Head coach Kevin Stefanski, two coaches, two players test positive for COVID, Cleveland Browns say

Sports

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The Cleveland Browns announced Tuesday that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19.

Two other coaches and two players have also received positive coronavirus tests.

The NFL Network reported that Pro Bowler G Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge are the players affected. The Browns Tuesday afternoon confirmed Bitonio and Hodge are on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Browns contingency plans call for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as acting head coach.

This is a huge blow to the Browns as they prepare to play in Pittsburgh for the first round of the NFL playoffs Sunday.

The Browns facility is closed and contact tracing is underway, according to a statement from the Browns.

“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,” the team said in a statement.

Cleveland plays the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at 8:15 p.m.

This is the Browns first appearance in the NFL playoffs in 18 years.

The Browns were missing six players and three coaches when they played the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday, in the game that clinched their playoff appearance.

Coach Stefanski spoke about that after the game.

“I am disappointed for anybody who can’t be out here. I want all of those guys to make sure that they are feeling better. Our whole goal here is to keep everybody safe. I feel for anybody who is away from this operation due to that. That is really where I am thinking, first and foremost. People stepped up. Players stepped up and coaches stepped up, and we were able to get a win today.” 

The NFL would have to make the decision to delay the game, which it has done this season. On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL told FOX 8 there’s no change to the status of the Browns/Steelers game.

The NFL said it found no evidence of any player-to-player transmission from practices or games this season.

“The league and its partner conducted genomic sequencing on the positive cases from last week and found that there were unconnected viruses among the players and personnel. This led the NFL and NFLPA’s medical experts and independent consultants to determine that the cases are part of the community spread. These new cases will undergo the same treatment,” the NFL stated.

The NFL delayed the regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

That game was originally set for the Thanksgiving Day primetime slot.

It was delayed several times. First rescheduled for Sunday, then Tuesday. It was ultimately played on Wednesday – nearly a week after it was originally scheduled – due to players who were out with COVID or contact tracing protocols.

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