The Cleveland Browns were able to shock the NFL on Super Wild-Card Weekend by going up 28-0 in the first quarter against the Steelers and eventually come away with their first playoff victory since 1994. What makes that playoff victory even more impressive is that they accomplished it without a number of key figures, including head coach Kevin Stefanski. He was sidelined for that playoff matchup due to a positive COVID-19 test, but, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports, Stefanski is back at the team facility on Thursday, 10 days after that positive test.
Not only is Stefanski back in the building, but so are corners Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson along with offensive line coach Bill Callahan. That trio missed the previous two games after testing positive for the coronavirus and experiencing symptoms.
"I was pretty sick," Ward, who has been on the COVID-19 list since New Year's Eve, told reporters on Wednesday, via the Akron Beacon Journal. "Just flu-like symptoms, all of the body aches and chills and stuff like that. I was pretty laid out in my house.
"It was a little rough. I lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste, so that was really different. All of the food just tasted the same. I was really just picking food for the texture of it because I couldn't really taste it. It wasn't great. I'm glad I got over it and hoping everybody still continues to stay safe and wears a mask and tries to beat it."
Ward's return is massive for the Browns secondary, as the former No. 4 overall pick will be critical in Cleveland's playoff run continuing. Even missing time due to COVID-19 and a calf strain, Ward was able to finish the 2020 season tied for second in the NFL with 18 passes defended. He'll slot back in as the Browns' No. 1 corner while Johnson will serve as the nickelback.
The news surrounding Cleveland getting a number of key contributors back was expected as the Browns reportedly got the all clear from the league on their latest round of testing earlier this week. That now clears the path for Stefanski and his club to solely focus on preparing for the Kansas City Chiefs, who'll they'll face in the divisional round at Arrowhead Stadium.
If the Browns can shock the NFL once again by upsetting the defending champion Chiefs, it would mark the franchise's first trip to the conference championship since 1989.