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BEREA, Ohio — Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he’s on track to rejoin his team Thursday after missing Cleveland’s playoff victory Sunday night over the Steelers with COVID-19.
“I don’t plan on doing that again,” said Stefanski, who watched the game from his basement, isolated from his family with his phone off. “A very, very unique feeling not to be there with them, so there was a ton of nervous energy that usually doesn’t exist on the sideline for whatever reason. But it existed for me last night.”
Without Stefanski, the Browns won their first playoff game since 1994, defeating the Steelers 48-37. Cleveland will face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the AFC divisional around.
In Pittsburgh, the Browns scored a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game, as Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into the end zone.
Stefanski said that he had previously hit pause and was behind the live broadcast feed by about 45 seconds when the score happened.
“When I heard my kids going crazy upstairs,” he said, “I had an inkling something good was gonna happen on that first play.”
Despite Cleveland’s fast start, which included a 28-0 lead in the first quarter, Stefanski admitted that he “was doing a lot of pacing” to deal with the stress of watching the game on TV, but avoided doing any snacking.
“I can’t taste anything, so that wouldn’t have helped,” said Stefanski, who added he has endured only mild symptoms from the virus. “I have a newfound respect for all of our fans and how they watch those games. I like it better when I have some control.”
Stefanski finally turned his phone back on immediately after the game ended. He immediately was FaceTimed by Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry coming off the field.
“Which I wasn’t expecting,” he said, “jumping on FaceTime about two seconds after the game ended.”
Wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea later FaceTimed Stefanski from the visitors locker room so he could celebrate with the team.
“It was a strange feeling,” Stefanski said. “But great to just let those guys know how proud of them I am.”
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