The Browns will try to make the playoffs without four wide receivers, including Jarvis Landry, with their starting center linebacker and likely replacement, due to a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing.
Cleveland’s game against the New York Jets will go as planned, an NFL spokesperson said.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield may not recognize everyone in the clique.
The astonishing news for the Browns (10-4) came as they prepared to travel to the New York area – the flight was delayed for more than four hours – and potentially lock in their first playoff spot since. 2002, the longest drought in the league.
Starting linebacker BJ Goodson was the first to be placed on the COVID-19 list after testing positive.
Then, once the team completed the contact tracing, Landry and other receivers Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge were also placed on the roster, knocking them out of the game.
Rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips, who may have started for Goodson, is also out.
The losses leave Mayfield without most of his primary goals.
Landry leads the team with 67 catches for 789 yards in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a late season knee injury on October 25.
Higgins has 35 takes and was a staple for Mayfield in the third downs.
For Landry, this will be the first game he will miss in seven seasons.
The five-time Pro Bowler has played 110 straight games and hasn’t missed a beat this season despite a broken rib on Oct. 11 against Indianapolis.
“ANNOYED,” he posted on Twitter.
Higgins, too, expressed his disappointment, writing: “I don’t even have a covid !!!”
Under league rules, Goodson could also miss the Jan. 3 game against Pittsburgh.
The league says any player who tests positive must be absent for at least 10 days before being eligible to return.
Of course, it also depends on the health of the player.
Other players will be allowed to return as long as they continue to test negative.
The Browns raised Ja’Marcus Bradley and Derrick Willies of the practice squad with linebacker Montrel Meander.
While the passing game might suffer, the Browns have one of the best running attacks in the league and coach Kevin Stefanski will likely lean on Nick Chubb (931 yards) and Kareem Hunt (793) against the Jets (1-13), who knocked out the Los. Angeles Rams last week.
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Cleveland has had good news as starting rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills was activated Saturday (Sunday) from the COVID-19 roster after being placed there Thursday (AEDT Friday) due to close contact with someone outside of the team.
Wills have never tested positive.
After learning of Goodson’s result, the Browns delayed their flight for contact tracing.
Players have been urged to stay home until the tracing is complete.
Goodson did a good job of solidifying Cleveland’s linebacking body after the team chose not to sign veterans Joe Schobert or Christian Kirksey.
Goodson started all 14 games and was credited with 91 tackles (59 solo), made two interceptions and provided leadership.
“He’s definitely the emotional leader in defense,” Stefanski said after a victory this month over Tennessee.
“You hear him before you see him. He brings the guys together in practice and during games. He makes big plays in those ball games to help us win.”
With Goodson and Phillips, linebacker Mack Wilson will likely get more shots after being benched last week.
Wills is an important part of an offensive line that has been hit lately.
Starting right-wing goaltender Wyatt Teller will miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle and the Browns have lost all-round lineman Chris Hubbard for the season due to a knee injury sustained during a win over the Giants last week.
Rookie Nick Harris will make his first career start in place of Teller.
The Browns also elevated center Javon Patterson from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
Like many NFL teams, the Browns have faced positive cases for most of the season.
Defensive star Myles Garrett missed two games after contracting the virus.
He said last week that he was still battling the lingering effects of the disease and continued to undergo respiratory treatments.