NFL: Browns head coach, two staff and two players test positive for COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp
FILE PHOTO: Aug 20, 2020; Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

January 8, 2021

(Reuters) – Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss his team’s playoff appearance on Sunday, along with two additional coaching staff and two players.

The 11-5 Browns broke the league’s longest active playoff drought with a 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to clinch a spot in this weekend’s wild card round after COVID-19-related absences dogged the team in the final two weeks of the regular season.

“Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place,” the Browns said in a statement. “The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps.”

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will step in as Cleveland’s acting head coach.

The NFL said on Tuesday that there were 34 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus among players and 36 among personnel across the league during the testing period from Dec. 27 through Jan. 2.

The Browns had to shut their facility ahead of the Week 17 showdown with the Steelers due to positive COVID-19 tests within the franchise, prompting concern as the NFL headed towards the post-season, but they were able to play as scheduled.

The team had to compete without their top-tier receiving corps during the Week 16 loss to the New York Jets, with players sidelined on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

The AFC’s sixth-seeded Browns are slated to face the AFC North-winning Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. ET (0115 GMT).

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis)