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Cleveland HC Kevin Stefanski Out with COVID

The Browns had a number of positive COVID tests today, including head coach Kevin Stefanski and two other coaches, plus two players whose identities are not yet revealed. So Stefanski is out for Sunday's playoff game against Pittsburgh. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call plays while special teams coordinator Mike Priefer serves as acting head coach.

Yes, it is a little fishy to see the Browns have positive tests last week, then no positive tests Saturday or Sunday that would have delayed their Week 17 game, then suddenly have positive tests again.

UPDATE: The players are LG Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge.

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14 comments, Last at 10 Jan 2021, 4:38pm

1 Having dealt with COVID personally

The biggest things that I have seen to affect positive tests are: 1) when was the exposure?  2) how direct was the exposure? 3) how severe was the virus in the person to whom you were exposed?

In other words, obviously when you were exposed plays a big deal on when you test positive. Also, in a situation like the NFL has with practically daily testing of everybody, you will test postive even when you are asymptomatic. In normal situations, you may not know about it while being positive AND infectious. However, #2 & #3 will affect how long COVID is present in your system, without reproducing enough of the virus to produce a positive test result. (I believe it is called critical mass in chemistry.)

Depending on who eventually infected whom, this may just be an unusual pattern versus a "conspiracy" of some type. For one thing, potentially infecting another playoff team--one who eventually became their first round opponent--would be extremely devastating for the NFL, after all it has weathered to get this far. For CLE, it would be risking practically millions in fines, plus loss of draft pick(s), plus risking signing any free agents for at least a year or two (who would want to come there?), plus the PR nightmare--and probably would result in a forced forfeit of this playoff game. That scenario would be like playing Russian roulette with 5 live rounds in the chamber and only 1 fake.

In reality, the loss of coaches in the stadium/on the sideline and the loss of Bitonio makes it now even less likely that the Browns win this game. Still, Stefanski has to be on the short list for Coach of the Year (along with Flores, McDermott, and maybe Arians).

9 CoY

"Still, Stefanski has to be on the short list for Coach of the Year (along with Flores, McDermott, and maybe Arians)."

And Lafleur and Carroll.

But Flores should be pretty close to unanimous.

12 CoY

In reply to by LyleNM

My reasoning against Lafleur and Carroll is that this year, they took good playoff teams and kept them good playoff teams. If that were the criteria, Belichick, Reid, Payton, Tomlin, Carroll, and Harbaugh would have been on the short list pretty much every year since they took over their teams (+ Reid with the Eagles too).

But, the way it is normally chosen, I would say the order should be Flores, Stefanski, McDermott.

5 While a full-season bubble…

While a full-season bubble for the entire league (or even multiple smaller bubbles) was clearly unworkable, I'm pretty shocked the NFL isn't doing some sort of playoff bubble. It seems like they could manage for a month, and it will be a huge mess if some QB or other star player ends up missing a playoff game.

6 Each team that seriously…

Each team that seriously wants to win could introduce its own bubble. Transmission between competing teams doesn't seem to be a major vector, so having each team isolate would seem the easiest, most practical step to take. The holidays are over, so being away from family would seem much more tolerable. For most players it would also be a relatively short time.

Alternatively, I hope the conference champions will at least isolate. They have two full weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, which should allow any *minor* outbreaks to be dealt with. Players testing positive (shortly) after the conference championships could even make it back in time.

7 Not Shocking at all

I am not shocked at all.  It is a numbers game. An NFL team operation—players, coaches, assistants, trainers, med staff, etc.—would be around eight times the size of an NBA team. Multiply that by fourteen and you are talking somewhere around four times the size of the entire NBA.  And of course that includes no family members, front office staff, or ownership.

and where would they play? There are two triple headers this weekend. What team will risk playing on a field that was just played on—or what players would want to play on an artificial turf tough enough to not be affected by a football game (or more than one) being played on it?

8 They don't all actually have…

They don't all actually have to isolate in the same physical place, they just have to isolate.

Hockey held their playoffs at two site, and baseball, while having their wild card round at home stadiums had remainder of their playoffs in bubbles at four neutral sites.


14 They could've done a bubble

The numbers excuse isn't acceptable for a multi billion dollar business. Let's stop beating around the bush, people don't want to because they're horny. Period. Sad but true.