The Browns added linebacker Malcolm Smith and cornerback Denzel Ward to the COVID-19 reserve list, making five additions in the last three days, while five players were activated from the list.
Smith, 31, has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. He’s played in all 15 games for Cleveland thus far this season and made four starts at linebacker, but will miss Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Tae Davis, Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki are likely to start at linebacker for Cleveland on Sunday.
Ward, 23, has started 12 games at cornerback for the Browns this season and leads the team with 18 passes defended and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Backup Kevin Joshnon or slot corner Tavierre Thomas will likely start opposite Terrance Mitchell at cornerback.
Four wide receivers were activated from the COVID-19 list: Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones. They’ll join Ryan Shazier, who was activated on Wednesday, to give Cleveland a full squad of available receivers after playing significantly short at the position during a Week 16 loss to the New York Jets.
The moves leave Cleveland with eight players on the COVID-19 reserve list: safety Elijah Benton, tight end Harrison Bryant, linebacker B.J. Goodson, safety Karl Joseph, center Javon Patterson, safety Andrew Sendejo, Smith and Ward.
Bryant, Goodson, Patterson, Sendejo, Smith and Ward will not be able to play in Sunday’s game, at the very least.
The Browns did not open their practice facility on Thursday.
“In light of today’s positive test results and after consulting with the NFL, we’ve decided to keep our facility closed for the day,” the team said in a statement. “As we’ve previously stated, the health and well-being of our players, coaches and staff is our highest priority and this decision was made with that in mind. We will continue our preparation for the Steelers today remotely and hope to open our facility for practice tomorrow.”
The Browns’ outbreak does not yet appear to be in danger of causing Sunday’s game, scheduled for 1 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, to be postponed or canceled. The team would need to continue to have new positive tests on Friday before the ability to have back-to-back clean testing cycles would be jeopardized.