Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was sent home Thursday from Browns headquarters before practice because he felt ill.
The NFL and the Browns are taking further precautions as they play through the surging coronavirus pandemic.
Coach Kevin Stefanski said Beckham hadn’t tested positive for COVID-19, including the test he took Wednesday. NFL players are tested every day, with the results usually coming back early the next morning.
The symptoms for the flu, cold and COVID-19 overlap, so the NFL has instructed teams to keep coaches, players and staff out of team facilities when they begin to have coughs, sore throats and other common symptoms. The fear is the coronavirus could spread within a building before a COVID-19 test result comes back positive.
“With this day and age, just got to be so careful in this environment,” Stefanski said. “I don’t want to assume anything. But with all of our guys we’ll make sure we follow the protocols and just be safe.
“He is just feeling under the weather. You guys have heard it said — abundance of caution.”
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills explained the policy to reporters Thursday on a conference call.
“Even if they have a negative (COVID-19) test that day, we’re going to hold that individual out of the facility,” he said. “When in doubt, we’re gonna go with the most conservative (approach).”
The strict measure includes if someone begins to show symptoms on a gameday. The league will be involved in the decisions made by teams, but the protocol calls for two negative PCR tests separated by 24 hours to allow the return of a symptomatic person.
For Beckham, who practiced Wednesday, that would likely mean he wouldn’t be allowed around the team until a second negative test result came back Saturday. The Browns (4-1) play in Pittsburgh (4-0) on Sunday.
“I know Odell will do a great job of preparation,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “The big part is just making sure you are up with all the changes in the game plan and all the little tweaks and nuances of the game plan each week.
“I know he will do a great job of preparing. He will still be in meeting situations, just not in person as he heals up. I expect him if he is available to be ready to go and play well, as he always does.”
Beckham is off to a terrific start in his second season with the Browns. He has 21 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns. He’s added 72 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Stefanski didn’t want to talk about Beckham possibly missing the big game.
“I don’t know if I want to go there yet,” he said. “But I would tell you, obviously, and you have heard me say this before, he is a big part of what we do. He works very hard throughout the week.”
Fellow starting receiver Jarvis Landry (ribs/hip) didn’t practice for the second straight day after taking a big hit in the first quarter Sunday in the 32-23 win over the Colts. He missed a few plays but returned and finished the game. Landry hasn’t missed a game in his seven-year NFL career.
“Jarvis is one of the toughest guys on the team,” Van Pelt said. “There is no question about that. The things he did after the (hit), the toughness in the run game, him going down and digging out guys and blocking down the field, that is the Jarvis that we all love.”
If Beckham and/or Landry can’t play against the Steelers, the Browns would likely have to significantly alter the game plan. Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Taywan Taylor are next in line at receiver.
“We have to be ready for anything. This is 2020,” Van Pelt said. “This is the (sixth week) now and it seems like it has been going on forever in 2020, but that is the way it goes.
“We will be able to adjust and adapt. That is part of the deal. Whatever Sunday brings, we will have guys ready to go and we will play tough and hard.”
The Titans didn’t play for 16 days because of a coronavius outbreak and a Patriots game was postponed after positive tests, but the Browns haven’t had a confirmed positive test since early on when the players reported for training camp in July. They had a scare in August, but there was a problem in the lab that caused more than a dozen false positives.
“We’ve been on high alert. That’s 2020,” Stefanski said. “We just make sure that we are following every protocol there is and keep everybody safe.”