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

Sep 17, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns tight end Harrison Bryant (88) warms up before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Browns activate three from COVID-19 list

The Cleveland Browns activated three players from the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, making them available for Sunday night’s wild-card game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Activated were tight end Harrison Bryant, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. and linebacker Malcolm Smith. In addition, safety Jovante Moffatt will be able to play after the league determined he was not a close contact with someone who had tested positive, the team said.

The Browns also elevated wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley, tackle Alex Taylor and cornerback A.J. Green from the practice squad on Saturday. Green was designated as a COVID-19 replacement.

ESPN reported that the Browns got the OK to hold a walkthrough on Saturday before their flight to Pittsburgh. That’s good news for the Browns, who were limited to just one short practice on Friday after at least five positive COVID-19 tests.

Among those testing positive were head coach Kevin Stefanski, who will miss the game. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be the acting head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays against the Steelers.

Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio tested positive for the virus and won’t travel to Pittsburgh. Other players on the reserve/COVID-19 list include quarterback Denzel Ward and receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Chris Wormley (95) moves in for the tackle during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Browns return to practice; Steelers in good shape

The Cleveland Browns were cleared to return to practice Friday afternoon — their first practice of the week as they prepare for the franchise’s first playoff game since 2002.

The team’s facility in Berea, Ohio, had been closed since Tuesday after head coach Kevin Stefanski was among five members of the organization to test positive for COVID-19.

ESPN reported that all Browns players tested negative on Thursday and Friday, with only assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters testing positive.

Stefanski will miss Sunday night’s playoff game in Pittsburgh; special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be the acting head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays against the Steelers.

Eight Browns players remain on the COVID-19 list, including Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, safety Ronnie Harrison, tight end Harrison Bryant, cornerback Denzel Ward and receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones cleared concussion protocol and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Also questionable are tackle Jack Conklin (knee/illness), defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder), cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell (not injury related) and M.J. Stewart (calf), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (neck) and guard Wyatt Teller (ankle).

The Steelers enter Sunday night’s home game at Heinz Field in much better shape.

Kicker Chris Boswell (groin) was limited in practice on Friday — the only player who wasn’t a full participant.

Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was listed on Thursday’s injury report with a knee issue, was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Defensive end Isaiah Buggs (illness), safety Terrell Edmunds (shoulder), cornerback Steven Nelson (knee), defensive end Tyson Alualu (ankle) and linebacker Vince Williams (quad) also were full participants on Friday.

The Browns and Steelers split their two games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks at his play chart a during the second quarter gainst the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Browns’ facility remains closed pending test results

The Cleveland Browns’ training facility remained closed Wednesday pending additional COVID-19 test results.

The team announced Tuesday that head coach Kevin Stefanski and four others members of the organization had tested positive, making them unavailable for Sunday night’s wild-card game at Pittsburgh.

As the Browns prepare virtually for the Steelers, ESPN said the team is awaiting the results of additional testing done on potential high-risk close contacts of Stefanski, tight ends coach Drew Petzing, defensive backs coach Jeff Howard, Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach Sunday and multiple outlets reported that offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays in lieu of Stefanski.

The Browns closed their facility on three separate days last week after learning of positive tests for COVID-19.

–Field Level Media