The Browns’ COVID outbreak reached critical mass on Wednesday morning.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive for the virus just a day after the Browns put eight players on the COVID list. Their statuses are now uncertain with Cleveland scheduled to play on Saturday afternoon against the Raiders.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that there have been no discussions about changing the game’s status. As such, the Browns will have to prepare to play without two of their key pieces, one on offense and one as a sideline leader.
Here’s a breakdown of how Mayfield’s absence could impact the Browns.
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Is Baker Mayfield playing against the Raiders?
Mayfield’s status for the game against the Raiders is uncertain. He will need to test negative for COVID twice before the game’s 4:30 p.m. ET start time, and negative tests must be separated by at least 24 hours. So, essentially, he must test negative at least once by Friday morning to have a chance to play.
That may prove a tall task for Mayfield, but it’s worth noting that he appears to be asymptomatic. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Mayfield is “feeling completely normal,” so that at least gives Cleveland some hope that he could play.
Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield is said to “feel completely normal”, per a source, but he has tested positive for COVID. Now Case Keenum is in line to start Saturday vs. the Raiders, with Nick Mullens as his backup.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 15, 2021
Still, this is a time-crunch, and with the game staying put — at least for now — Cleveland fans probably shouldn’t expect Mayfield to play. Instead, Case Keenum would start for the second time this season.
Keenum, 33, started against the Broncos in Week 7, while Mayfield dealt with a plethora of injuries. He quarterbacked the Browns to a 17-14 win on “Thursday Night Football” and completed 21 of 33 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. He is a solid backup and would at least give the Browns a chance to stay in the game with the Raiders.
Nick Mullens, 26, would serve as the backup to Keenum if Mayfield is out. He hasn’t played this year but has been with Cleveland since joining its practice squad on Sept. 1. He has a career record of 5-11 with 25 TDs and 22 INTs.
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Is Baker Mayfield vaccinated?
It seems that Baker Mayfield is vaccinated. Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported before the season that Mayfield was still wearing a mask in the Browns’ building during June minicamp but returned without the mask after summer break.
Mayfield also spoke about the “competitive advantage” that being vaccinated brings to the teams across the NFL.
“It definitely poses a competitive advantage for higher vaccine rates on your team just because of the close contact [rules] and what happens if somebody does unfortunately get COVID, what can happen to the rest of the building,” Mayfield said in July.
“It’s a competitive advantage but it’s also way more than that,” he added. “It’s about safety and just general health and well-being of human life. So I’d leave it at that.’’
So, while Mayfield may be out of action Saturday, he should have a chance to play in the Browns’ Week 15 Christmas Day game against the Packers. He just needs to remain asymptomatic.