The Browns had kept COVID-19 out of the organization since August, but the disease made its way in over the weekend and touched the game’s most important position.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Sunday morning and will isolate until at least Wednesday. He was a close contact with an unidentified staff member — not a coach — who tested positive Saturday, according to a league source.
Mayfield hadn’t tested positive and could be allowed to return to practice Wednesday if he continues to test negative, the source said.
The Browns (5-3) didn’t play Sunday, and the players were off Thursday through Sunday on their bye week. They are scheduled to host the Houston Texans next Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Texans beat the Jaguars 27-25 on Sunday.
“The Cleveland Browns were informed Saturday morning that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a statement. “Contact tracing was conducted and close contacts were immediately self-isolated. When the team returns to work following the bye on Monday, it will follow the NFL-NFLPA intensive protocol. We will continue to work closely with the league and medical experts on the appropriate next steps with the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff members remaining our highest priority.”
The Browns hadn’t had a positive test since a few when players reported to training camp in the summer. The organization has taken the pandemic serious from the start and has observed strict protocols, including taking extra steps recently to try to prevent close contacts.
Positive cases are up across the NFL as the pandemic rages across the country with record numbers of cases, including in Ohio.
Under the league’s new intensive protocols, the Browns are allowed to practice, but all meetings must be conducted virtually. During practice players must wear masks or face shields and gloves, except for the quarterback’s throwing hand.
The Browns are scheduled to practice Monday afternoon. Mayfield won’t be there, so veteran Case Keenum will take the repetitions with the starters.
Mayfield has completed 61.4 percent for 1,514 yards, 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 90.9 passer rating this season.
Other changes among the intensive protocols are: players and staff must pass daily point-of-care virus tests in addition to the normal PCR daily tests; the team facility must be deep cleaned daily; the number of players and staff allowed in the weight room is reduced; players and medical staff must wear masks and face shields for medical treatment; and player or team gatherings away from the facility are prohibited.