CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield ran out of time.
The Browns quarterback didn’t test negative today and won’t be activated from the COVID-19 reserve list to play against the Las Vegas Raiders, a person familiar with Cleveland’s roster situation told The Associated Press.
With Mayfield and his backup, Case Keenum, both out, third-stringer Nick Mullens will start in a game with possible playoff implications, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team doesn’t have to reveal its eligible players until later in the day.
The Browns had hoped the NFL’s decision to postpone the game from Saturday until Monday would allow Mayfield and other sidelined players to return. However, Mayfield didn’t produce a required negative test and safety John Johnson III was the only starter to be activated Monday.
Mayfield had missed only one game this season despite a variety of injuries. He’ll now have to sit out as the Browns (7-6) try to stay in the thick of a tight playoff race. A win over the Raiders would put Cleveland in first place in the AFC North.
The Browns may also be without coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive last week. His status remained unclear in the hours leading to the 5 p.m. kickoff. Stefanski missed Cleveland’s playoff win last season at Pittsburgh due to COVID-19.
On Sunday, Mayfield posted on Instagram that he was asymptomatic and was “praying to test negative for COVID.”
That didn’t happen, and now the Browns’ offense, which will be missing top wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Austin Hooper, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and right tackle James Hudson III, will be directed by Mullens.
The 26-year-old Mullens went 5-11 as a starter from 2018-2020, and the Browns are confident he can fill in and lead them.
“He has played good football,” Stefanski said. “He has some really good tape out there and is somebody that our personnel department has followed closely. He’s done an outstanding job really for us all season long.”
The Browns got back powerful right guard Wyatt Teller on Sunday, and his return should allow Cleveland to better protect Mullens and perhaps count on running back Nick Chubb even more than usual.
The Browns’ defensive front will be missing edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Malik McDowell, and linebackers Jacob Phillips, Mack Wilson Sr. and Tony Fields II are all out due to the virus.
On Friday, the NFL bent after being determined to push forward and play, postponing Cleveland’s game against Las Vegas along with two other games amid a wave of new COVID-19 cases across the league.
The league adjusted the deadline for roster activation from Sunday at 4 p.m. until Monday at 2 p.m., giving players more time to produce a negative test — another change after requiring two negatives tests 24 hours apart.
The Browns activated seven players from the practice squad to fill out the roster for Monday’s game.