National Football League

Browns Hit With COVID Outbreak

January 5

The Cleveland Browns will have to play their first playoff game in 18 years without their Coach of the Year candidate at the helm.

Kevin Stefanski will be unavailable for the Browns' clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers, after Cleveland announced that the first-year head coach had tested positive for COVID-19, along with two additional coaches and two players.

With Stefanski absent, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the head coach for Cleveland's Super Wild Card Weekend matchup against Pittsburgh.

The Browns also closed their facility as contact tracing takes place.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Stefanski is asymptomatic and will coach virtually in the leadup to the game, but will miss being on the sideline for the playoff tilt.

In his first year as the head coach of the Browns, the 38-year-old Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record and a second-place finish in the AFC North.  

Under Stefanski, the Browns hit the double-digit win mark for the first time since going 10-6 in 2007.

The two players who tested positive include Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, per reports.

The NFL has no plans to reschedule the game, set for Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET, based on Tuesday's news, according to Cabot.

NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter spoke with the media on Zoom, revealing he spoke with Bitonio about the positive test.

Tretter will also see his duties expanded, according to ESPN's Kimberley A, Martin, as the Browns will turn to him as a player-coach with offensive line coach Bill Callahan among the other personnel sidelined.

On Wednesday's First Things First, Nick Wright addressed the ramifications for Cleveland this weekend, as well as for the future.

"I think it's a massive impact for this year and for next year. Because, you mentioned experience, and this now robs Kevin Stefanski of gaining playoff experience this year."

This is a developing story.


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