CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team's first playoff game since 2002.
On Twitter, the team announced that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as Cleveland’s acting head coach Sunday.
We were informed this morning that Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, two additional members of the coaching staff and two players have tested positive for COVID-19.— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 5, 2021
Our contingency planning calls for Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer to serve as the acting Head Coach. pic.twitter.com/Mhh9Zt1e4d
According to NFL rules, anyone testing positive must sit out at least 10 days.
NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported that offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who called plays in training camp, will call the plays Sunday.
With Kevin Stefanski out, OC Alex Van Pelt will call the plays. https://t.co/RWSDKXNVwv— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 5, 2021
Two coach staff members—tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard —tested positive as well.
Associated Press reporter Tom Withers confirmed Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Cleveland Browns said Tuesday that they will continue to consult with the league and medical experts to determine the appropriate next steps.
The NFL released the following statement after the Browns announced the positive cases:
There's no change to the status of the game. We are continuing to conduct standard contact tracing to identify any possible high-risk close contacts. If any players or personnel are identified as such, they would remain apart from the team and facilities for five days from the last exposure to a positive individual.
They would be eligible to return to the team and play in the game.
As you know, there were no positives from tests for the Browns over the previous couple days. The league and its partner conducted genomic sequencing on the positive cases from last week and there were unconnected viruses among the players and personnel. These new cases will undergo the same treatment.
It’s a major blow to the Browns (11-5), who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons on Sunday with a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh. They’ll play the Steelers again this week in the first round of the AFC playoffs.
Cleveland has been hit hard by the virus. The Browns were without six players and three coaches last weekend for their biggest game in years after a rash of positive tests.
This story was first published by Kaylyn Hlavaty at WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio. The Associated Press also attributed to the story.