CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this week’s Hey, Mary Kay! I answer questions about Denzel Ward, Jack Conklin and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: Is there any chance that Denzel Ward or Kevin Johnson will be cleared Sunday for the late game? — Bart Zirkle, Bellefontaine, Ohio
Hey, Bart: Unfortunately for the Browns and for their two cornerbacks, they can’t be activated Sunday off the COVID-19 list. Players had to be activated by 4 p.m. to play in the wild card game, and they weren’t physically ready to be activated off the list yet. It’s a big loss for the Browns, because it means they might have to start first-year cornerback Robert Jackson for the second straight week. Mason Rudolph targeted Jackson 10 times in the Browns’ 24-22 victory last week, and he gave up six receptions, including those of 41 and 47 yards. The Browns, did however, get the play of the game out of M.J. Stewart, an interception and 30-yard return that set up a 3-yard TD run by Jarvis Landry that made it 24-9.
I’d expect both back for the Chiefs game and the great Patrick Mahomes if the Browns win.
Hey, Mary Kay: What’s going on with Jack Conklin? Is he a gametime decision? — Greg Zimmerman, Houston, Texas
Hey, Greg: Conklin was kept at home during Friday’s practice because of an illness, and is listed as questionable for the game. But he traveled to Pittsburgh solo on Saturday, so that’s a good sign that he’s going to play. That’s key for the Browns, who are without left guard Joel Bitonio (COVID-19). They’ll need all the help they can get holding off T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and the other formidable Steelers defenders.
Hey Mary Kay: What is going on with Money Mitch (Terrance Mitchell)? Did he do something wrong or is he injured? Can this team finally climb to the top of that Pittsburgh mountain and slap the big brother in the face? — #beatthesqueelers Jeff Lerner, Avon, Ohio
Hey, Jeff: Mitchell had a positive COVID-19 test on Friday, but when they retested him, he was negative. By Saturday, it was determined that he was a false positive like Ronnie Harrison and Montrel Meander, and he wasn’t placed on the reserve list. It means he’ll be good to go for the game, even though he’s listed as questionable. That’s good news for the Browns given that Ward and Johnson are out. If Ben Roethlisberger is rested and throwing the ball well, it will be tough to cover JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. But the Steelers are without Joe Haden too.
Hey Mary Kay: Do think we should move on from Denzel Ward and go with Terrance Mitchell and Greedy Williams next season? It seems he’s unreliable even without COVID-19. Mitch has started almost every game! — Kevin Laing. Willoughy, Ohio
Hey, Kevin: Unequivocally no. Ward is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and had an excellent season despite missing five games — three with a strained calf and the last two because of a positive COVID-19 test. Ward locked down his side of the field and finished tied for second in the NFL with 18 passes defensed despite missing four regular season games. It’s hard to find cornerbacks this good, and Ward has earned an extension in the offseason.
Hey, Mary Kay: When the Browns facility is closed, how does everyone get tested every day? Does someone go to all of their houses? And what about those getting treatment? I assume Myles Garrett is getting breathing treatments, and others need treatment for injuries? Also, why didn’t anyone ask Kevin Stefanski how he’s feeling? – Cliff Vaughan, Lewis Center, Ohio
Hey, Cliff: The Browns have a drive-through testing center set up outside their facility, and the players are required to come by each day, even if it’s an off day. The players are allowed to come to the building for medical treatment even when it’s shut down, and I think it’s safe to assume that Myles Garrett has continued to do breathing treatments to recover from the lingering effects of COVID-19. We did ask Kevin Stefanski how he’s feeling, and he didn’t want to talk much about himself. He seemed a little subdued when he talked to us on a Zoom call Wednesday, but was more chipper on Friday.
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