CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns sent Odell Beckham Jr. home from the team facility Thursday with an illness, coach Kevin Stefanski announced at the start of his press conference before practice.
“With this day and age, you just have to be so careful in this environment so just want to make sure we are being proactive in that regard,” Stefanski said.
Beckham, who’s tested daily like all NFL players, hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19, but his results from Thursday’s test won’t be back until Friday.
“Just with how the protocols are just you have to be careful,” Stefanski said. “I don’t want to assume anything, but with all of our guys, we’ll make sure we just follow the protocols and just be safe.”
He reiterated that the Browns have gone above and beyond the call of duty to mitigate risks at their facility. They haven’t had anyone on the COVID-19 list since the first few days of training camp, and have only had one bizarre day of false positives since then.
“I think we’ve been on high alert,” Stefanski said. “I think that’s just 2020. We just make sure that we’re following every protocol there is and keep everybody safe.”
He said he didn’t think there was anything else the Browns could do to ensure the safety of everyone in the building heading into Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. The Browns went ahead with Thursday’s practice, which was moved inside and close to the media because of inclement weather.
“(Senior Vice President of Player Health & Development) Joe Sheehan does a great job of making sure we’re on top of all this,” he said.
He said Beckham was “just feeling under the weather. You guys have heard it said – abundance of caution.”
The Browns’ decision is consistent with new guidelines outlined by NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, that anyone with flu-like symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and stuffy noses will be sent home now that flu season has arrived.
“Even if they have a negative [COVID-19] test that day, we’re going to hold that individual out of the facility,” Sills said on a conference call Thursday. “When in doubt, we’re going to go with the most conservative (approach).”
Stefanski acknowledged the team would have to shut down the facility if Beckham or anyone else tests positive. The Falcons had to shut down their facility Thursday after a staff member tested positive, and many games have been rescheduled because of positive tests on the part of players from several teams, including the Titans.
The Steelers have already had their Week 4 game against the Titans rescheduled for Oct. 25.
Stefanski said Beckham won’t rejoin the team until his test on Friday comes back negative. The Browns practice at 11:15 on Friday, and Stefanski wasn’t ready to entertain the idea of Beckham not playing.
“I don’t know if I want to go there yet,” Stefanski said. “I would tell you, obviously – you have heard me say this before – he is a big part of what we do. He works very hard throughout the week. He is doing a nice job.”
Beckham leads the Browns with 294 receiving yards and is tied with Jarvis Landry with 21 receptions. He’s also tied with Kareem Hunt with three TD catches, and is fourth in rushing with 72 yards and a TDs. His breakout game of the season was in Dallas, where he caught two TD passes — one from his best friend Landry — and rushed for a 50-yard TD off a reverse.
“First and foremost, obviously being very cautious in today’s COVID world,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “Sending him home for the day, I think obviously is what we had to do there. Hopefully, it’s just something that goes away quickly and it’s nothing that’s long term and we get him back as soon as possible.”
He said he has no problem starting Beckham even if he misses significant practice time.
“Yeah, I know Odell will do a great job of preparation,” Van Pelt said. “That’s the big part is just making sure you’re up with all the changes in the gameplan and all the little tweaks and nuances of the gameplan each week. I know he will do a great job of preparing. He will still be meeting situations, just not in person as he heals up. I expect him if he is available to be ready to go and play well, as he always does.”
Landry sat out practice for a second straight day Thursday, partially due to sore ribs from taking a hard shot on a 32-yard catch on the third play of Sunday’s game, along with his continuing recovery from hip surgery. It means Van Pelt might have to scheme around his two Pro Bowl wideouts.
“Yeah, we have to be ready for anything,” Van Pelt said. “This is 2020. This is the [sixth week] now and it seems like it has been going on forever in 2020, but that is the way it goes. We will be able to adjust and adapt. That is part of the deal. Whatever Sunday brings, we will have guys ready to go, and we will play tough and hard.”
New Browns face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Browns-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection for adults and youth, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All NFL proceeds donated to CDC Foundation.
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