The Cleveland Browns are coming down from a significant victory on Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens, which put them just a game out of the AFC North lead. Now they are preparing to play on Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders. And there’s a high probability that they will be playing without numerous starters.
For the second day in a row, the NFL saw dozens of players test positive for COVID-19, and the Browns were the hardest hit on Tuesday. They placed eight players on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, including starting linemen Jedrick Wills and Wyatt Teller, wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and tight end Austin Hooper.
Tight end David Njoku, linebacker Anthony Walker, and punter Jamie Gillan, among others, were already on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. They now have 12 players on their COVID-19 reserve lists, including two practice squad players. Linemen Jack Conklin and Chris Hubbard are already on the Reserve/Injured List.
So how do you approach this situation? The only way you can, of course. “We know who we have today and then we will adjust accordingly”, head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “You have to be ready for maybe the last play of practice”, he added, to have to adjust. “That is just how it is so we will be ready. We will adjust accordingly”.
There is still the possibility that at least one test was a false positive (one of the 37 positives from Monday was). There is also the possibility that some who tested positive can clear the protocols by Saturday, as T.J. Watt did for the Steelers.
But the Browns are obviously going to be at a disadvantage heading into this game against the Raiders, most likely down three of their starting offensive linemen, and with both J.C. Tretter and Joel Bitonio listed as limited participants in practice with knee and back issues, respectively.
Meanwhile, Kareem Hunt, Malik Jackson, Greg Newsome, and Anthony Schwartz all did not practice at all. The latter two are in the concussion protocol. Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, was a full participant, despite shoulder and foot injuries.
“I feel like we have pros, and I think those guys understand what is really important is this game on Saturday because it is a good opponent, it is an AFC game and we have to come ready to go”, Stefanski said about his team and those who will be replacing the absent starters. “That is why this week of preparation and how we handle these meetings and how we do when we are together out on the field, that is really all that matters”.
The Browns are currently a half-game ahead of the Steelers in the AFC playoff picture. The Raiders are a half-game behind the Steelers. Even though Las Vegas has beaten Pittsburgh this season, fans who are still holding out hope for a playoff spot—and particularly a division title—should be pulling for the Browns to drop this one.