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.
Chase Claypool again Says Cleveland will Lose to Chiefs; Claims Browns ‘Classless’ in Win
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool isn’t backing down from his prediction that the Cleveland Browns will lose in the second round of the NFL Playoffs this weekend, and said he made his comment about the Browns “getting clapped” by the Kansas City Chiefs the way he did because they were “classless” on the field in their win over Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
“Not that I’m praying on them to get beat really bad, but someone just asked me a score prediction and that was kind of a way of me saying that I think the Chiefs are going to beat the Browns,” Claypool explained in an interview with DAZN on Thursday.
“I think if the Browns had won with more class, then I wouldn’t have been so salty about it. But them mocking JuJu before the game and after the game, it just didn’t sit right with me.”
— DAZN Canada (@DAZN_CA) January 13, 2021
Claypool said that specifically, the Browns were mocking fellow Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had drawn ire around the league for his behavior on social media this season.
“They were just super classless toward JuJu, what they were saying on the field toward the end of the game,” Claypool said. “I’m not going to have respect for a team that doesn’t have respect for us.”
“They can enjoy the win and another week of football, but they’ll be on the couch right next to me next week,” Claypool said.
Browns RB Kareem Hunt Trolls Steelers with Autograph Inscription
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt sent a shot at the Pittsburgh Steelers in an autograph inscription this week after the Browns ended the Steelers’ season with a 48-37 win in Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game.
Hunt’s signed helmet at 1 of 1 Card Shop in Cleveland came with the inscriptions “Corvette Corvette,” the score of the game and “Clapped ‘em.”
Kareem Hunt left a message after signing a helmet 😂
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) January 13, 2021
Corvette Corvette is a reference to the Song “Adderall (Corvette Corvette)” by Pop Hunna that Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster infamously danced to on the midfield logos of the Steelers’ opponents at times this season.
Hunt scored two touchdowns in the first half as the Browns jumped out to a huge 28-0 first quarter lead against the Steelers at Heinz Field. Cleveland will visit Kansas City in the Divisional Playoff this Saturday.
Steelers-Browns on as Scheduled after Browns Get Negative COVID-19 Tests
The Browns had no new COVID-19 tests on Sunday, and the Sunday night game between Cleveland and the Pittsburgh Steelers is on as scheduled, according to a reports by Adam Schefter of ESPN and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, as the Browns appear to have gotten over the worst of their multi-week COVID-19 outbreak.
Both Cleveland’s Saturday tests that were returned on Sunday and additional point-of-care tests taken in Pittsburgh Sunday came back clean for the Browns.
Cleveland will still be missing some players, including top cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward, starting left guard Joel Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, safety Javonte Moffat and several coaches, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, but there have been no new positive test back for multiple days.
The Browns flew into Pittsburgh on Saturday, in an unusual step for the teams just two hours apart by coach, which was done in an attempt to lessen the time traveling together for the Cleveland team. Additionally, the Cleveland coaches took cars to Pittsburgh so that the team could spread out more on the flight.
Starting right tackle Jack Conklin also traveled to Pittsburgh separately from the team, according to a report by Mark Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He has not tested positive for COVID-19, but COVID-like symptoms held him out of practice on Friday.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safety Ronnie Harrison both made the trip to Pittsburgh after turning in what the league has deemed were false-positive tests.
Additionally, five Browns are questionable to play with injuries, though Stefanski said that he expects defensive linemen Myles Garrett (shoulder) and Sheldon Richardson (neck) to suit up.
Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s game, returned to practice on Friday for Cleveland and should be in line to play as the Browns’ No. 3 receiver if he does not suffer a setback.
Cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr. (calf) and right guard Wyatt Teller (ankle) are also questionable.
Stefanski did not travel to the team with Pittsburgh, and will not even be allowed to be in contact with his team once the game begins. Special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as Cleveland’s interim head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays for the Browns’ offense.