The Browns' facility remained closed Wednesday, which typically serves as the first day of practice during a game week.
There's a big game on the horizon, of course, but the Browns are making do with their current circumstances in the wake of Tuesday's five positive COVID-19 tests, one of which belonging to head coach Kevin Stefanski. Instead of a traditional practice, Cleveland's players and coaches went through a virtual walk-through after a morning full of virtual meetings.
It's unclear when the Browns, who reported no new positive COVID-19 tests Wednesday, will be able to return to their facility, but their preparations are moving forward, no matter the circumstances.
"Really with everything going on COVID-related we are working through the protocols and are just going to make sure that we stay in communication with the league and continue to keep everybody safe and also find a way to go get a win this weekend," Stefanski said. "Our coaches and players are working really hard virtually today."
This is nothing new for the Browns, who haven't met as a full team in months and have had their practice schedule regularly disrupted throughout the season because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Twice this season, including last week, the Browns have missed a day of practice or drastically altered it in the buildup to the game. Cleveland won both times.
"We figured out a way to cover ground. We figured out a way to install, keep people's attention and have them learn the playbook and learn the game plan," Stefanski said. "They have done a nice job with that. We will go at 1 p.m. here and have what we are calling a 'virtual walkthrough' where we will show cards to the players, have a dialogue and have it be interactive on their jobs and those types of things. It does not replace the physical work, but I think it is the next best thing."
Stefanski said he expects the players to handle this week's disruption the same way they have in the past, even if this game carries a little bit more importance.
"They understand that we have a job to do, and they are excited to do that," Stefanski said.
"They know that this thing is not stopping for me or anybody so they are full speed ahead."
Stefanski said WR Donovan Peoples-Jones is progressing through the league's concussion protocol, and the Browns will know more about his status as the week unfolds. Peoples-Jones, a sixth-round rookie who had come on strong in recent weeks as the team's third receiver, took a hard hit in Sunday's first half and did not return.
With or without Peoples-Jones, the Browns are poised to be thin at wide receiver Sunday in the wake of KhaDarel Hodge landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Stefanski said he considered RB Kareem Hunt to be an option as someone who could help at wide receiver, if necessary.
"We will see how Donovan continues to come through this protocol, and we have options there," Stefanski said. "Obviously, Kareem is an option."
Feeling for Joel
Stefanski said he's been texting with veteran OL Joel Bitonio, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday and won't be available for Sunday's game, and feels awful for the longtime Browns veteran.
Bitonio, a three-time Pro Bowler who hasn't missed a snap over the past four seasons, has been with the Browns since 2014 and is the longest-tenured player on the roster. Stefanski gave Bitonio a game ball and let him speak in the locker room following the Browns' playoff-clinching win.
"I am very disappointed for him," Stefanski said. "I gave him that game ball for a reason because he is a big part of what we do and he is a big part of our culture. It is disappointing."
Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday by the Browns photo team