The Cleveland Browns have activated three players from the COVID-19 reserve list in advance of Sunday’s playoff opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Browns tight end Harrison Bryant, safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Malcolm Smith were all activated. Bryant and Smith were expected to return this Sunday after missing last Sunday’s regular-season finale between the two teams.
Harrison’s activation was unexpected, as he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday, spending just three days on the list. After receiving his initial positive test, Harrison tested negative in several consecutive tests, causing NFL officials to re-consider his initial positive.
Harrison has played in 11 games and made seven starts at strong safety for the Browns this season and was Cleveland’s third-leading tackler last Sunday against Pittsburgh. He’ll step ahead of WVU alum Karl Joseph at strong safety, paired next to Andrew Sendejo, who was also activated from the COVID-19 list this week.
Smith has started four games in his first season in Cleveland. The veteran can play both outside linebacker spots and is second on the Browns in tackles this season with 72, despite not having a regular starting role.
Bryant is Cleveland’s third tight end behind Austin Hooper and David Njoku, but has been effective in the red zone, with three touchdowns this season. He had a season-high seven targets in Week 16 against the New York Jets.
The Browns will still be short several significant contributors, including cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward, guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.
The team will have a walkthrough in Cleveland on Saturday before flying to Pittsburgh for the game, an unusual step for the nearby opponents taken to minimize the time spent in close proximity for transit.