The Latest: Browns coach on track to return Thursday
Browns rookie coach Kevin Stefanski said he’s on track to return to the team Thursday for playoff preparations after missing Sunday’s wild-card win in Pittsburgh with COVID-19.
Stefanski jokingly called himself “probable” when asked if he’ll be back as the Browns get ready to face the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Stefanski tested positive with the virus last week and couldn’t be with his team when the Browns won their first playoff game in 26 years by upsetting the Steelers.
Stefanski watched the game from his home’s basement in Rocky River, Ohio, and admitted to pacing in front of the TV during the telecast. Stefanski said he’s lost his sense of taste but had mostly mild symptoms during his illness.
Cleveland activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson from the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Also, offensive line coach Bill Callahan returned to the team after being one of four assistants sidelined by the virus.
Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio remains in isolation, and the Browns are hoping to get him back in the next day or two.
Browns top cornerback Denzel Ward is back with the team after missing Cleveland’s past two games — one of them a playoff win — with COVID-19.
Ward was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday along with cornerback Kevin Johnson as the Browns (12-5), who have dealt with numerous virus-related issues over the last month, began practicing for Sunday’s playoff game at Kansas City against the top-seeded Chiefs.
If he can play, Ward would give Cleveland’s secondary a major boost as it faces Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his numerous offensive weapons. Ward typically is assigned to the other team’s top wide receiver.
Johnson, who has made six starts this season, will help as well.
The Browns gave up 501 yards passing on Sunday to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who picked on Cleveland’s backups.
Ward’s return could be followed by coach Kevin Stefanski’s. The first-year coach also missed Sunday’s shocking wild-card win at Pittsburgh after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. Stefanski is on track to be back at the team’s facility on Thursday.
Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio could be joining him. He missed last week’s game as well with coronavirus, along with Ward, Johnson, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge and four assistant coaches.