The Cleveland Browns have shut down their practice facility for a second consecutive day to conduct contact tracing as three more players have tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of a pivotal Week 17 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star cornerback Denzel Ward, tight end Harrison Bryant and linebacker Malcolm Smith were the three players who tested positive, according to ESPN and multiple reports. Bryant was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, and Smith and Ward were added to it Thursday.
The Browns kept the facility closed Thursday afternoon after contact tracing protocols and did not practice.
They also closed their facility Wednesday after a coach and a practice squad player tested positive for the coronavirus, but Cleveland reopened its building in the afternoon and practiced for about an hour.
On Tuesday, the Browns placed Bryant and safeties Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo on the reserve/COVID-19 list, then added practice squad center Javon Patterson on Wednesday.
The Browns have been dealing with coronavirus issues since Saturday, when they had to place their top four wide receivers on the reserve/COVID-19 list as high-risk close contacts after they came into contact with another player who had tested positive.
Cleveland, however, does not expect to get back Sendejo or starting linebacker B.J. Goodson, who was the first to be put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, in time for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. And the status of the three players who tested positive Wednesday and Thursday is now in doubt for a potential opening playoff game, as well.
The NFL’s Dr. Allen Sills said Wednesday that there was no indication that an outbreak within the Browns organization was underway.
“To date, we don’t see any connection among the recent positive cases with the Browns, so there’s no evidence of transmission within the facility,” Sills said. “But obviously we’re going to continue to work through that and continue to monitor the test results on a day-to-day basis.”
Cleveland can clinch its first playoff berth in 17 seasons with a victory over the Steelers.
Despite the new cases, the game at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium remains on schedule, according to an NFL spokesman. The league is closely monitoring the Browns’ situation and overseeing standard contact tracing.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.