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Mailbag: Will receivers on COVID list be cleared to play vs. Steelers? Who’ll call the defensive plays? How long can Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt be content together?

Q: So as long as no one tests positive in the receivers group, will they be cleared to play against Pittsburgh?

— @snadgerbadger

A: Yes.

For background, you’re referring to receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge — along with linebacker Jacob Phillips — being identified as high-risk close contacts to linebacker B.J. Goodson, who tested positive Saturday morning.

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The entire group was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, but there’s a huge difference between Goodson and the rest of the guys. Because Goodson tested positive, he must stay on the list for 10 days and will miss not only the Jets game today but the regular-season finale next Sunday. The NFL protocols were changed this month to mandate 10 missed days after a positive test even if the player was asymptomatic.

The close contacts are required to stay on the reserve list for five days since the last contact with the person who tested positive. The time the guys spent with Goodson in the recovery area at the team facility happened during the week, so the receivers and Phillips would be eligible to return to practice at some point before the finale — as long as they continue to test negative. The fear is they will test positive, which could not only affect their health but sideline them for the finale and possibly the first round of the playoffs.


Q:
Any idea what would happen if Browns have a bunch of positive tests in the morning?

— @LeonardMullin10

A: You asked this before the tests came back this morning and were negative, but I think the question remains relevant.

A slew of positive tests the morning of the game would’ve been the only chance for a postponement of the game. The NFL didn’t delay it with the Browns being without six key contributors because it believed a potential spread of the virus was contained by identifying the close contacts. Several new positive tests would’ve at least given the league pause about playing.

The issue, of course, is that the league is running out of days to play games and finish the regular season on time.


Q:
With Goodson out, any idea who’ll call the plays?

— @mike_Woellert

A: I have to think it will be one of the safeties, Karl Joseph or Andrew Sendejo. Coordinator Joe Woods likes to rotate guys across the defense, so whichever safety he intends to use more would be the guy to trust with calling the plays.

Woods could also go with a linebacker, but without Goodson and Phillips and with Malcolm Smith slowed by a hamstring injury, I’d expect the rotation to be larger and Woods wouldn’t want to continually change the signal caller.

Only one player at a time is allowed to wear a helmet with a speaker connected to Woods, but it’s not as important on defense as it is on offense. Woods can signal the plays from the sideline.

Q: Realistically how many seasons can the #Browns keep both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt content in the running game? Hoping a long time.

— @AaronFromDover

A: I think it’s less about keeping them content with their touches, as it is keeping them content with their contracts. They’re sincere in their team-first attitudes and willingness to share playing time, carries and credit.

Hunt signed a two-year, $13.25 million extension in the offseason that runs through 2022. Chubb’s four-year rookie contract ends 2021. The Browns can negotiate a long-term deal with Chubb in the offseason, and it will be interesting to see if they commit to him for the big money it would require. If they do sign Chubb to a long-term extension, then I’d expect the duo to stay together until Hunt’s contract expires and he can try to become a No. 1 back elsewhere. If the front office trusts the analytics that say don’t pay a running back huge money, then the tandem would end when Chubb leaves after 2021 or 2022, if the Browns keep him for an extra year on the franchise tag.

What to do with Chubb from a contract standpoint will be one of the most difficult decisions facing general manager Andrew Berry.


Q:
There was a lot of media attention a couple of weeks ago when Cody Parkey missed a field goal and an extra point against the Ravens. How much are you concerned with him going into the playoffs and how much do you think the Browns are worried given his history?

— Bob from Akron

A: There’s no doubt the Browns are more worried than they were a couple of weeks ago. Parkey followed up the two misses vs. the Ravens with a miss of a 48-yard extra point against the Giants, and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said there was no excuse. We all know how fragile a kicker’s psyche can be, and even more so how fragile a team’s trust in a struggling kicker can be. Parkey went 3-for-4 on field goals in his only playoff game, in 2018 with the Bears.

If Parkey misses more kicks the last two games, the Browns have Matthew McCrane on the practice squad.


Q:
Who wins the Scott P. OPOY, DPOY and Rookie of the Year??

— Randy Clar

A: I’m not sure if you mean for the Browns or in the NFL, so I’ll answer both.

For the Browns: Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett and Jedrick Wills. Note: Tough choice between Chubb and Baker Mayfield.

For the NFL: Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Donald and Justin Herbert. Note: Tough choice between Herbert and Justin Jefferson.


Q:
Loved your piece on Nick Harris & now that Harris received significant playing time, every healthy Browns 2020 draft pick has contributed to the team’s success. It is remarkable. I have watched for years now with envy as Mike Tomlin transforms so many draft picks into contributors in Pittsburgh. Are coach Kevin Stefanski & staff the difference in the success rate of this draft crop?

— John Palazzo

A: I asked Stefanski about that during the week and he spread the credit to the front office, coaching staff and players. The quote’s below, but I definitely think the staff deserves immense credit for preparing the rookies to step in at a moment’s notice.

“It is a team effort in that regard,” Stefanski said, starting with Berry. “Andrew and his staff do an outstanding job to identify the type of players who fit what we are about here and fit our scheme. The coaches work really hard to develop these young men. All that being said, there is a want-to from each of these guys that wants to get better and wants to continue improving, and that really is half the battle.” 

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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