The NFL just dropped a nuclear bomb on the Denver Broncos. After quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, the Broncos were given the green light to practice that day after team and league officials completed contact-tracing.
Friday morning, wideout Diontae Spencer and two additional staffers tested positive for the virus, which saw the Broncos cancel their practice. On Saturday, things took an even more extreme turn for the worse as the NFL pulled all three remaining Broncos quarterbacks off the practice field — including Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles — due to concerns of being 'high risk' for the virus.
The trio of signal-callers, to a man, have been ruled out of Week 12's matchup with the New Orleans Saints — a game less than 24 hours away. 9NEWS' Mike Klis broke the news.
"All three Broncos QBs have been ruled out. One possible QB: Kendall Hinton. He's on Broncos practice squad as WR but he was a three-year starting QB at Wake Forest. (Won't be coach Rob Calabrese. League won't allow, I'm told)," Klis tweeted Saturday afternoon.
It's a curious move considering the NFL and team officials already did the contact tracing on Driskel's interactions with his teammates, including the quarterbacks, and gave the Broncos permission to practice on Thursday — the day of Driskel's positive test. Perhaps something new was discovered upon further review of the security footage inside Dove Valley that led to the NFL's sudden 180.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, at the time Lock, Rypien, and Bortles were exposed to Driskel, none were wearing masks. My question is, if that's so, why wait until Saturday? Didn't the contact tracing of security footage expose that fact on Thursday?
The idea that on the eve of a game, the NFL would expect the Broncos to field any non-quarterback at the position, in order to satisfy the schedule, in light of how the league bent over backward with other teams who've similarly been hit by COVID-19 — like the New England Patriots in Weeks 5 and 6 and more recently, the Baltimore Ravens — is ridiculous.
The Broncos should be afforded the same flexibility schedule-wise, especially after the NFL robbed them of their bye week this season and completely reshaped their schedule. If forced to play on Sunday, the team's options are grievously slim. Kendall Hinton, a wideout on the practice squad, played quarterback at Wake Forest before transitioning to receiver for his final collegiate year.
Royce Freeman has been deemed the team's 'emergency quarterback' all season long, which is an option only there in the event of all active quarterbacks get injured in-game. No NFL team could field Freeman as the QB and expect to compete, and the same goes for Hinton — who's not a quarterback. He's a receiver.
For now, the NFL says Broncos-Saints is still on for Sunday and if the league does not move to reschedule this game, all signs point to Denver's QB being Hinton. But expect GM John Elway to be lobbying the NFL front office hard for a reschedule.
Hinton hasn't thrown a pass in a competitive football game since 2018. He finished his collegiate quarterbacking career with 1,504 passing yards and eight touchdowns to seven interceptions while completing just 53% of his passes. Do you see why he switched to wide receiver?
Klis reports that "none of the other quarterbacks are experiencing symptoms and all have so far tested negative." That includes Driskel, who has so far been asymptomatic.
We'll update this story as new information comes to light. Buckle up.