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Browns' Stefanski positive for COVID-19, out of playoff game

2 other coaching staff members, 2 players also test positive
Kevin Stefanski
Posted at 11:19 AM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 16:08:44-05

CLEVELAND — Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Cleveland’s first playoff game since 2002.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be Cleveland’s acting coach Sunday while Stefanski is away. According to NFL rules, anyone testing positive must sit out at least 10 days.

According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who called plays in training camp, will call the plays Sunday.

Two coach staff members—tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard —tested positive as well.

According to the Browns, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge have tested positive for COVID-19. They have both been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Additionally, C Nick Harris (knee) and DE Oliver Vernon (Achilles) were also placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

The Cleveland Browns said Tuesday that they will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps.

The NFL released the following statement after the Browns announced the positive cases.

There's no change to the status of the game. We are continuing to conduct standard contact tracing to identify any possible high-risk close contacts. If any players or personnel are identified as such, they would remain apart from the team and facilities for five days from the last exposure to a positive individual.

They would be eligible to return to the team and play in the game.

As you know, there were no positives from tests for the Browns over the previous couple days. The league and its partner conducted genomic sequencing on the positive cases from last week and there were unconnected viruses among the players and personnel. These new cases will undergo the same treatment.

It’s a major blow to the Browns (11-5), who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons on Sunday with a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh. They’ll play the Steelers again this week in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

Cleveland has been hit hard by the virus. The Browns were without six players and three coaches last weekend for their biggest game in years after a rash of positive tests.

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