With their playoff hopes on the line, the Cleveland Browns could be without their starting quarterback and head coach Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
The day after the Browns had to place eight players on the COVID-19 reserve list because of positive test results, head coach Kevin Stefanski and quarterback Baker Mayfield also have tested positive.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Mayfield had tested positive Wednesday morning, not long after the Browns announced Stefanski had tested positive for the second consecutive season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose medical information.
Mayfield and five other Browns players were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday, bringing the team’s total to 18 players.
In a statement released by spokesman Peter John-Baptiste, the Browns said, “This morning’s testing round has produced additional positive COVID-19 results. Head coach Kevin Stefanski, who has been vaccinated and received a booster, has tested positive and has immediately self-isolated. He is feeling fine and will continue his head coaching duties virtually as we prepare for the Las Vegas Raiders game on Saturday.
“Should Coach Stefanski not produce two negative tests by Saturday, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will serve as the play caller in Saturday’s game. Additionally, acting running backs coach Ryan Cordell has tested positive. Our player round of testing is still being conducted and any player transactions related to COVID-19 reserve will be updated and announced once finalized.”
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Because he is vaccinated, Stefanski would be eligible to return if he remains symptom-free and produces two negative test results in a 24-hour span leading up to Saturday’s game. Mayfield also would be eligible to return under the same circumstances if vaccinated.
Acting running backs coach Ryan Cordell also tested positive for COVID-19, the Browns announced.
Stefanski had announced on Tuesday that the organization had shifted to enhanced protocols and that all meetings would be conducted virtually rather than in person. Stefanski said that he expected his players to still manage to prepare effectively, drawing on experiences from last season, when they had to play without key players and Stefanski (who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 as well) during the regular season and playoffs.
In an interview on Tuesday with team broadcast radio partner 92.3 The Fan, the second-year coach said, “We’ve got pros. I think those guys understand what’s really important is this game on Saturday. It’s an AFC game and we have to come ready to go.”
An NFL spokesman said there was no change to the status of Saturday’s game between the Browns and Raiders.
Mayfield has been inconsistent and injured for virtually the entire season. He has been playing through a completely torn left labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder since Week 2 and has endured several lower-body injuries along the way.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Mayfield has completed 62.8% of his passes for 2,603 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions for a rating of 90.1 in 12 games. His injured shoulder forced him to sit out one game, a 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Oct. 21, whe Keenum started for the Browns on “Thursday Night Football.”
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