Browns guard Bitiono back for playoffs after COVID-19

FILE - Cleveland Browns offensive guard Joel Bitonio (75) blocks in the third quarter an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland, in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. Browns Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio will be activated from the COVID-19 list Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, after missing last weeks playoff win over Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
FILE - Cleveland Browns offensive guard Joel Bitonio (75) blocks in the third quarter an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cleveland, in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. Browns Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio will be activated from the COVID-19 list Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, after missing last weeks playoff win over Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/David Richard, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CLEVELAND – Joel Bitonio's long playoff wait with the Browns is over.

The Pro Bowl left guard was activated from the COVID-19 list Friday after missing last week’s wild-card win over Pittsburgh.

Cleveland’s longest-tenured player, Bitonio had to isolate at home and missed his first career postseason game — and the Browns' first since the 2002 season. It was a devastating development for Bitiono, who had endured so much losing with the Browns before this turnaround season.

But he’ll get his long-awaited chance to play in the postseason this week. The Browns, who stunned the Steelers in the wild-card round, face the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the AFC divisional round.

"Elated for Joel,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said on Zoom call with local writers. “He’s been here his entire career. He has been a leader, consummate teammate, everything that you could really want out of a player.

"We were all heartbroken when he wasn’t getting the opportunity to play in his first playoff game, so for us to be able to activate him today and for him to be able to take his place in the starting lineup this weekend against the Chiefs (is great).”

Bitonio was one of several Browns players and coaches to be sidelined over the past three weeks with the coronavirus.

Bitonio's return is a huge boost for Cleveland's solid offensive line, which has had to adjust numerous times over the past few weeks because of injuries and COVID-19.