Head coach Kevin Stefanski is not expecting the Browns to have two of the 17 players currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list three days before the Browns' Week 16 game in Green Bay.
RB Kareem Hunt (ankle) and CB Troy Hill (knee) are both unlikely to play regardless of their COVID-19 status due to their injuries. Both players would miss their second consecutive game.
"I don't expect either of them to make it this week due to injury," said Stefanski, who spent his first day back at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in a week Wednesday after he cleared COVID-19 protocols himself.
Each position group was able to perform well despite Hunt and Hill's absences Monday in a 16-14 loss to the Raiders. The loss, however, wasn't a result of a poor game from the run department, which stayed afloat with 91 yards and one touchdown from Nick Chubb. The pass protection — particularly in the slot, where Hill plays — was mostly tight as well. Top slot receiver Hunter Renfrow was limited to three catches for 32 yards.
First-round rookie CB Greg Newsome II, who has played in the slot this season when Hill hasn't been available, was also placed Wednesday on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He hasn't played the last two games due to a concussion and is still in concussion protocol.
"It's unfortunate that he's dealing with this," Stefanski said, "especially coming off a freak thing with a concussion."
MJ Stewart Jr. would likely be up to handle slot duties again Saturday after doing a serviceable job at the position in Week 15. RB D'Ernest Johnson would also work behind Chubb and could presume the pass-catching role left in Hunt's absence after recording four catches for 17 yards against the Raiders.
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Raiders yesterday by the Browns photo team
Browns monitoring Garrett's status
Stefanski said the Browns will be cautious and properly monitor DE Myles Garrett, who suffered a groin injury in the fourth quarter against the Raiders.
Garrett, a 2022 Pro Bowler and tied for third in the NFL with 15 sacks, was listed on the injury report as a player who wouldn't have participated Tuesday if the Browns ran a practice. Players, however, had the day off and will run a walk-through Wednesday.
Stefanski said it was too soon to tell how much the injury would limit Garrett's practice availability this week.
"We are walking through today, so not doing much from a physical standpoint, but I will get my eyes on him today, and we will see how it goes," Stefanski said. "We're just going to have to work through it."
Christmas at Lambeau
The Browns' Christmas matchup in Lambeau has been one of the most anticipated games of the season since the schedule was released in the spring. Stefanski, who spent 14 seasons in the NFC North with the Vikings, is quite familiar with the venue and believes it'll be a fun stage for one of two NFL games happening on the holiday.
"It is a great, great venue in our league," he said. "I encourage everybody – all of the Browns fans, that is – to check it out. It's a special place. I think certainly as visitors going in there, you get some extra juice playing in that venue in front of those fans. It's quite a place to play, especially when we are the only game on TV and the only show in town."
More support for Takk
DT Malik Jackson voiced more support for DE Takkarist McKinley on Wednesday after it was announced Tuesday that his season ended due to a torn Achilles.
McKinley left the Raiders game on a cart and appeared to be emotional as he left the field. Emotions were felt, too, in the tight-knit defensive line room, which has been effusive in support and showing appreciation for what McKinley was able to do this season — he's fourth on the defense with 2.5 sacks and recorded one forced fumble and three tackles for a loss.
"Takk personally is a guy who works hard," Jackson said. "He doesn't say much, but when he speaks, you listen. He's very caring, and he always gives his all. For somebody to go out there, fight through so much and give his all and kind of go out like that, it sucks. It really hurt me when I saw him carted off the field, and then I saw him in the training room after the game and even seeing him yesterday in the training room.
"I understand what it is to miss something that you really care for and that you put your heart in. Praying for Takk."