CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns’ COVID-19 outbreak has widened and worsened.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and will likely miss Saturday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders as Cleveland deals with a widespread outbreak during its playoff pursuit.
Stefanski’s positive test was first announced by the team, which then put Mayfield, starting safety John Johnson III, nickel back Troy Hill, defensive tackle Malik McDowell and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The latest positive tests came one day after the team placed eight players, including top receiver Jarvis Landry and starting offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Jedrick Wills Jr., on the COVID-19 list.
Last week, the Browns were missing three key players due to coronavirus positives: tight end David Njoku, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and punter Jamie Gillan. Their status for this week remains uncertain.
In hopes of mitigating any more spread, the Browns are holding three separate walk-through practices on Wednesday and closing them to the media.
It’s hardly an ideal situation for the Browns (7-6), who have been inconsistent all season and are preparing for Saturday’s matchup against the Raiders (6-7) on a short week. Both teams are fighting for playoff spots in the bunched-up AFC race.
Despite the outbreak in Cleveland, an NFL spokesman tells AP there’s been “no discussion of changing the game’s status.” The league said before the season that no games would be postponed because of COVID-19 outbreaks and that forfeits could be in play
The Browns are on the extreme end of what has been a major rise in COVID-19 cases across the league this week. There were 65 reported cases on Monday and Tuesday, the worst two-day outbreak since the pandemic started.
If there is one bright spot, it’s that the Browns have been down this path before. Last season, they were one of the league’s hardest hit teams by the coronavirus. The Browns were without star defensive end Myles Garrett down the stretch after he tested positive. Cleveland managed to make the playoffs.
Stefanski, though, missed the wild-card game at Pittsburgh — along with Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio — after testing positive days ahead of the game. Stefanski watched the Browns’ victory while isolating from home.
Mayfield, who has been contending with injuries all season, was one of the new positive cases on Wednesday. On Monday, he and and his wife, Emily, appeared at a Christmas event at a local Boys & Girls chapter.
Mayfield has played most of this season with a fracture in his left shoulder, but following Sunday’s win over Baltimore said he’s feeling better than he had in months. If he can’t play Saturday, veteran backup Case Keenum will start.
Keenum filled in for an injured Mayfield earlier this season and led the Browns to a win over Denver.
Stefanski is vaccinated and received a booster shot, and the team said in a statement he’s “feeling fine.” He’s not currently showing any symptoms and will continue to coach the team remotely this week.
The AP’s Coach of the Year in 2020, Stefanski and the other positive players will have to be asymptomatic and produce two negative tests to be eligible to participate in Saturday’s game. If Stefanski is out, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach for the game at Cleveland, just as he did in January’s game at Pittsburgh.
Also, acting running backs coach Ryan Cordell tested positive.