Dec 14, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski back to work

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is out of the basement and back at his office at team headquarters in Berea, Ohio.

Stefanski returned to the team after a positive COVID-19 test forced him to isolate in his home last week. Stefanski viewed the team’s first playoff win since 1994 from an uncomfortable distance in the bottom floor of his family’s home.

The Browns beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night to set up a divisional playoff matchup with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Stefanski was back at work 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and was required to test negative before returning to the team. Stefanski said his case was mild but he lost his sense of taste.

The Browns didn’t have long to savor the wild-card win with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs awaiting their company at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Kansas City rested during a bye last week and returned to full practice on Monday.

Offensive guard Joel Bitonio, one of the top-rated pass blockers in the NFL, also missed the wild-card game at Pittsburgh due to COVID-19. As of Thursday morning, the Browns had not cleared Bitonio from the reserve/COVID list.

–Field Level Media

Dec 14, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski no fan of watching Browns from basement

Running back Nick Chubb suggested it might violate superstition for first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski to rejoin the Cleveland Browns this week for the divisional playoff trip to face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

“Sorry Nick,” Stefanski said, “You’re stuck with me buddy.”

Stefanski said he did feel the drama and has a newfound respect for fans after taking in the game without direct control of what was happening on the field. After pausing the game broadcast at one point, Stefanski learned of the Browns’ first touchdown when his family upstairs began screaming in celebration. Stefanski said his TV was about 45 seconds behind.

But Stefanski, who watched the Browns eliminate the Pittsburgh Steelers from the postseason Sunday night, said he has no intention of watching Cleveland football from his basement ever again. Stefanski was in isolation following a positive COVID-19 test last week and wasn’t present for the Browns’ first playoff win since 1994.

“I did a lot of pacing,” Stefanski said Monday. “I don’t plan on doing that again.”

Stefanski joked that he did no binge eating during the game because he “can’t taste anything,” but otherwise had mild symptoms.

NFL COVID-19 protocol permits Stefanski to return to work Thursday as the Browns (12-5) make final preparations for Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium where the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs are rested and waiting.

There will be some catching up to do for Stefanski and guard Joel Bitonio, one of the top-rated pass blockers in the NFL this season. Bitonio missed the game due to COVID and by the end of the night, quarterback Baker Mayfield was being protected by Blake Hance.

Hance was signed off the practice squad last week but because the team was unable to formally practice, Mayfield said he first met Hance in the locker room before Sunday’s game. Stefanski said he hasn’t even met Hance, but will this week.

“Looking forward to it,” he said with a smile.

As the Browns walked off the field at Heinz Field with a 48-37 win over the Steelers, Stefanski was surprised to see the phone number of wide receiver Jarvis Landry pop up on his cell phone. Landry was on FaceTime and one of multiple players and coaches who wanted Stefanski to be part of the postgame celebration.

“We’re one of eight teams,” he said. “I’m not a math major, but we’ll take those chances. This is the fun part about the playoffs.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals place WR Kirk on reserve/COVID list

The Arizona Cardinals placed receiver Christian Kirk on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday, knocking him out of the team’s must-win game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday to earn an NFC wild-card spot.

Kirk, who has 48 receptions for 621 yards and six touchdowns this season, is the eighth Cardinal to be placed on the list this season.

His absence hinders the team’s offense, as wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is listed as questionable with a groin injury, as are running back Chase Edmonds (hip) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle). Receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hip) practiced fully on Friday after being limited on Thursday.

In Kirk’s absence, the Cardinals will be counting on increased production from receivers KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella, who is expected to be active for the first time since Fitzgerald returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list three games ago.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bills activate WR Brown from COVID list

The Buffalo Bills activated wide receiver John Brown from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.

Brown, previously activated from injured reserve, is set to play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Brown has missed the past five games due to an ankle injury and time on the COVID-19 list.

The Bills also activated safety Josh Thomas and running back Christian Wade from the COVID list.

“COVID is COVID. Don’t know how predictable it is,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said Friday. “Good to have those guys back.”

The team also signed wideout JJ Nelson and CB Duke Thomas to the practice squad.

Brown has played in eight games (seven starts) with 29 receptions for 386 yards and two touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Philadelphia Eagles safety Jalen Mills (21) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles S Mills put on COVID list, will miss finale

The Philadelphia Eagles put Jalen Mills on the reserve/COVID-19 list, ending the safety’s season.

It’s unclear if Mills tested positive or came into close contact with someone who did. Mills, who becomes a free agent after the season, will miss the Eagles’ final game against Washington on Sunday night.

Mills, 26, started every game this season for Philadelphia, eliminated from the playoffs but with a chance to play spoiler against Washington, which is trying to win the NFC East.

