Sunday is a bittersweet day for Browns followers.
Whereas Cleveland devoted can revel within the franchise’s first playoff look since Kelly Holcomb donned the brown and orange in 2003, the staff faces a steep, uphill climb as they tackle the Steelers on Sunday evening. Not solely as a result of Cleveland faces off towards division-rival Pittsburgh for a 3rd time this season, however as a result of they will be with out a number of coaches and gamers heading into the wild-card matchup.
Earlier final week, head coach Kevin Stefanski was one amongst a number of Browns gamers and personnel to check constructive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), leaving them out
The Browns have had a number of brushes with COVID-19 this season, together with a scare with quarterback Baker Mayfield earlier within the season: Mayfield landed on the Cleveland COVID-19 listing after coming in shut contact with one other member of the Browns who had examined constructive, however by no means examined constructive for the virus himself.
Now, heading into their first playoff look in almost 20 years, the Browns have a greater than robust process forward of them.
Browns COVID-19 listing
The outbreak in Cleveland, which began almost three weeks in the past now, has run by means of the energetic roster and, reaching the teaching ranks the week of Jan. 3. Whereas some gamers have been activated from the COVID-19 listing on Saturday, there’s nonetheless a bevvy of gamers and coaches away from the sector come Sunday.
Gamers — and coaches — inactive for Sunday:
- Head coach Kevin Stefanski
- Tight ends coach Drew Perzlig
- Defensive backs coach Jeff Howard
- Offensive line coach Invoice Callahan
- Assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters
- Offensive lineman Joe Bitonio
- Defensive again Denzel Ward
- Defensive again Kevin Johnson
- Wider receiver KhaDarel Hodges
Tight finish Harrison Bryant, security Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Malcolm Smith, who have been positioned on the COVID-19 listing just lately, have been all activated from the COVID-19/reserve listing on Saturday, permitting them to play in Sunday’s recreation.
How did the Browns outbreak begin?
Whereas there was no reported genesis, assembly or clear breach of NFL’s coronavirus protocols, in December, a number of Browns gamers have been positioned on the staff’s reserve/COVID-19 listing forward of their matchup with the Jets: huge receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge and Donovan Peoples-Jones, and linebackers BJ Goodson and Jacob Phillips additionally landed on the listing. The sport can be performed as scheduled, and the Browns would lose 23-16 to New York.
Forward of Cleveland’s Week 17 matchup vs. Pittsburgh, Landry, Higgin and Peoples-Jones have been activated, whereas Hodge remained on the listing. They have been delivered extra dangerous information, although: safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph would land on the COVID-19 listing, alongside tight finish Harrison Bryant.
The staff would shut its facility on Dec. 30 to permit for the NFL to conduct its contact tracing coverage, ultimately reopening the identical day.
Cleveland would shock Pittsburgh in Week 17, incomes a win and a playoff berth, however can be dealt dangerous information following the win, with head coach Kevin Stefanski and different coaches testing constructive for COVID-19, leaving Cleveland’s playoff hopes within the arms of Browns particular groups coach Mike Priefer, who’s the appearing head coach on Sunday.
Latest Browns checks have all returned destructive, which means all methods are go for Sunday’s playoff matchup with the Steelers.
“Whereas we’re persevering with to observe, there’s been no indication of a selection among the many staff facility,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy advised Mike Florio of Professional Soccer Speak. “That is based mostly on contact tracing and likewise genomic sequencing that has been performed thus far.”
Ought to the Browns advance, Stefanski and others are anticipated to make their return within the divisional spherical.