The Denver Broncos have been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways. No NFL team has been unscathed by the pandemic, which truncated the offseason, eliminating OTAs and the entire preseason, while seriously limiting training camp.
We've seen the injury bug take a massive bite out of the NFL season, with the Broncos being inordinately affected in this area. When the New England Patriots experienced a viral outbreak, the Broncos' Week 5 matchup first got delayed, then rescheduled, then moved to Week 6. Denver lost its true bye as a result and saw its remaining schedule shifted by the NFL.
None of this mentions the monumental opt-out decision by highly-paid right tackle Ja'Wuan James, nor the case of COVID-19 running backs coach Curtis Modkins contracted ahead of Week 6. With that said, once again, the Broncos have a coach in the COVID-19 protocol with Week 8's divisional matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers next up on the docket.
According to KOARadio's Brand Krisztal, offensive line coach Mike Munchak is in the protocol and was absent from Wednesday's practice.
"Broncos have begun practice for Chargers, but OLine Coach Mike Munchak is not on the field. Per source, Munchak is absent due to Covid-19 Protocols," Krisztal tweeted on Wednesday.
Being in the protocol either means Munchak himself tested positive, or that he came into contact with an infected person. Many states and locales, including Denver, have seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
At 60 years old, Munchak is on the older side so hopefully, he's able to quickly vanquish the bug if indeed he has tested positive. Munchak joined the Broncos last year as the O-line coach after losing out on the team's head-coaching sweepstakes to Vic Fangio. Munchak was one of five coaches interviewed for Denver's head-coaching vacancy.
Munchak, widely revered as one of, if not the, best O-line coaches in the NFL, has worked some wonders since joining the Broncos. He helped Denver make some lemonade at right tackle last year after prized free-agent acquisition Ja'Wuan James suffered a knee injury in the season-opener and the team had to turn to Elijah Wilkinson and Jake Rodgers.
Players like left guard Dalton Risner thrived under Munchak's tutelage as a rookie last year and even much-maligned left tackle Garett Bolles saw massive improvement down the stretch of the O-line coach's maiden season in Denver. Thanks in part to Munchak's influence, Bolles has been able to not only maintain the momentum with which he ended last season but build on it in a contract year.
Bolles is currently the highest-graded offensive tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus and has not relinquished a QB pressure in two consecutive games. Bolles deserves credit for his quantum leap forward but fans should also tip their cap to Munchak for saving the Broncos' 2017 first-round draft pick from flaming out in self-destruction.