CLEVELAND (AP) — Case Keenum’s expected start for the Browns took an unexpected turn.
Cleveland’s veteran backup quarterback tested positive Thursday for COVID-19, possibly leaving the Browns without their top two quarterbacks for Saturday’s vital game against the Las Vegas Raiders, a person familiar with the situation tells the Associated Press.
Keenum was slotted to make his second start this season for Baker Mayfield, who tested positive Wednesday as the virus continues to wreak havoc with the Browns and several other NFL teams.
Keenum’s positive result came after he practiced on Thursday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team may have more confirmed cases coming.
Shortly after Keenum’s positive test was confirmed, Mayfield went on Twitter to criticize the league, which earlier relaxed testing requirements to potentially have vaccinated personnel return earlier than under the previous protocols.
The Browns also placed safety Ronnie Harrison on the COVID-19 list. His loss compounds a bad situation in Cleveland’s secondary as fellow safety John Johnson III and nickel back Troy Hill are on the list.
Also, starting rookie cornerback Greg Newsome II will miss his second straight game with a concussion suffered last week in practice.
Despite Cleveland’s widespread outbreak, a league spokesman said there has been “no change” for Saturday’s game as the Browns (7-6) and Raiders (6-7) try to improve their chances of making the playoffs.
The Browns held their first practice of the week on Thursday after having only virtual meetings and walk-throughs this week.
Cleveland placed eight players on the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday and six more Wednesday, including Mayfield.
Coach Kevin Stefanski is also away from the team after testing positive — for the second time in two seasons — and watched Thursday’s practice remotely.
Stefanski didn’t rule out anyone for this week’s game, including Mayfield, and it’s still possible he could meet the league’s new criteria in time for play Saturday.
However, if Mayfield and Keenum aren’t cleared in time, third-string quarterback Nick Mullens will make his first start since last season for San Francisco. The Browns activated him from the practice squad Thursday, presumably to be their No. 2 behind Keenum before the latest wave of positive results.
The 26-year-old Mullens went 2-6 in eight starts for the 49ers. He has a 5-11 career record.
Like Mayfield, Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett raised some questions about the league’s testing policies.
Garrett said it was unusual players weren’t tested before entering the team’s facility on Thursday, meaning positive players may have entered the building and increased the potential for spread.
“It almost seemed like we were just ignoring it instead of addressing the issue,” he said. “We should go ahead and test and then allow in the building but not before you get results, and that is how it should be.
“The lack of testing that we have done all year I kind of feel like has led to this point. Only testing one time a week and guys doing their own thing on Monday and Tuesday with their time off, it was kind of a recipe for disaster.”