CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns’ COVID-19 woes continue as they prepare to face the Steelers on Sunday, but when the revolving door stopped on Thursday, they got more players back than they lost.
Two more players tested positive on Thursday in linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant, meaning both will have to sit out the game.
Bryant had already been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list as a close contact of someone outside the building who tested positive.
They join linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo, who also tested positive and will sit out the game.
That made for a total of 10 players from the regular roster the reserve list — four positives and six close contacts — but five of the close contacts, including starting receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins were activated of the reserve list today and will be on the field for practice. The others were receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge, and linebacker Jacob Phillips.
The Browns also have two players on the practice squad who are positive in center Javon Patterson and safety Elijah Benton, and one unidentified assistant coach — not one of the coordinators.
The loss of Smith is big, because the Browns are already without linebacker Goodson, who tested positive on Saturday and also missed the Jets game.
Two other linebackers suffered ankle injuries in that game and were limited on Wednesday: Tae Davis and Sione Takitaki. But Stefanski both moved well in the shortened practice on Wednesday.
The Browns shut down their facility for the second straight day Thursday while they conducted contact tracing and are keeping their fingers crossed that no one else will be added to the list. Once that’s complete, they hope to practice later in the afternoon for Sunday’s big “win-and-in” game against the Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium, like they did on Wednesday.
Offensive coordinator acknowledged that sitting out the loss to the Jets was difficult for the six players who went on the reserve list Saturday, especially Jarvis Landry, who missed his first career game after 110 straight.
“I’m sure that killed him,’’ Van Pelt. “Really happy to have him back in the building.’’
Baker Mayfield admitted the COVID issue has been tough.
“These days can be pretty exhausting – the schedule changes and not exactly knowing when you are supposed to come in and get the practice in and the workouts in so you just kind of have to stay by your phone, as they tell us to do, and just be alert for it,’’ quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday. “We can’t do anything about it so there’s no reason to complain. You roll with the punches and have to deal with it. We’re not the only ones having to deal with adjustments.”
In a conference call on Wednesday, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said the game is “not in jeopardy” of being postponed because there’s no evidence of transmission inside the facility. Sills said the league would continue to monitor the situation.
The other good news for the Browns today in addition to the batch of players coming off the reserve list is that the Steelers will rest more of their star players for Sunday’s game.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pro Bowlers T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Maurkice Pouncey will sit out the game in addition to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’s 23-2-1 against the Browns since 2004.
Watt leads the NFL with 15 sacks and is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Heyward led the Steelers with eight tackles in the first meeting with the Browns, a 38-7 Steelers victory.
Dulac reported that veterans such as cornerback Joe Haden and guard David DeCastro will play, but on a limited basis.
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