Oh, the poor Browns. After ending their nearly two-decade long streak of missing the playoffs, the team is dealing with their third consecutive week of COVID concerns. Two weeks ago, the virus cost the team nearly their entire wide receiver corps in a game they eventually lost to the lowly Jets and now it will keep HC Kevin Stefanski out of his first playoff game as a head coach. The Browns learned early Tuesday that Stefanski and others had tested positive, causing them to close team facilities once again.
This means Stefanski will be unable to coach this weekend and he will be replaced by Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer, who will serve as acting head coach. OC Alex Van Pelt will call the plays, a job that Stefanski has held all season. The Browns also placed WR KhaDarel Hodge and LG Joel Bitonio on the COVID/reserve list after positive tests, making them unavailable for the game against the Steelers. Finally, the team placed DE Olivier Vernon and OL Nick Harris on the injured reserve. Harris is a backup but would’ve been the next man up to replace Bitonio in the starting lineup.
Likely only out of extra precaution, a trio of key Washington Football Team players were held out of Tuesday’s practice. QB Alex Smith (calf), RB Antonio Gibson (toe) and WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) each sat out yesterday ahead of Saturday’s game against the Buccaneers. While all are expected to play, HC Ron Rivera did suggest Smith and backup QB Taylor Heinicke could rotate work, depending on Smith’s status.
Bills WR Cole Beasley (knee) missed practice on Tuesday while WR Stefon Diggs was limited. Diggs is fully expected to play this weekend against the Colts, but Beasley’s status is not looking good for the opening round of the playoffs. … Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was unable to practice yesterday. Evans’ status is completely up in the air and as the Bucs are set to face Washington, they could be willing to risk it and rest Evans in hopes of cruising past the NFC East representative. … The Rams have yet to make a decision about their starting quarterback. QB Jared Goff has begun throwing but his thumb injury could ultimately keep him out., pushing QB John Wolford into the starting lineup. … The Rams are expected to have WR Cooper Kupp (COVID) back at practice today. He is expected to play this weekend.
Coaching/General Manager Carousel
The Houston Texans have made the first splash in what is sure to be a wild offseason when it comes to team leadership. With multiple head coaching and general manager openings, teams have been working at a frenzied pace to find just the right person for the job. Houston has found their man in former Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio, now the new Texans general manager. The Texans actually tried to hire away Caserio a year ago, but the move was blocked by the Patriots. With QB Deshaun Watson and not much more, Caserio has a tough job ahead of him.
The Falcons interviewed 49ers DC Robert Saleh for their head coach position and Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown for their general manager job. … The Chargers have many candidates in mind for their next head coach. Among the options they have requested interviews with are Bills OC Brian Daboll, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Panthers OC Joe Brady and Giants OC Jason Garrett. … The Jaguars are hoping to interview Bieniemy, Saleh and Raheem Morris for their head coaching position and will speak to former Browns GM Ray Farmer for their front office opening. … Giants DC Patrick Graham had been a possibility for the Jets, but he agreed to a new deal that will keep him on Joe Judge’s staff.
Soon to be free agent WR Will Fuller will miss the first game of the 2021 season, finishing out his six-game PED suspension. … Veteran RB Frank Gore is reportedly uncertain about returning to the field in 2021 but did suggest he could play next season. … Despite all of the drama and disappointment of the past season, QB Carson Wentz insisted he hopes to stay with the Eagles moving forward. … Dolphins GM Chris Grier committed to QB Tua Tagovailoa as the team’s starting quarterback moving forward. With the third-overall pick, some had begun to question if the Dolphins might consider pulling a Rosen and attempting to upgrade from their rookie signal caller. … Drew Lock did not get the same treatment in Denver as HC Vic Fangio was unwilling to commit to Lock as the team’s 2021 starter. With John Elway no longer calling the shots, the path is clear for the Broncos to find a new starter.