The Cleveland Browns have placed guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge on the COVID-19 reserve list and placed offensive lineman Nick Harris and defensive end Olivier Vernon on the injured reserve list, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.
Bitonio and Hodge reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 before entering the team’s facility on Tuesday, along with head coach Kevin Stefanski and two assistant coaches, less than 48 hours after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland on Sunday. Both players will miss Sunday night’s Wild Card playoff game in Pittsburgh.
Bitonio is Cleveland’s starting left guard, where he is a three-time Pro Bowl selection. Harris, fifth-round pick from Washington this spring, would have been first in line to replace him.
Michael Dunn a first-year pro from Maryland that was elevated from the practice squad on Dec. 19 and has one career offensive snap, is the only other guard on Cleveland’s most recent depth chart.
Vernon tore his left Achilles tendon during Sunday’s game and will require surgery. Vernon had started 13 games opposite Pro Bowler Myles Garrett at defensive end. He led the Browns with 12 tackles for loss and was second only to Garrett with nine sacks on the season.
Adrian Clayborn is expected to start in Vernon’s place. Clayborn has played in 15 games and made two starts this season, his first in Cleveland. He has started 53 total games in his NFL career, which also includes stops in Tampa Bay, Atlanta and New England. He had 12 tackles, three for a loss and 3.5 sacks this season.
Hodge has been Cleveland’s No. 4 wide receiver since the Browns lost Odell Beckham Jr. for the season to injury, 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.