CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns got a welcomed reprieve on Friday after days of positive COVID-19 tests.
The NFL moved Cleveland’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders to Monday as the Browns grappled with a virus outbreak that sidelined coach Kevin Stefanski, quarterback Baker Mayfield and more than a dozen regulars.
The Browns and Raiders will kick off at 5 p.m. Monday, giving Cleveland time to potentially get back some players. The game had been scheduled for Saturday.
The league’s decision to move Cleveland’s game — along with two others — came as the Raiders were preparing for their flight to Cleveland.
The league had been adamant that the Browns-Raiders game would be played as scheduled, despite the rising number of positive cases in Cleveland and with other teams.
There’s no guarantee that any of the Browns who tested positive this week will be eligible by Monday, but they will have a few more days to produce a negative test after the league modified its return-to-play procedures on Thursday with the omicron variant spreading across the sports landscape.
The move will lead to another short week for the Browns, who will visit Green Bay on Christmas.
Before the postponement came, the Browns (7-6), who are trying to make the postseason for the second straight year, were facing the prospect of taking the field for an important game with backups and free agents signed in the past few days.
This week began with the Browns placing eight players, including top receiver Jarvis Landry and two starting offensive linemen, on the COVID-19 reserve list. Stefanski tested positive for the second straight season on Wednesday, as did Mayfield, two days after he and his wife, Emily, took part in a charity event at a Boys & Girls club.
When backup quarterback Case Keenum tested positive on Thursday, Mayfield went on Twitter to criticize the league for its handling of the situation.
Mayfield wrote: “@NFL Make up your damn mind on protocols. Showing up and making only 3 teams test?!? All so you can keep the game as scheduled to make money.”
Before the postponement, Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney joined the team’s massive COVID-19 list after a positive test, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Clowney tested positive along with linebackers Mack Wilson Sr. and Tony Fields, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team continues to test while abiding by the league’s new protocols.