Mills finishes with 74 tackles, an interception, three passes defensed and 1.5 sacks in his first season at safety; he spent his first four seasons in Philly as a cornerback. The Eagles selected Mills in the seventh round of the 2016 draft.

Mills has five career INTs.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry (24) breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (19) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Giants place CB Bradberry on COVID list, out vs. Browns

New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday.

Bradberry’s case is not related to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s positive test, the team said.

According to the Giants, Bradberry was placed on the list because he was deemed to be a high-risk close contact of an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. The contact did not occur at the Giants facility and the individual is not a member of the organization.

The Giants’ top cover cornerback, Bradberry leads a rather thin group at the position.

If Bradberry continues to test negative and remains asymptomatic, he’s eligible to be activated Monday.

Bradberry, 27, signed with the Giants as a free agent in March. He left the Carolina Panthers to sign a three-year, $43.5 million deal.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans running back David Johnson (31) celebrates with running back Duke Johnson (25) after scoring  a touchdown during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Texans RB David Johnson placed on COVID list

Running back David Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Houston Texans on Friday.

Johnson will not travel with the team to Chicago, but Houston expects Duke Johnson — who missed practice Thursday due to illness — to be ready after he was able to participate in Friday’s workout.

David Johnson was listed as out Thursday for “non-injury reasons” and the Texans updated his status Friday afternoon. Head coach Romeo Crennel hinted David Johnson would miss the trip due to “personal reasons.”

Healed from a concussion, David Johnson returned from injured reserve last week to play against the Indianapolis Colts. He leads the team in rushing with 113 carries for 452 yards and four touchdowns.

Duke Johnson has 69 carries for 209 yards and one touchdown this season.

Also, tight end Pharaoh Brown will miss the game after suffering a concussion against the Colts. He has seven receptions for 75 yards in 10 games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals’ Fitzgerald dropped 9 pounds, updated will fighting COVID

Larry Fitzgerald lost nine pounds and updated his will during his recent bout with COVID-19.

The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver said Thursday his sense of smell and taste haven’t returned.

Because of the symptoms he experienced, Fitzgerald said it was “tough not to be concerned” about his fate.

“I got my estate planning done again, revised my will. I did a lot of stuff,” Fitzgerald said. “When you’re sitting home and watching how many people are dying every day from it, you really re-evaluate things.”

Fitzgerald, 37, was put on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Nov. 26 and activated on Tuesday. He’s expected to be active Sunday against the New York Giants.

“He is a tremendous leader and presence for us, obviously,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He brings a level of confidence because of what he’s accomplished and what he can do on the field, there’s no doubt.”

Arizona lost to the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots with Fitzgerald sidelined, and quarterback Kyler Murray said Wednesday that the Cardinals’ offense hasn’t been quite right without the future Hall of Fame wide receiver.

Fitzgerald has 43 receptions for 336 yards in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Jimmy Lake exits the tunnel before a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

UW football paused, division-decider vs. Oregon in doubt

Washington paused football activities on Wednesday, and with that decision the chance to play for the Pac-12 title could be out the window.

Washington is scheduled to play Oregon in a game that would determine the winner of the Pac-12 North. If the Huskies are forced to cancel, Washington would finish with a 3-1 record.

The Pac-12 could decide to clear Washington to play next week against USC or Colorado in the conference championship game, pending COVID-19 testing.

The Huskies are not ready to cancel the game with the Ducks.

School officials said the status of Saturday’s game would be updated when appropriate. The Huskies are scheduled for additional player testing on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020; Huntington, West Virginia, USA; The Marshall Thundering Herd mascot celebrates during the fourth quarter against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall cancels Friday game against Charlotte

The Marshall Thundering Herd won’t be hosting the Charlotte 49ers in Friday’s scheduled regular-season finale due to a roster that’s been depleted by injury and a small coronavirus outbreak.

A statement from the team also cited a lack of available scholarship student-athletes at key positions.

“Due to the developments this week, myself and our medical team felt that it was unsafe to put the team on the field Friday evening,” athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “I’d like to thank Charlotte AD Mike Hill and the 49ers’ administration for their patience and understanding. I also want to thank the Conference USA office for its support and guidance as we worked through this process.”

Marshall was originally scheduled to play the 49ers on Nov. 21, but COVID-19 issues in the Charlotte program scuttled that date.

Marshall (7-1, 4-1 Conference USA East) suffered its first loss of the season last week, falling 20-0 to Rice and losing its No. 21 ranking in the process. It was the Herd’s first game since a 42-14 win over Middle Tennessee St. on Nov. 14.

Florida Atlantic is also 4-1 in Conference USA’s East division and plays Southern Miss on Thursday in their regular-season finale.

–Field Level Media