ebron, who are currently on Pittsburgh’s COVID-19 list.
The Browns have been besieged by the virus in recent weeks. The team had to shut down its facility twice last week after several members of the organization tested positive. Prior to their Week 16 loss to the Jets, Cleveland placed Hodge and fellow receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and linebackers B.J. Goodson and Jacob Phillips on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
After falling to the Jets, the Browns managed to eek past the Steelers in Week 17 despite cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward, linebackers B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith, safety Andrew Sendejo, and tight end Harrison Bryant on the COVID-19 list.
The Browns are hoping to have Ward — whose positive test is outside the mandatory 10-day window to return — for Sunday’s game. After a slow start, Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph had success throwing against the Browns’ depleted secondary. After Pittsburgh fell behind 24-9, Rudolph threw touchdown passes to Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster while getting the Steelers to within two points of tying the game. Rudolph finished with 315 yards and two touchdown passes. The Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger back under center for Sunday night’s game.
The Browns, who went 11-5 during Stefanski’s first year in Cleveland, are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The last time the made the playoffs, Cleveland built a 24-7 lead before falling to Tommy Maddox and the Steelers, 36-33. The Browns’ last playoff win was back in 1994, when Bill Belichick’s team defeated Bill Parcells’ Patriots in the wild card round.
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Published: 2021-01-06 02:48:11
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