SportsPulse: As many as five or six quarterbacks could go in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. Here’s where they all land in our first mock draft of 2021.
The Cleveland Browns announced Tuesday coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19 along with two additional members of the coaching staff and two players.
The others who learned Tuesday morning they tested positive for the virus are three-time Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard, according to multiple reports.
None of them will be able to join the Browns (11-5) at Heinz Field when the team visits the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) for an AFC wild-card game at 8:15 p.m. Sunday.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no change to the playoff game’s status despite the Browns’ COVID-19 situation.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is the acting head coach with Stefanski out, the team announced. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will take on the play-calling duties Stefanski normally handles, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Akron Beacon Journal. The person requested anonymity because the news has not been announced.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski watches play against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth) (Photo: Michael Ainsworth, AP)
A second-round draft pick in 2014, Bitonio is the longest-tenured member of the team and one of just three Browns players still with the franchise who endured its 1-31 stretch from 2016-17.
The bombshell news came on the heels of the Browns clinching their first playoff berth since 2002 with Sunday’s 24-22 win over the Steelers.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Stefanski was feeling fine Tuesday morning and will work from home this week to help prepare the Browns for their first playoff game in 18 years.
The Browns also shut down their headquarters in Berea, Ohio, on Tuesday morning for contact tracing.
The team released the following prepared statement:
“The Cleveland Browns 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 facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority. Our contingency planning calls for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as the acting Head Coach.”
The Browns had three coaches and six players who were forced to sit out this past weekend against the Steelers because of COVID-19.
They are cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson, linebackers B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith, free safety Andrew Sendejo and rookie tight end Harrison Bryant, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea and assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters.
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