On Sunday the Cleveland Browns will try to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field for the first time since 2003. It’s conceivable they will have to try to do that with only one quarterback, certainly no more than one healthy quarterback.
According to Tom Pelissero, reporter for NFL Network and NFL.com, the league has advised the Browns that practice squad quarterback Kyle Lauletta cannot be activated and in uniform for the Steelers game “because he won’t have completed COVID-19 protocol when the team departs [for Pittsburgh] on Saturday.”
In other words, if starting quarterback Baker Mayfield is unable to play because of his injured ribs, the Browns would have just one QB available, backup Case Keenum.
Baker Mayfield’s Injury Status
To get caught up on what has happened:
Last Sunday Mayfield took a hard hit during the fourth quarter of his team’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, a hit that left him hobbling, with his passing arm hanging limply at his side.
Mayfield needed x-rays after the game, which reportedly came back negative, and the third-year quarterback has since said he’ll be playing on Sunday, as [his] “Mama didn’t raise no wuss.”
Yet the Browns have listed Mayfield as “questionable” for Sunday’s game; historically, that designation has been used to indicate a 50/50 chance of playing. (For what it’s worth, Mayfield was seen throwing passes on Friday during the portion of practice that is open to reporters, this after he was a “limited participant” on both Wednesday and Thursday.)
Regardless, if Mayfield can’t play for any reason, Keenum—a nine-year veteran who has started 62 games (27-35)—would take over at quarterback, but there would be no QB behind him.
That’s because the Dallas Cowboys signed QB Garrett Gilbert off Cleveland’s practice squad on Monday, this in the wake of Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury.
The Browns moved quickly to add a quarterback themselves, signing second-year QB Kyle Lauletta to their practice squad, but as noted above, he can’t be cleared (from a COVID-19 perspective) in time for the Steelers game.
Lauletta is a former fourth-round draft pick of the New York Giants (2018) who has appeared in two games during his career. He spent the 2019 season on the practice squad of the Philadelphia Eagles and started this season on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons before being waived in September.
Who is Cleveland’s Emergency Quarterback?
At this point it’s worth speculating about what might happen if both Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum can’t play/get hurt.
Would wide receiver Jarvis Landry be called on in an emergency role?
For what it’s worth, Landry did throw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter of Cleveland’s Week 4 win at Dallas.
On the other hand, Landry is also listed as “questionable” with injuries to his ribs and hip, so it’s conceivable he might not be able to play either.
Meanwhile, it looks like the NFL may have moved to effectively shorten the COVID-19 entry process, likely in response to what has happened with the Browns.
In a directive that was issued Friday and goes into effect Saturday, the clock now starts on the six-day entry process the day a new player arrives, even if they don’t get a test for COVID-19 on day one.
But that doesn’t appear to help Cleveland with its problem this weekend.
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