Browns down 6 players for Jets game due to COVID protocols
CLEVELAND (AP) - The Browns will attempt to make the playoffs without four broad receivers, including Jarvis Landry, along with their middle starting linebacker and his likely replacement based on a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing.
Cleveland's game against the New York Jets will be played as planned, an NFL spokesman said.
The amazing news for the Browns (10-4) came as the team prepared to fly to the New York area - the flight was delayed by more than four hours - and possibly its first post-season berth since 2002, the longest drought in the league.
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Start Linebacker B.J. Goodson was the first to be put on the COVID-19 list after testing positive. After the team completed the contact trace, Landry and the other recipients Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge were also added to the list and kicked out of the game.
Rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips, who may have started for Goodson, is also out.
The losses leave quarterback Baker Mayfield without most of his top targets. Landry, who has never missed a game in his seven seasons, leads the team with 67 catches for 789 yards with no end-of-season knee injury to Odell Beckham Jr. on Oct.25.
Under league rules, Goodson will miss Sunday's game and the January 3 matchup against Pittsburgh is also in question. The league says any player who tests positive must stay outside for at least 10 days before they are eligible to return. Of course, that also depends on the health of the player.
The Browns got Ja’Marcus Bradley and Derrick Willies off the training team along with linebacker Montrel Meander.
While the passing game could suffer, the Browns have one of the best running attacks in the league and coach Kevin Stefanski will likely rely on Nick Chubb (931 yards) and Kareem Hunt (793) against the Jets (1-13) who stunned Los Angeles Rams last week.
Cleveland got some good news when Jedrick Wills was activated from the COVID-19 list on Saturday after being placed there on Thursday due to close contact with someone outside the team. Wills never tested positive.
After learning of Goodson's result, the Browns delayed their flight to pursue contacts. The players should stay at home until the chase ended.
Goodson did a good job consolidating Cleveland's linebacking corps after the team decided not to re-sign veterans Joe Schobert or Christian Kirksey. Goodson started all 14 games and received 91 tackles (59 solos), made two interceptions and taken the lead.
"He's definitely the emotional leader of the defense," said Stefanski after beating Tennessee earlier this month. “You hear it before you see it. He gathers the boys in training and during games. He makes great games in these ball games to help us win. "
If Goodson and Phillips drop out, linebacker Mack Wilson will likely get more snaps after sitting on a bench last week.
Wills is an important part of an offensive line that has scored some hits lately.
Right guard 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 to a knee injury they sustained in a win against the Giants last week. Rookie Nick Harris will begin his first career with Teller.
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