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Browns reopen facility after no close contacts identified following positive COVID-19 test Monday

Browns headquarters reopened Tuesday and the roster remained almost entirely intact.

That was welcome news for the franchise after fullback Andy Janovich was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Monday following a positive test. The contact tracing conducted while the building was closed revealed no close contacts.

The Browns had the same result Friday when backup offensive lineman Chris Hubbard tested positive and no one else needed to be placed on the reserve list. The Browns continue to avoid the chaos and roster shortages that have hurt other teams after a positive test.

“We just try to follow all the protocols to a T,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday. “Not having any high-risk close contact is really a main goal of ours today and moving forward every day. It is something we take very seriously.” 

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The Browns remain in the league-mandated intensive protocols, which require virtual meetings, players to wear masks or face shields during practice and restrict the number of people allowed in the weight room, among other things.

They are scheduled to start the practice week Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Eagles (3-5-1) at First Energy Stadium. The Browns are 6-3 and in the mix for an AFC wild card spot that would end a 17-year playoff drought.

“It’s the world we live in right now and we’re ready to do whatever is necessary to keep everybody safe, first and foremost,” Stefanski said Monday. “Keep our coaches, players, staff safe and that’s really where our mentality is.

“While doing that we still have to prepare and get ready to play.”

Notes: Kevin Stefanski understands conditions were extreme Sunday but says coaches still tough on Baker Mayfield for misses

Janovich played 15 offensive snaps and 11 special teams snaps Sunday in a 10-7 win over the Texans at FirstEnergy Stadium. If a player has a positive result without symptoms, he needs to wait 10 days to return to football activities or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart.

Fullback Johnny Stanton could be called up from the practice squad to fill the role and make his NFL debut.

Players, coaches and staff are tested every morning for the virus, including on gameday, and the results come back the next morning. So Janovich’s Sunday morning test came back positive Monday and he began to isolate.

The Browns followed the league’s recommendation Sunday by expanding the bench area from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, and more players wore masks on the sideline. All the increased protocols aim to reduce the time spent in close proximity to others and limit the chances for close contacts.

“As a team, we are just trying to do as best as we can so if someone does get it to limit the amount of people that get it,” cornerback Denzel Ward said Monday. “Just trying to stay safe and continue to wear masks. If someone is down, then it’s next man up.” 

The Browns had avoided any positive tests since a few players when they returned for training camp in July, but the organization has been hit with three over the last two weeks.

A staff member tested positive Nov. 7 during the bye — the team’s first case since the season started — and quarterback Baker Mayfield was identified as a close contact, went on the reserve list, continued to test negative and missed a practice. Hubbard followed, then Janovich.

Janovich was acquired from the Broncos in an offseason trade and has played all nine games this season. He has two catches for 13 yards and two rushes for 4 yards and has been an important piece of the running game that ranks fourth in the league with 159 yards a game.

Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi said the Browns recognize the seriousness of the disease but have gotten used to the uncertainty, need for flexibility and strict protocols.

“It’s kind of what 2020 is,” he said. “It sucks but it’s just the nature of what we’re in right now. We’re not really fazed by it, we’ve just got to continue to go through the protocols.

“You can’t complain about it. You can’t cry about it. You have to just handle your business.”

FAMILIAR FACE

Receiver Derrick Willies (6-foot-4, 207 pounds) was signed to the practice squad Tuesday, returning to the team that gave him his NFL start.

He was originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He appeared in five games, catching three passes for 61 yards.

He was starting to come on as a rookie when he broke a collarbone in practice and went on injured reserve. He spent the beginning of last season on the practice squad before going on IR with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in practice.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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