Nick Mullens to start for Browns vs. Raiders; Mayfield, Keenum, Stefanski still in COVID protocols

The extra two days weren't enough for the Browns to get a reinforcement under center.

Neither Baker Mayfield nor Case Keenum tested out of COVID-19 protocols, leaving Nick Mullens to start on Monday against the Raiders, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.

Mayfield and Keenum have been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since last week, when an outbreak within the Browns organization landed more than 20 players on the list. The NFL rescheduled the game in the interest of player safety from Saturday afternoon to Monday, but Cleveland has only seen a few players return from the reserve/COVID-19 list in that time, including safety John Johnson.

Browns coach Coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive this past Wednesday, also will be unavailable Monday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

There was hope that Mayfield and/or Keenum would make it back in time to face Las Vegas in a game that is very much important to Cleveland's playoff hopes. With a win, the Browns can move into first place in the AFC North, while a loss would drop them to last place.

Despite the lack of name recognition, Mullens has starting experience in the NFL. The quarterback has appeared in 19 regular-season games, starting in 16 of them and completing 64.5% of his passes for 4,714 yards and a 25-22 TD-INT ratio.

He also has some history playing against the Raiders in his four-year professional career. The former Southern Mississippi star made his regular-season NFL debut in 2018 versus the Raiders, completing 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns while leading the San Francisco 49ers to a 34-3 win over the team that called Oakland home at that time. The performance was stunning and helped preserve Mullens' employment with the 49ers through the 2020 season before it became clear he wouldn't be a viable long-term option for them moving forward.

Mullens has spent 2021 on the Browns' practice squad and was elevated to the active roster to back up Keenum in Cleveland's Week 7 win over Denver, a game in which Mayfield was unable to play due to injury. Now he'll have to go without either of them available in a pivotal contest in front of a national audience.

The Raiders will be without rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday.

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