The Cleveland Browns are dealing with some potentially serious COVID-19 issues, as they have been forced to close their facility multiple times just days before they attempt to secure a playoff spot in the regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just one day after the club closed and then re-opened their facility due to positive COVID-19 tests on Wednesday, the Browns were again forced to shut down on Thursday due to more positive tests. One of those positive tests was registered by an important defensive player, and it knocks him out for this Sunday's divisional matchup -- and possibly longer.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Browns cornerback Denzel Ward tested positive for COVID-19 and must miss at least 10 days. That obviously rules him out for Sunday's matchup against the Steelers, but it could also potentially force him to miss a playoff game should Cleveland clinch a spot in the postseason. The former No. 4 overall pick has recorded 46 combined tackles, 18 passes defensed and two interceptions in 12 starts this season, and the Browns will certainly miss his abilities on the outside against Mason Rudolph this week. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was also placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list with Ward.
It wasn't all bad news on Thursday, as the Browns activated wide receivers Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones off of the reserve/COVID-19 list. They were all forced to miss the Browns' Week 16 matchup against the New York Jets, and Baker Mayfield certainly missed them, as he threw for just 285 yards and no touchdowns in the 23-16 loss.
The Browns' path to the playoffs is pretty simple, as all they need to do is win on Sunday and they're in. Cleveland is one of the five 10-5 teams in the AFC, and if the Browns lose this week, they would need either an Indianapolis Colts loss or Tennessee Titans loss along with wins by the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins in order to qualify for the postseason. It has been established that the Steelers are resting their starters on Sunday against the Browns, but if these positive tests continue to pop up, Cleveland could be in some trouble.