Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski assessments optimistic for COVID-19

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski tests positive for COVID-19

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches and two players have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be available for the AFC wildcard game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night if the game goes as planned.

In Tuesday's announcement, the Browns said that specialty teams coordinator Mike Priefer would serve as deputy head coach. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is supposed to name the offensive games instead of Stefanski, a source told ESPN.

Wide receivers KhaDarel Hodge and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio were the players who tested positive, a source told ESPN, while the other coaches who tested positive were defender coach Jeff Howard and tight-end coach Drew Petzing.

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According to NFL rules, anyone who tests positive must take at least 10 days off.

Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, said Tuesday that the status of the game on Sunday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh had not changed and that the contact tracing was still ongoing. The Browns closed their exercise facility on Tuesday for the fifth time in 10 days.

"If players or staff are identified as such, they will be separated from the team and facilities for five days following the last exposure to a positive person," McCarthy said in a statement. "You would be entitled to return to the team." and play in the game. & # 39; & # 39;

During Sunday's win against the Steelers in the regular season finals, the Browns were left without six due to COVID-19 protocols, as well as offensive line coaches Bill Callahan and Scott Peters and wide receiver coach Chad O'Shea Play starter.

Star cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Harrison Bryant, linebackers Malcolm Smith and B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo were all sat out on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19. Nickelback Kevin Johnson was also put on the Reserve / COVID-19 list the day before the game.

The Browns are playing in their first playoff game since 2002 and are facing the NFL's longest drought after the season.

The consensus line, which opened with the Steelers -3.5, which had risen to -4.5 at the time of Tuesday opening, has increased to -6 on Tuesday's William Hill Caesars Sportsbook news.

Steeler's manager Mike Tomlin said he knew "very little" about the Browns' Priefer, but said the change in manager would not affect his team's preparation for the game.

"I'm sure he'll be the type to be the head coach on the sidelines and make those decisions about challenges and things like that, but behind the scenes I imagine that they'll dissolve manager Stefanski's responsibility "Said Tomlin. "It's not just Coach Priefer. I won't spend much time worrying about it. I know Coach Stefanski and have a relationship with him, but [his absence] assures you nothing of a preparation point of view."

After a number of roster management changes this summer, including expanding the practice groups to 16 players, the NFL has made it clear that games will not be postponed for competitive reasons. The league followed up on that promise and only relocated games if it believed an internal team breakout was underway and could lead to further infection and potentially spread to opponents.

As a result, the Baltimore Ravens lost a week 12 game against Pittsburgh without quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was among the at least 14 players who tested positive during the team's outbreak. The Denver Broncos had to play without one of their four quarterbacks in week 12 and lost to the New Orleans Saints. And the Detroit Lions played without interim coach Darrell Bevell and most of their defenders in Week 16 and lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert and Brooke Pryor contributed to this report.