CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns were forced to close their facility temporarily for the second straight day after another player tested positive for COVID-19.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski had hoped to get practice in early Thursday so players and staff could enjoy the holiday but those plans changed with the latest positive test.
Defensive end Porter Gustin was placed on reserve/COVID-19 and offensive lineman Chris Hubbard was activated from the list Thursday.
The team issued the following statement Thursday morning:
“The Cleveland Browns were informed this morning that a player has tested positive for COVID-19. The facility is currently closed and meetings will take place remotely while contact tracing is conducted to identify any high-risk close contacts. The team will continue to consult with the league and medical experts on the appropriate next steps as the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the entire community remains our highest priority.”
No close contacts were found during contact tracing Thursday according to the team.
The offense was able to practice Thursday but the defense worked virtually and was kept out of the building while contract tracing was conducted.
It marks the third straight day the team has had a player test positive.
On Tuesday defensive end Joe Jackson and Wednesday linebacker Sione Takitaki were placed on reserve/COVID-19 following a positive test by a player.
The Browns currently have five players – Gustin, Jackson, Takitaki, defensive end Myles Garrett, and fullback Andy Janovich – on the specially designated list for 2020 and they are expected to add another Thursday afternoon.
Stefanski said Wednesday that there is a possibility that Garrett could return against the Titans next week. Janovich and Jackson were ruled out for this week but there is a chance Hubbard could return for Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.
As a precaution, Stefanski split up practice Wednesday into two sessions - one for the offense, the other for the defense which included weight lifting, individual drills and a group period.
A total of eight players – Dontrell Hilliard, Robert Jackson, Elijah Lee, Jacob Phillips, Malcolm Smith, Taywan Taylor, Tavierre Thomas and Mack Wilson – were held out of practice Wednesday as a precaution while contract tracing was completed but all of them were eligible to return Thursday the team said.
The entire NFL is under the league's intensive protocols, meaning all meetings continue to be conducted virtually and minimizing the time players spend together outside of practice.
The Browns have been operating under the the protocols since a staffer tested positive Oct. 31.