Stefanski out of basement, back with Browns after COVID-19

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks on from the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Pittsburgh. Positive COVID-19 tests have knocked Stefanski out of Cleveland's wild-card game at Pittsburgh on Sunday night  the Browns' first playoff appearance since the 2002 season. (AP Photo/Justin Berl, File)
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks on from the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Pittsburgh. Positive COVID-19 tests have knocked Stefanski out of Cleveland's wild-card game at Pittsburgh on Sunday night the Browns' first playoff appearance since the 2002 season. (AP Photo/Justin Berl, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CLEVELAND – Browns coach Kevin Stefanski doesn't plan a trip downstairs to his basement any time soon.

“Those walls were closing in on me,” he said.

Stefanski returned to the team's facility Thursday, 10 days after the first-year coach tested positive for COVID-19 and he was forced to miss Cleveland's playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Instead of being on the sideline at Heinz Field, Stefanski was 135 miles away in his Ohio home, where he nervously paced in front of his TV as the Browns built an early 28-0 lead and held for a 48-37 victory — Cleveland's first in the postseason in 26 years.

Stefanski will make his playoff debut on the sideline this week when the Browns play the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

“It’s great. He deserves to be back,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who filled in as acting coach against the Steelers. “Anytime your leader comes back to the building and he’s going to lead us into battle this weekend, it’s a great thing for our football team.”

There's plenty of work to be done, but Stefanski, who only had mild symptoms of the virus, was taking a moment to savor the company of his team and staff. He missed everything.

“On a professional level, just being around the coaches and players and then isolating from my family is no fun,” he said with a smile. "I should mention that.”