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Notes: Joel Bitonio says getting Jack Conklin back for Sunday “would be huge” for matchup against Eagles pass rusher Brandon Graham

BEREA — Right tackle Jack Conklin has a chance to return Saturday from the COVID-19 reserve list and play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Browns could certainly use him against left defensive end Brandon Graham, who leads the Eagles with seven sacks.

“It would be huge. He is a great player,” left guard Joel Bitonio said Thursday of Conklin. “You have seen that this year. He has come in and done a good job for us.

“That is the strength of their defense is their front four. Brandon Graham is one of the best edge guys in the league, and to have Jack match up with him, we like him battling him.”

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Conklin was placed on the reserve list Wednesday along with kicker Cody Parkey after they were identified as high-risk close contacts of a medical practitioner not employed by the Browns who tested positive. Conklin and Parkey, who has made 34 of 36 kicks this year, can be activated Saturday if they continue to test negative.

Conklin will miss the normal three days of practice but could get extra work Saturday in the walk-through. With Chris Hubbard on the COVID list after testing positive last Friday, Kendall Lamm was the starting right tackle in practice.

“Jack is still in meetings, getting all of the practice film and those things,” Bitonio said. “He knows what he is doing. He has been playing in the league for five years now.”

Coordinator Alex Van Pelt wasn’t worried about Conklin going the week without practice.

“A true vet like he is, I am sure he has done a ton of film studies and he is doing a great job of keeping up with his conditioning,” Van Pelt said. “He will be ready to roll, so I do not have any concerns there.” 

The Browns signed Conklin to a three-year, $42 million deal as a free agent in March and he’s helped stabilize the line that has become one of the best in the league.

“He is another guy that is a true pro when you talk about doing it right every day, coming to work and putting the work in, and then you see the results,” Van Pelt said. “He is obviously a very talented player and does a great job on the right side, but all of those guys, they work really hard. It is good to see him having that success.”

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STATUS QUO

The Browns will continue to host 12,000 fans for games at FirstEnergy Stadium despite Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland and their boards of health issuing a stay-at-home advisory Wednesday that runs through Dec. 17.

The Browns host the Eagles on Sunday.

A team spokesman told The Chronicle-Telegram the stadium plan hasn’t changed but the team will continue to monitor the situation and remain flexible. The Browns believe they can safely host fans while enforcing strict protocols.

The stay-at-home advisory encourages residents to stay home to the greatest extent possible given the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Residents are advised to only leave their home to go to work or school, or for essential needs.

“I am extremely appreciative of our 12,000 strong,” first-year coach Kevin Stefanski said. “It is a different year. I can’t wait to see that stadium filled at some point, but for now, we will just follow the protocols. I really do appreciate how loud they have been. I feel their enthusiasm.”

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SNAP TO IT

Long snapper Charley Hughlett was cleared to return to the Browns’ facility and practiced.

He was held out of practice Wednesday as a precaution after being a possible high-risk close contact to the medical practitioner. He wasn’t placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, despite the Browns saying he would be.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer hopes to have Parkey back by Sunday but has a plan if something goes wrong — Matt McCrane, whose only NFL experience came in 2018 when he kicked for three teams, going 8-for-12 on field goals and 9-for-9 on extra points.

When the Browns cut Austin Seibert after the opener, they signed Parkey from the practice squad and signed McCrane to the practice squad for a situation like this. Priefer wanted to have an option if the starting kicker wasn’t able to play because of the pandemic.

** The Eagles placed receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, running back Corey Clement and defensive end Vinny Curry on the COVID reserve list. Arcega-Whiteside reportedly tested positive, and the others were close contacts of someone else who tested positive.

GET WELL SOON

Defensive end Myles Garrett, who leads the league with 9.5 sacks, was scheduled to return to practice Friday after staying home sick Wednesday and Thursday. He continued to test negative for COVID-19 and must receive another negative result Friday morning in order to return.

“Obviously we have to follow the protocols, and the hope is that everything will work out,” coordinator Joe Woods said. “I guess that is one of the positives about having virtual meetings because you have the ability to still have virtual meetings with any of the players in situations like that.”

Garrett has made a game-changing play in all six victories, including a fourth-and-goal stop of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday.

“Myles, he is going to be an all-time great,” linebacker Sione Takitaki said. “When Sunday comes he is out there flying around getting sacks and strip-sacks, he is having a phenomenal year. I feel like a Defensive MVP-type season.”

INJURY REPORT

Linebacker Mack Wilson didn’t practice with a hip injury. He was a full participant Wednesday. He missed the first two games with a knee injury and recently declared himself 100 percent.

** Center JC Tretter practiced after being excused Wednesday.

** Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had surgery last week to repair a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, sounds like he’s started the rehab process.

“Day 1…. so it begins,” he tweeted Tuesday.

He followed with a string of tweets Thursday.

“Just makin daily deposits! Im so motivated. Thank u for this.”

“God, you’ve been so good to me. Im grateful”

“‘Trust the process…’ man I hatedddd hearin this ! But im wit it”

** Rookie safety Grant Delpit, who was lost for the season in August with a torn Achilles tendon, posted a video on Instagram of him walking in a pool.

GROWING PAINS

The muffed kickoff followed by the slip at the 3-yard line with the Browns clinging to a 10-7 lead Sunday was the latest play by rookie receiver/returner Donovan Peoples-Jones that had fans hollering.

“Donovan is a very smart player, but the thing with a rookie returner — I am with the fans sometimes and I freak out a little bit, too,” Priefer said. “Obviously the game last week was a tough play. I think as a young player, no matter what position you play, you need experience.

“We just have to keep coaching him. That is who we have right now, and we just have to keep working.”

Peoples-Jones has averaged 5.8 yards on six punt returns and 21.1 yards on 16 kickoff returns. He has five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

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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