Cleveland Browns fans couldn’t celebrate their first playoff appearance in 18 years for long. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is among the five members of the team to test positive for COVID-19 as the team’s outbreak continues.
The Browns announced the news Tuesday, saying they are consulting with the league on the next steps.
We were informed this morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19.
Our contingency planning calls for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as the acting Head Coach. pic.twitter.com/Mhh9Zt1e4d
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 5, 2021
While Stefanski is away from the team, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach.
The Browns said two members of the coaching staff and two players also tested positive for the virus, but did not release the names of those individuals. The team placed guard Joel Bitonio and receiver KhaDarel Hodge on the COVID-19/reserve list Tuesday.
That doesn’t guarantee those players tested positive for the virus. A player can also be placed on the COVID-19/reserve list if they came into close contact with someone who tested positive. It does mean, however, that Bitonio will likely miss Sunday’s playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That’s quite the blow for Bitonio, who has spent his entire career with the Browns. Sunday would have been his first playoff game as an NFL player. He’ll likely miss it due to being placed on the COVID-19/reserve list.
Browns dealt with positive COVID-19 tests before Week 16
The news comes as the Browns are in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak. Prior to the team’s Week 16 game against the New York Jets, the Browns lost six players, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry, to the COVID-19/reserve list. The Browns lost that game, and continued to deal with positive tests ahead of their Week 17 matchup with the Steelers.
Last week the Browns had to close down their facility due to positive tests. Despite missing multiple players, the Browns beat the Steelers, punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.
Will Kevin Stefanski be available for playoffs?
Unless the NFL changes its rules, it doesn’t appear Stefanski will be able to coach the wild-card game on Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The NFL requires people who test positive for COVID-19 to miss at least 10 days.
Double checking with NFL, Kevin Stefanski, with a positive result, can not return for at least 10 days. Out for Wild Card round. No change in the scheduling of Browns/Steelers game this weekend
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 5, 2021
Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will likely call plays with Stefanski out.
Despite the outbreak, the Browns-Steelers game is still expected to take place Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET.
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