CLEVELAND (AP) — Myles Garrett has been slowed down just when the Browns need him most.
Cleveland’s dynamic star defensive end and the NFL’s leader in sacks will miss Sunday’s game against Philadelphia — and maybe more — after testing positive for COVID-19, dealing the Browns a major blow as they try to end an 18-year playoff drought.
“He is a good player,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday. “We know that. We do not want to be without him, but we are.”
The Browns (6-3) won’t have Garrett against the Eagles, and there’s no predicting when he’ll be back. According to league rules, a player who tests positive for coronavirus can’t return to the team until at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms, plus at least 24 hours after symptoms have passed.
Garrett stayed home from practice on Wednesday and Thursday because he was showing symptoms. After facing the Eagles (3-5-1), the Browns will visit Jacksonville on Nov. 29.
Stefanski said he wasn’t sure exactly when Garrett first began experiencing coronavirus symptoms, which would trigger the start to a timeline for his return. The first-year coach added he doesn’t know when Garrett will be available.
“I would not speculate at this point,” he said. “But I think as the days go by here we will know a little bit more.”
Garrett, who has 9 1/2 sacks and has made a major play in each of Cleveland’s six wins, won’t get a chance to pad his stats against an Eagles offensive line that has allowed quarterback Carson Wentz to be sacked a league-leading 35 times.
The Browns will use a rotation of players to replace the irreplaceable Garrett. Adrian Clayborn and rookie Porter Gustin figure to get snaps at end, and tackle Sheldon Richardson may slide to the outside.
If there’s a silver lining for the Browns it’s that they’ve survived this season despite a spate of injuries. They went four games without star running back Nick Chubb, who came back last week and ran for 126 yards in a win over Houston.
“It is 2020,” Stefanski said. “Expect the unexpected. So, whoever is available to us I promise you, we will be ready to roll on Sunday.”
Garrett, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension in July, has been on a mission this season. His 2019 season ended abruptly and amid controversy when was suspended six games by the league for removing Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and striking him in the head with it.
Without Garrett, the Browns went 2-4, losing their last three games.
For now, they’re without him again.