CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns reopened their facility after temporarily closing it Wednesday morning after another player tested positive for COVID-19.
As a precaution, head coach Kevin Stefanski and the Browns split Wednesday’s practice in half – offense first followed by the defense to lift, do individual drills and run a period of practice as a unit.
“We are just following protocols,” Stefanski said. “The building is open. We can practice, but we will just be safe and hold a few guys out just because we do not know how the contact tracing is going to come back. How it affects you? May have less guys out there at practice so we have to get creative in how we do that.”
Linebacker Sione Takitaki was placed on reserve/COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon.
Takitaki returned an interception for a touchdown, two tackles and a tackle for loss in last week's win over the Eagles.
In previous instances, the Browns were able to reopen their building later in the day and conduct practice after contract tracing was completed.
“I think it is really important that we get the work in today. It is an important day,” Stefanski said.
A total of eight players were held out of practice as a precaution while contract tracing was completed – Dontrell Hilliard, Robert Jackson, Elijah Lee, Jacob Phillips, Malcolm Smith, Taywan Taylor, Tavierre Thomas and Mack Wilson – but are expected to return tomorrow.
“It was different,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “Earlier today, just the building being shut down just to be, ‘Hey, have your phones on handy. Be on standby,’ that is nothing new to us. It is kind of a what-is-next mentality. Just go through what we have been given installation wise and go through that a couple more times mentally because you do not know if you are going to get reps at it. Coming in with just the offense, we were able to get some really good work on. Did what we needed to on a Wednesday, and we were able to have film and go learn from that and talk about it.”
It appears that the Browns have not had any teammate to teammate transmission, but recent positive tests are a reminder for them to be just as careful outside the facility as they are inside it.
“When we are in the building, we are very safe,” Stefanski said. “When we are out of the building, you have to be safe. When you leave our bubble, obviously, you have to make great decisions, and I think the guys understand that.”
The entire NFL is under the league's intensive protocols, meaning all meetings are being conducted virtually. The Browns have been operating under them since a staffer tested positive Oct. 31.
“It is 2020. We are ready to go,” Stefanski said.
In addition to Takitaki, four other players are currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list: defensive end Myles Garrett, offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, fullback Andy Janovich and defensive end Joe Jackson.
Stefanski said the possibility is there that Garrett could return against the Titans next week. Janovich and Jackson were ruled out this week. There is a chance Hubbard could return for Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.