Browns’ Kevin Stefanski won’t coach vs. the Raiders today after not being cleared from COVID-19 –

Kevin Stefanski will be on the Browns sideline on Monday.Joshua Gunter,
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The basement it is for coach Kevin Stefanski today while the Browns face the Raiders with a chance to move into first place in the AFC North.
Stefanski wasn’t cleared from COVID-19 in time to coach against 6-7 Raiders today, the Browns said at 1:20 p.m. — about 3 1/2 hours before the postponed game. Kickoff was set for 5 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium.
It means special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as acting head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays, just like in the 48-37 Wild Card victory over the Steelers last season.
“The guys proved last year that they don’t need me,’’ the reigning NFL Coach of the Year said last week after testing positive for the virus again.
But Stefanski won’t feel so alone today as third-team quarterback Nick Nullens tries to hoist the Browns atop the division at 8-6.
Such big-name players as Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt and Jadeveon Clowney will all be watching from home. All told, 22 players — including 10 starters – remain on various Covid lists, and three coaches. If Stefanski decides to turn on his phone this time, unlike last year, he’ll have plenty of guys in the same boat with whom to communicate.
Now, the Browns just have to hope that the revamped roster gets the job done today and that Stefanski, Mayfield and the others will be back for Saturday’s Christmas Day game against the 11-3 Packers.
In the meantime, Van Pelt is eager to make Stefanski proud once again.
“[It’s] having the confidence to go in, and if I have to call it, call it as closely as I would if Kevin was there,’’ said Van Pelt. “Like I said last year, I don’t want him to say, ‘What the hell is he doing?’ That’s my goal. That blueprint has worked for us. We just need to stay consistent. I love our plan this week. I love the focus. Regardless of whether we are in the building or not, the guys are locked in.’'
Linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., one of five players activated off COVID-19 reserve since Thursday, is confident Mullens can get the job done. If the Browns win, they’ll be in the first place in the AFC North, the 8-6 Bengals will be second, the 8-6 Ravens will be third, and the 7-6-1 Steelers will remain in fourth. If the Browns lose, they’ll be in last at 7-7.
“Nick Mullens is a guy who I have the utmost confidence in because I see the way that he prepares when he is not playing and he is on practice squad,’' Walker said. “I see the way he comes in every day and prepares. I like to say I am one of the first guys that is in the building every day, and every day I get in and Nick Mullens is always there before me.
“A guy who comes in the building every day with the mindset of ‘I am preparing like a starter’ because you never know what could happen, he is the epitome of that. Today at practice, he made some great throws. I have nothing but respect for him and his process of being a true professional. Also, I have nothing but confidence that he is going to go out and do a great job on Monday, as well. I have confidence in him.”
Unfortunately for Mullens, he won’t have starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. (Covid) and Jack Conklin, who’s out for the season with a torn patella tendon. In addition, Conklin’s replacement, rookie James Hudson III was also placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Saturday. Blake Hance will start at one of the spots, and Alex Taylor, called up from the practice squad, the other.
Fortunately for the Browns, guard Wyatt Teller was activated off the covid list on Saturday.

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