Cleveland Browns Head Coach Tests Positive For COVID-19 Ahead Of Playoffs

Jan 5, 2021

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team's first playoff game since 2002 on Sunday.

Two more members of the coaching staff and two players, identified by NFL Network and other media sources as offensive lineman Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, also tested positive for the virus.

According to NFL rules, anyone testing positive must sit out at least 10 days.

"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 cexperts to determine the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority."

It’s a major blow to the Browns, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons last Sunday with a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh.

Stefanski, a rookie head coach, led the Browns to an 11-5 season this year, surpassing Paul Brown for the most wins for any first-year head coach in franchise history.

The Browns have had to repeatedly close the team’s facilities over the past two months due to COVID-19 running through the roster and coaching staff. Linebacker Sione Takitaki, lineman Chris Hubbard, fullback Andy Janovich, and defensive ends Joe Jackson and Myles Garrett have all tested positive for the coronavirus since November.

A number of other players are currently separated from the team due to COVID-19 protocols, but some of them – including cornerback Denzel Ward and linebacker B.J. Goodson – may be eligible to return to the team before Sunday night's game. 

The Browns will play the Steelers again this week in the first round of the AFC playoffs. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach in Stefanski's absence.

The game is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.