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Browns’ Kevin Stefanski positive for COVID-19, out of playoff game

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks on during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns will play their first playoff game since 2002 without first-year coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19 just two days after leading the team back to the postseason.

The Browns said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be the acting head coach Sunday while Stefanski is away.

The team announced Stefanski’s positive result on Tuesday and said two other unidentified players and two more coaching staff members — tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard — tested positive as well.

According to NFL rules, anyone testing positive must sit out at least 10 days.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no change to the status of Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. He added the league is continuing to conduct standard contact tracing to identify any possible high-risk close contacts.

“If any players or personnel are identified as such, they would remain apart from the team and facilities for five days from the last exposure to a positive individual,” McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press. “They would be eligible to return to the team and play in the game.”

It’s a major blow to the Browns (11-5), who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 17 seasons on Sunday with a 24-22 win over Pittsburgh — ending the league’s longest playoff drought. They’ll play the Steelers again this week in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

Cleveland has been hit hard by the virus. The Browns were without six players, including top cornerback Denzel Ward, and three assistant coaches last weekend for their biggest game in years after a rash of positive tests.