By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The Cleveland Browns got their coach back on the sideline. The New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles might be without theirs this weekend.
Browns second-year coach Kevin Stefanski cleared COVID-19 protocols Wednesday and returned to the team after missing Monday’s home loss to Las Vegas, a 16-14 setback that damaged Cleveland’s playoff hopes. Stefanski also sat out the Browns’ playoff win at Pittsburgh last season after testing positive.
Meanwhile, the Jets’ Robert Saleh and Eagles’ Nick Sirianni tested positive for COVID-19 after feeling symptoms in the morning.
For New York, it’s the latest in what has been a surge of coronavirus cases on the team. Tight ends coach Ron Middleton coached practice in Saleh’s absence after finding out about 45 minutes before that the head coach wouldn’t be able to run the session. Saleh, who plans to continue running team meetings virtually, could return as soon as Thursday if he no longer shows symptoms and tests negative.
If Saleh doesn’t test out of the COVID-19 protocols before Sunday, Middleton will also serve as the head coach in New York’s game against Jacksonville.
“I’m not reinventing the wheel here,” Middleton said during a video call. “I’m trying to steer the ship, keep the ship steered in the right direction.”
Sirianni also tested positive after feeling symptoms. He’s isolating at a hotel and pass game coordinator Kevin Patullo would handle coaching duties if Sirianni doesn’t clear protocols in time for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
The Jets have 14 players from the active and practice squad rosters, including injured reserve, on the COVID-19 list: wide receivers Elijah Moore, Jeff Smith and Vyncint Smith; guard Alijah Vera-Tucker; defensive linemen Folorunso Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers and Tanzel Smart; linebackers Blake Cashman, Noah Dawkins and Hamsah Nasirildeen; cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Lamar Jackson; safety Sharrod Neasman; and special teams ace Justin Hardee.
“It’s crazy,” left tackle George Fant said. “You see other teams get hit with it. I guess it’s our turn.”
The Browns were rocked by the virus last week, when an outbreak led to 22 players being forced to miss the rescheduled game against the Raiders, which Cleveland lost. Quarterback Baker Mayfield still hasn’t produced a required negative test and his status for this week’s game at Green Bay is unclear.
Browns tight end Austin Hooper and linebacker Jacob Phillips also returned, but starting rookie cornerback Greg Newsome was added to the COVID-19 list. He’s missed the past two games with a concussion.
On Monday, the first day under the NFL’s revised protocols, 47 players were placed on the COVID-19 list, the most in a single day since the pandemic began. Another 21 NFL players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday.
— Pittsburgh placed linebackers Devin Bush and Marcus Allen and offensive tackle Zach Banner on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi and Sports Writers Will Graves, John Wawrow and Tom Withers contributed.
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