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Browns HC Kevin Stefanski, LG Joel Bitonio, WR KhaDarel Hodge Test Positive For COVID-19

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Major news out of Cleveland as the COVID-19 outbreak on the Browns team continues.

The Cleveland Browns have announced that head coach Kevin Stefanski along with left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge and two assistant coaches have tested positive for COVID-19. Special teams coach Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach.

This will be the Browns first playoff game since 2002 and they won’t have their head coach on the sidelines. With Stefanski out, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will be in charge of calling the plays.

”The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19,” the Browns said in a press release. “Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority. Our contingency planning calls for Special Team Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as acting head coach.”

Both Bitonio and Hodge will be unavailable for Cleveland on Sunday after testing positive, according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Bitonio is Cleveland’s starting left guard, where he is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Michael Dunn and Nick Harris are listed as backups at guard. Harris was a fifth-round pick from Washington this spring and has started one game this season. Dunn is a first-year pro from Maryland with one career offensive snap.

Hodge is Cleveland’s No. 5 wide receiver, but could have been in line for a larger role with Donovan Peoples-Jones suffering a concussion against the Steelers on Sunday. Peoples-Jones’ status for Sunday night is unknown.

The Browns-Steelers Wild-Card game is scheduled to take place Sunday night starting at 8:15 p.m. from Heinz Field. The league says that their is no change to the status of the game.

 

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Steelers Opponents

Chase Claypool again Says Cleveland will Lose to Chiefs; Claims Browns ‘Classless’ in Win

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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.”

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.

After the win, Browns running back Kareem Hunt signed a helmet with the inscriptions “Corvette Corvette,” a shot a Smith-Schuster, the score of the game and “clapped em.”

“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.”

Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki said that Claypool is just “salty” that the Browns won.

“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.

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Steelers Opponents

Browns RB Kareem Hunt Trolls Steelers with Autograph Inscription

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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.”

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.

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Steelers Opponents

Steelers-Browns on as Scheduled after Browns Get Negative COVID-19 Tests

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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.

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