The Cleveland Browns announced Tuesday morning that three coaches, including Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and two players have tested positive for COVID-19. The team has closed their practice facility following the positive test results.
“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a statement. “Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority.”
Three-time Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge also tested positive. The other coaches to test positive were defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing.
According to NFL rules, anyone testing positive must sit out at least 10 days. Both players and all three coaches will miss Sunday’s wild-card playoff game between the Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, which remains on as scheduled.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting Head Coach for the Browns while offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will most likely call the offensive plays in place of Stefanski.
“I feel for Coach Stefanski who has done a great job in his first year and won’t be able to coach in his first playoff game,” said Brown’s Center J. C. Tretter during Tuesday’s NFLPA COVID-19 Briefing. “The first priority is the health and safety of all players and we continue to make all of our decisions under a health and safety lens.”
Prior to the team’s Week 16 game against the New York Jets, the Browns lost six players, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry, to the COVID-19/reserve list. The Browns lost that game.
The Browns also had to close their practice facility last week due to positive tests. Despite missing multiple players, the Browns beat the Steelers, making the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and ending what had been the NFL’s longest playoff drought.