Browns' Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson Activated from COVID List Before Chiefs Game

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 13, 2021

CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 11: Cornerback Denzel Ward #21 of the Cleveland Browns runs a play during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 11, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Colts 32-23. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller

The Cleveland Browns announced Wednesday that cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson have been activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Both players missed last Sunday's Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers but are expected to play in this week's AFC Divisional Round battle against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

Guard Joel Bitonio and receiver KhaDarel Hodge were also unavailable last game and remain on the team's reserve list.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said he plans to return to the team Thursday after missing the 48-37 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field.

The return of Ward and Johnson will be significant as the Browns try to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the No. 1 passing attack in the NFL.

Ward tied for second in the NFL with 18 passes defended despite missing four games. The one-time Pro Bowler added 46 tackles and two interceptions.

Johnson has also played a key role in his first year in Cleveland, starting six games while playing 53 percent of the defensive snaps. He had a key fumble recovery in a Week 13 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Ben Roethlisberger totaled 501 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Browns' short-handed secondary Sunday, although he also threw four interceptions.

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Reserve cornerbacks M.J. Stewart and Robert Jackson both started after limited playing time during the regular season. Roethlisberger attacked the replacements, going 19-of-26 when targeting Stewart and Jackson for 188 yards and four touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.

Cleveland's five takeaways helped it come away with the victory, including interceptions from Stewart, safety Sheldrick Redwine, linebacker Sione Takitaki and defensive end Porter Gustin.

The Browns will hope the reinforcements lead to more success defensively in their next game.