The Cleveland Browns will not have star running back Nick Chubb and backup Demetric Felton on their side when they take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. The team ruled out both players on Friday afternoon after they tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
As recently as Friday morning, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt was still holding out hope that Chubb may be able to suit up for the game.
"Right now, all I know is there is still a chance," Van Pelt said, per the Akron Beacon-Journal. "I do not know how large that chance is or when that chance is. But we will take as long as we need to and as long as we possibly can."
Chubb, who is vaccinated, would have needed to return back-to-back negative tests at least 24 hours apart to be eligible to play. According to the COVID-19 list tracker at Sharp Football Analysis, just three players who were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to a confirmed positive test were able to return to the team in fewer than seven days.
Caleb Johnson of the Bears and Jackson Carman of the Bengals were each removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list within four days, and Elijah Wilkinson of the Bears returned within five. Every other player who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to a confirmed positive test spent at least seven days on said list before returning. (Saquon Barkley and Xavier McKinney of the Giants returned in two days after their tests were revealed as false positives.)
Chubb and Felton each tested positive on Tuesday, so they would have needed to be among the quickest returns in the league this season in order to play in the game.
Due to positive tests, third-string running back D'Ernest Johnson is expected to be the team's lead ball-carrier this weekend. He was the only member of the running back room, who is already on the active roster, to not test positive this week.
"It is an unfortunate situation that all of this occurred, but I just try to stay safe, keep my mask and just try to do all of the little things right," Johnson said. "It was early morning [Tuesday] they called us and let us know we were close contacts to someone. We all came in and had to take a test. Unfortunately, Nick and Demetric Felton tested positive. I don't know how I didn't. I'm just blessed and thankful that I'm negative."