CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns just need it to be 1 o’clock on Sunday already.
At about 8:30 Saturday night, they placed cornerback Kevin Johnson on the COVID-19 reserve list, where he joins starting cornerback Denzel Ward and four others, who will all have to miss the Steelers game.
The others are linebackers B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith, safety Andrew Sendejo, and tight end Harrison Bryant. It’s unknown yet if Johnson is positive or if he’s a close contact. If he’s positive like the other five, he’d have to isolate for at least 10 days and would miss the Wildcard round next weekend if the Browns make the playoffs.
Johnson likely would have started the game in place of Ward, who tested positive for the virus on Thursday. Ward, the Browns’ second-best defensive player behind Myles Garrett, will not only miss Sunday’s win-and-in game against the Steelers, he could miss the first playoff game next weekend regardless of it’s in on Saturday or Sunday.
The Browns called up undrafted rookie A.J. Green to take place Johnson’s place on the roster. Green (6-2, 198) was signed by the Browns out of Oklahoma State, and he’s spent the season on the practice squad.
Johnson’s addition to the list continues a season-long revolving door in the Browns defensive backfield. Sendejo and Ward tested positive this week, and safety Karl Joseph was activated off the reserve list as a contact of Sendejo’s and will play Sunday.
It was another tumultuous COVID-19 day for the Browns overall. They had to shut down their facility in the morning for the third time in four days when a second assistant coach tested positive. Later, the Browns announced that offensive line coach Bill Callahan and his assistant line coach Scott Peters will both miss the game because of COVID-19 protocols.
One of them tested positive and could miss the Wildcard round. The other was a close contact. They join receivers coach/passing game coordinator Chad O’Shea as out for the Steelers. The two coaches who tested positive could also miss the playoff game depending on a variety of factors.
The Browns, who can make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, kept their facility closed on Saturday and conducted their walk-through virtually.
They got five players back on Thursday from the COVID-19 reserve list in receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, and linebacker Jacob Phillips.
But if they keep losing defensive backs, they’ll make things easier than they hoped on backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, who will still have skill players such as receivers Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, and tight end Vance McDonald.
The Steelers had some significant COVID-19 woes of their own Saturday with starting cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Eric Ebron and linebacker Cassius Marsh being placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and ruled out for the game.
That was after the Steelers had already ruled out Pro Bowlers Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey in part because Pittsburgh (12-3) has already clinched the AFC North.
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