CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are getting some players back as they prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first playoff game since 2002.
On Saturday, the Browns activated tight end Harrison Bryant, linebacker Malcolm Smith and—perhaps most importantly—safety Ronnie Harrison from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Bryant was placed on the list on Dec. 29 while Smith was placed on the list on Dec. 31.
Harrison was placed on the list Thursday after testing positive, but reports Saturday morning indicated that he had been testing negative and his status on the list could be revisited by medical experts.
Two #Browns who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday have tested negative since on multiple tests, per source. If they continue to test negative today, the NFL’s medical experts may revisit those results and their status for Sunday vs. the #Steelers.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 9, 2021
The Browns getting Harrison back is a huge break for their secondary.
Harrison has provided a spark to the Browns secondary, playing in 11 games this season with seven starts, recording 38 tackles, seven passes defended, an interception, and a touchdown.
The team also was able to get safety Jovante Moffat back from the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday after the league determined he was not a close contact, allowing him to remain on the active roster.
Linebacker Montrel Meander, who was placed on the practice squad/COVID-19 list at the same time as Harrison, was also able to be activated from the list Saturday.
While the Browns got some good news, there was still some unfortunate developments.
Star cornerback Denzel Ward, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19, had the potential to return in time for Sunday night’s game against the Steelers, according to NFL COVID-19 protocols.
Players who are asymptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday or earlier would be eligible to play in the playoff game Sunday, because 10 days would have passed since the positive test, as long as they pass a cardiac screen, according to NFL COVID-19 protocol.
Any player with symptoms would have to wait 10 days from when symptoms were first reported and have had at least 24 hours without fever. Other symptoms also would have to have improved in that time for the player to be cleared.
Ward had an opportunity to be cleared Saturday afternoon and return in time for Sunday, the deadline being 4 p.m., but the team confirmed Ward, as well as cornerback Kevin Johnson, will remain on the reserve/COVID-19, deeming them unable to play on Sunday.
In addition to clearing players from the COVID-19 lists, the Browns also elevated wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley, cornerback A.J. Green and tackle Alex Taylor from the practice squad while releasing defensive tackle Joey Ivie from the practice squad.
The Browns, who had their first practice of the week on Friday after their COVID-19 situation delayed the facility from reopening, will hold a walk-through at 1 p.m. Saturday before flying to Pittsburgh after all COVID-19 testing came back clear.
Cleveland and Pittsburgh will kick things off in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. at Heinz Field.