CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have been dealing with injuries and players sidelined due to COVID-19 throughout the season, but sitting at 9-3 and heading into a Monday Night Football match-up against the Baltimore Ravens, the team remains hopeful to have some players available in time for the prime-time game.
On Tuesday, the Browns placed right guard Wyatt Teller on the reserve/COVID-19 list, created for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with someone who has the virus.
Although the team is not permitted to comment on players’ medical status outside of providing their roster status, the Browns have not reported any positive COVID-19 test results, so Teller is arguably just a close contact.
As long as Teller tests negative Teller in all of his PCR tests, including the fifth testing day, he would be permitted to return to the team on the sixth day—meaning if the last exposure was yesterday or earlier, he would be eligible to play Monday.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski said on Thursday before practice that Teller is on track to be able to come off the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for the Ravens game but couldn’t provide a specific date that he may be cleared.
“It’s later in the week. I want to make sure we just follow the protocols there, but I don’t know the exact date,” Stefanski said.
Teller has been a crucial part of the Browns running game, helping establish the run with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. He remains the highest-rated guard in the league with a 94.0 PFF offense grade and a 93.1 run blocking grade.
Stefanski discussed the possibility that cornerback Denzel Ward could be ready to play on Monday after sustaining a calf injury after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles and has been sidelined since.
Ward’s status since the injury has been week-to-week. He’s missed the last two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans. Stefanski said he’s a day-to-day decision at this point.
Ward won’t practice Thursday, but Stefanski said he is progressing, and it’s possible he could be ready in time for Monday.
“I wouldn’t call it a long shot,” Stefanski said. “I think we’re going to see what he can do today with the guys off to the side, see what he can do tomorrow. So I’m hopeful but I can’t peg it with a percentage.”
Ward is one of the Browns’ best playmakers and has been playing at a high level all season.
In the last game he played against the Eagles, Ward was an absolute ball hawk, allowing just six targets and one catch while forcing two incompletions, assisting on an interception by linebacker Sione Takitaki that the linebacker took to the house, and getting an interception of his own.
Ward’s return to the field in time for the Browns-Ravens game would provide a major boost to the defense.
The Browns have been spread thin in their receivers room but could see the return of a player who has developed significant chemistry with quarterback Bake Mayfield this season.
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge was sidelined with a hamstring injury ahead of the Titans game and was ruled out for that match-up.
Stefanski said, like Ward, Hodge would not practice Thursday but is also progressing through his injury and remains a day-to-day decision.
Hodge said before his injury that he was hopeful the chemistry he’s had with Mayfield could continue to grow as the season progresses.
“Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I will be ready. If he comes my way, then I will catch the ball. Hopefully, that chemistry continues to build,” Hodge said.
Stefanski said that they’ll have a better idea of who will be available for Monday’s game later in the week but, for now, things look promising.