Several Browns players were in the team’s recovery pool area recently with linebacker B.J. Goodson, who learned Saturday he tested positive for COVID-19, and the NFL had video showing at least one of those players wasn’t wearing a mask correctly during another interaction, per sources.
Those encounters led the NFL to label all those players — including four of the five receivers on Cleveland’s active roster — as high-risk close contacts, forcing the Browns to place them on the reserve/COVID-19 list and sidelining them for Sunday’s game against the Jets.
Sharing the recovery pool — which includes a hot and cold tub — isn’t itself a violation of COVID protocols. But the NFL’s medical experts look at cumulative time, distance, mask use and ventilation in the area where exposure occurred to any positive individual, and if the threshold is exceeded in two or more of those four categories, it’s labeled a high-risk close contact.
Wide receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, along with Goodson and linebacker Jacob Phillips. The only receiver left on the active roster is Marvin Hall, who hasn’t played a snap for the Browns since they claimed him off waivers a few weeks ago. They elevated receivers Ja’Marcus Bradley and Derrick Willies, as well as linebacker Montrel Meander, from the practice squad.
The Browns learned of Goodson’s positive test Saturday morning and began working with the NFL on contact tracing, which includes interviews, data from the tracking devices all players and other personnel wear and review of video. That process delayed the team’s flight to New Jersey for several hours before they finally left around 7 p.m. ET.
The NFL has said repeatedly it won’t postpone or cancel games for competitive reasons, including a team being depleted or wiped out at one position. Now, much like the Broncos’ quarterback situation last month, the Browns will play a game without their top four receivers.