NFL Browns coach Stefanski among five positive for Covid-19

Washington (AFP) –


Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and four others on the NFL squad have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of Cleveland's first playoff game since 2002, the Browns announced Tuesday.

Stefanski, two unidentified assistant coaches and two unidentified players will miss Cleveland's playoff return on Sunday when they face Pittsburgh for the second time in a week.

NFL Network reported the Browns players testing positive were wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge and offensive guard Joel Bitonio.

Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as Cleveland's acting head coach, the team said.

"Our facility is currently closed while contact tracing is taking place," the team said in a statement. "The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps."

It marked the fifth time in 10 days the Browns had closed their training facility due to Covid-19 safety protocols.

The Browns were without six starters last Sunday because of Covid-19 positives and safety measures but edged Pittsburgh 24-22 at home to snap their 17-season playoff drought.

Two weeks ago, the Browns were without four wide receivers, including Hodge, due to Covid-19 issues and lost to the New York Jets, who won only twice all season.

Stefanski, 38, went 11-5 with the Browns in his first season as an NFL head coach after working as an assistant for the Minnesota Vikings from 2006 to 2019.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he was not concerned about having so many positive cases on a team his squad just played.

"I have complete confidence in the protocol outlined by the NFL," Tomlin said. "I won't spend a lot of time worrying about it. That's not my charge."

Tomlin said the Browns' situation was less of a concern than his daily wait for a morning phone call to give him the test status of his own team.

"We have daily reminders of how fragile these circumstances are," Tomlin said. "What's transpiring in Cleveland is not verification or a reminder. It's just more of the same."