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Stefanski expects Browns to lock in, step up after losing 8 to reserve/COVID-19 list

The Browns have shifted to following the NFL’s enhanced mitigation protocols after 8 players were placed on reserve/COVID-19 lists

Kevin Stefanski is directing his players to keep their focus on the Browns' upcoming game against the Raiders after the team placed eight players Tuesday on reserve/COVID-19 lists.

WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, G Wyatt Teller, T Jedrick Wills Jr., DE Takkarist McKinley and G Drew Forbes were all placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while WR JoJo Natson and TE Ross Travis were placed on the practice squad/COVID-19 list.

The news comes four days before the Browns host the Raiders on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium. No players on the reserve/COVID-19 lists have been ruled out, but Stefanski said the Browns, who are holding a walkthrough practice Tuesday, will navigate accordingly and do everything possible to be prepared for the crucial Week 15 game.

"We'll follow the protocols," Stefanski said. "We will get our work in. That's what we do. We have done it before. We will have our virtual meetings, and then when we are on the practice field, we will make sure that we are locked in and ready to go."

Stefanski, however, said the Browns will also focus on ensuring further COVID-19 cases are kept to a minimum by following the league's enhanced mitigation protocols. Those include all tiered staff members wearing masks indoors, conducting meetings virtually and limiting cafeteria access to grab-and-go orders to avoid people congregating in the same space. Players and coaches also will undergo daily testing as long as the Browns are under enhanced mitigation protocols.

The Browns have been in the setting before. They spent portions of 2020 under similar protocols when other COVID-19 positive tests arose, and players and coaches navigated through the obstacles whenever necessary. Stefanski trusts his players to do the same again.

"I think with the news and with what is going on today, you just have to be smart," he said. "That is what we've been trying to do really throughout this season because the protocols have been in place all the way back through training camp. It's something we've been working on even through this season.

"We know last year was last year, but it's not like it has gone away. We make sure the guys are following the protocols that are put in place."

Stefanski said the Browns are prepared to replace any players who will remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list for Sunday. He wasn't ready to name who would be called to step up at any of the possible starting positions, but he knows all non-starters and practice squad players have benefitted from the ample reps they've taken in practice throughout the season.

He trusts them, too, and knows anyone will be ready if called upon.

"We have seen through last season and I have seen it this year, guys step up," he said. "That is what the NFL is about. You are without guys due to injury or otherwise, and guys step up. That is why we have a bunch of players on this team that we trust."

The Browns will keep moving forward as instructed. That's all they can do, and Stefanski knows his players understand what's needed from them — both in game preparations and ensuring the team reduces any further positive cases.

"I feel like we have pros, and I think those guys understand what is really important is this game on Saturday," he said. "It's a good opponent, it's an AFC game and we have to come ready to go. That's why this week of preparation and how we handle these meetings and how we do when we are together out on the field, that is really all that matters."

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