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The pandemic that ate the Cleveland Browns: COVID wallops roster for Raiders contest

Every game is a must-win from here on

Just as the season was beginning to make an upswing, bad news has struck.

First, Kareem Hunt’s ankle injury report was not good. Then CB Troy Hill was designated as “out” for this weekend’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders with a knee issue. According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the pair will not play this week. For Hunt, his injury may last longer.

Today, the beast was unleashed. The Browns front office announced that eight players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 lists. Not just any players either - a lot of starters.

Those players are:

  • G Drew Forbes
  • TE Austin Hooper
  • WR Jarvis Landry
  • DE Takkarist McKinley
  • G Wyatt Teller
  • T Jedrick Wills

Wide receiver JoJo Natson and tight end Ross Travis were also placed on the practice squad/COVID-19 list.

Yeh, you read that right. Two starting offensive linemen plus the Browns’ starting tight end and the Pro Bowler Landry. Yikes!

The timing could not be worse. The offense this season has struggled mightily averaging just over 16 points a game for the past eight games. Hunt was supposed to be the spark plug needed but injured his left ankle in the Baltimore Ravens win after he caught a 5-yard pass from QB Baker Mayfield at the end of the first quarter. He did not return but did stand on the sidelines.

Earlier this season Hunt had suffered a strained right calf and was thought to be finally healthy in order to help a struggling offense.

With losses by division foes Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals this past weekend, this escalated Cleveland from last in the division into second place and just one game out of first place.

In addition, the Buffalo Bills lost which allowed the Browns to go from the 11th seed to eighth, just one slot out of the playoff race.

With just four games left, it is estimated that if Cleveland can win three out of their final four games, a playoff berth would be theirs.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski currently did not have details of which players would replace the ones that would no longer be available. At least this occurred early enough in the week to prepare for what needs to take place and give those new starters some much-needed first team reps in practices.

Daily COVID tests are being taken and Stefanski mentioned that he is unsure how long that protocol will be in place.

This is similar to last season when the Browns had numerous players out against the lowly New York Jets and were positioning themselves for a late playoff run. The end result was a 23-16 loss that nearly cost them a playoff spot.

With Landry’s spot, the offense hasn’t been using Rashard Higgins nor Anthony Schwartz, and Ja’Marcus Bradley could be called up from the practice squad once again.

NFL: DEC 12 Ravens at Browns
James Hudson
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The loss of Teller and Wills is another animal altogether. Rookie James Hudson saw starter action against Baltimore and had a good game. Blake Hance has seen a roller coaster season and OG Michael Dunn has been used in spot action.

One thing is certain: Offensive line coach Bill Callahan will have the next man up ready.