CLEVELAND — After more than 20 Cleveland players were entered into COVID-19 protocol this week, the NFL has postponed the Browns game versus the Raiders on Saturday, the league confirmed Monday.
The Browns are now slated to play the Raiders Monday at 5 p.m.
The league also moved two other contests — Washington Football Team versus Eagles and Seahawks versus Rams — to Tuesday.
There are still a number of players and coaches who remain in protocol, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski is directing the team virtually.
Our team has consistently adhered to the league's COVID-19 protocols during the past two seasons, and we will continue to operate in a manner that meets and oftentimes exceeds the guidelines dictated by the league and its medical experts.
"We fully recognize the fluidity of the situation, including Browns personnel who may be available this week, and remain in constant communication with the NFL," said Browns Senior Vice President Peter John-Baptiste. "The team conducted virtual meetings and a virtual walkthrough this morning and plans to hold a practice tomorrow at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus as we continue to prepare for the Raiders game. Although we are unable to disclose specifics, we are fortunate that every member of our organization who has recently tested positive was vaccinated, the majority of which are currently asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms."
The Browns would have been faced with starting third-string quarterback Nick Mullens, who was elevated from the practice squad earlier in the week. The team would have also likely missed a number of other key starters.
In the wake of the Browns’ COVID-19 outbreak, the NFL announced changes to the league’s pandemic-related protocols.
Before Thursday, vaccinated players could return to action after two negative COVID-19 tests taken 24 hours apart. The NFL now simply is requiring two negative COVID-19 tests, removing the 24-hour requirement. Players also must be symptom-free for 48 hours.
The Browns were hopeful heading into Friday that a number of players would be able to return in time for a potential Saturday game.
As the NFL announced its changing protocol Thursday, Mayfield was critical of the league’s testing protocol, claiming that teams are being unfairly tested for the virus. On Wednesday, the NFL told Spectrum News 1 that there was no discussion of postponing Saturday’s game.
“Showing up and making only 3 teams test?!? All so you can keep the game as scheduled to make money,” Mayfield tweeted.
“Actually caring about player safety would mean delaying the game with this continuing at the rate it is,” he tweeted. “But to say you won’t test vaccinated players if they don’t have symptoms, then to pull this randomly. Doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The contest against the Raiders remains hugely important for the Browns who hope to return to the playoffs. The squad is one game out of first place in the AFC North Division with four games to play.
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the Cleveland area as the Cleveland Clinic reported on Friday that of the 3,000 tests it conducts daily, one third are coming back positive for the virus. Of those, the hospital system estimates that nearly half are from the highly contagious omicron variant.
On the same day, Gov. Mike DeWine announced the activation of more than 1,050 National Guard members to assist hospitals throughout the state that are inundated with COVID-19 patients.