BEREA, Ohio — Two days before their first playoff appearance in 17 seasons, the Cleveland Browns finally will practice.
The NFL cleared the team to practice Friday afternoon for the first time this week. Cleveland’s training facility had been closed since Tuesday, after head coach Kevin Stefanski and four others within the team tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re going to have to bank on the timing and the things that we’ve worked on to this point with having limited reps,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said after Thursday’s practice had been canceled. “We can’t use this as an excuse. We can’t use this as something that is going to hinder us. We just have to find a way.”
The Browns, significantly shorthanded, will have to find a way Sunday. Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, safety Ronnie Harrison and potentially several other key players will not travel to Pittsburgh due to COVID-19 protocols.
All Browns players tested Thursday and Friday are negative, with only assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters, who had missed last Sunday’s game as a high-risk close contact, testing positive for COVID-19, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Earlier this week, tight ends assistant Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard tested positive for the virus. And this past Sunday against the Steelers, the Browns were without offensive line coach Bill Callahan and receivers coach Chad O’Shea, who tested positive last week.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach Sunday, while offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call plays for Stefanski.
“This is a team that fights,” Van Pelt said Thursday. “This is a team that is resilient. … I feel really good about taking whoever is left down there to Pittsburgh. I know you will get (our) best.”