The Browns aren’t done dealing with COVID-19.
A player was sent home Tuesday after testing positive and “a couple” of others were identified as close contacts, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.
Lindsay Jones of The Athletic reported “several” players were sent home after the positive result came back before on-field work began.
The Browns went ahead with the limited workout that had been scheduled to take the place of organized team activities.
Players are required under league protocols to get tested for the virus once a week in order to participate in the offseason program. Players who aren’t fully vaccinated must quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID.
Jones reported the close contacts include players who were between their two vaccination shots.
The league updated its policy earlier this month that people fully vaccinated are allowed to go without a mask, and coach Kevin Stefanski was quick to take his off when alerted of the change during rookie minicamp practice.
The Browns went through a series of COVID-related issues at the end of last season, including missing their top four wideouts for a loss to the New York Jets. Stefanski wasn’t allowed to attend the wild card playoff win in Pittsburgh after testing positive.
Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have encouraged everyone inside and outside the organization to get vaccinated, but the team and league can’t force players to do so.
Due to a lack of attendance, the Browns aren’t holding OTAs this week as originally scheduled. The next phase of the voluntary offseason program started Tuesday, and while teams are allowed to hold full-speed, no-contact practices, the Browns will be limited this week to separate on-field work, a team spokesman said. Meetings will continue virtually as they’ve been for the last month.
Rookies remain in town following rookie minicamp earlier this month, and could be joined on the field by anyone who chooses to participate, including players rehabbing injuries.
The Browns players issued a statement in April that they’d exercise their collectively bargained right not to participate in in-person voluntary workouts at team headquarters. They could change their stance if they can agree with coaches on a reduction in the number and intensity of practices over the next few weeks.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
NFL executive vice president of club business and league events Peter O’Reilly told teams the league expects fans to return to training camp this year. They were closed last year due to the pandemic.
The Browns are also one of 30 teams to have received approval for 100 percent capacity at games during the season.