January 3, 8:02am: Browns CB Kevin Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last night, as Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. He was supposed to start this afternoon’s critical matchup with Pittsburgh in place of Denzel Ward, who is also on the list. Instead, the club will rely on a combination of Terrance Mitchell, Tavierre Thomas, M.J. Stewart, and Robert Jackson.
Cleveland also elevated UDFA rookie A.J. Green from the practice squad, who may start opposite Mitchell. Green has played one defensive snap this season.
January 2, 1:47pm: The Browns will be without both offensive line coaches Sunday. The team announced Bill Callahan and assistant O-line coach Scott Peters will not coach against the Steelers. Assistant Ryan Cordell will oversee Cleveland’s offensive front during the team’s win-and-in Week 17 assignment. Cordell spent five years with the 49ers, working as both a front office and coaching assistant, and is in his second season as a Browns football research analyst.
While the Browns will be down three coaches, they announced their latest round of contact tracing did not result in more players being identified as high-risk close contacts, Ulrich tweets.
January 2, 9:06am: There’s been another positive COVID-19 test on the Browns’ coaching staff, but as of right now, it doesn’t sound like it will impact Sunday’s game against the Steelers. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports that the Browns had a positive test and have closed their facility (via Twitter). Josina Anderson tweets that the Browns will not practice this morning.
The Browns released a statement confirming the news (via Twitter):
“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a member of their coaching staff has tested positive for COVID-19. The team will continue virtual meetings as the facility is currently closed while contact tracing is conducted. We will consult with league medical professionals on the appropriate next steps.”
Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea had already been declared unavailable for tomorrow’s game after testing positive earlier this week. Despite the second positive test result, a source told Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal that there’s been no change to that status of tomorrow’s game (Twitter link).
This is obviously poor timing for Cleveland, as the Browns are on the verge of clinching their first playoff spot since the 2002 season. A win against Pittsburgh will secure that postseason appearance, but there are plenty of scenarios where Cleveland could make the playoffs with a loss tomorrow.
With O’Shea testing positive earlier this week, the Browns were forced to close their facilities. The team finally got their first full team practice in yesterday, and everyone understands the significance of preparing for tomorrow’s game.
“We have to be ready,” Browns wideout Jarvis Landry told Ulrich. “We have to win this game. There’s no secret about it.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.