The new injured reserve rules in the NFL allow teams great flexibility this year. For a team like the Denver Broncos who've been inordinately hit hard by the injury bug, the new IR rules could end up being a godsend.
As it stands, the Broncos can place as many players as the team wants on IR and instead of having to wait eight weeks and being limited to bringing only two players back from the list to the active roster, only three weeks must pass and the number of short-term designations is limitless. The one silver lining of COVID-19.
That's why cornerback A.J. Bouye, for example, was placed on IR. The team knew it would be at least a three-week timetable and in the meantime, it could use his roster spot to help compensate for his loss without figuring out how to live without him for a full half-season.
But what to do with QB Drew Lock? Lock suffered a shoulder injury in Week 2 that will cost him 2-6 weeks. The Broncos could probably put him on ice for three weeks safely, while utilizing his roster spot on, say, veteran free agent Blake Bortles, but instead, the team is choosing to keep Lock on the active roster, according to NFL Network's James Palmer.
Why? Because the Broncos are optimistic that with some rest, Lock could return after only a couple of weeks perhaps.
"The Broncos are not going to place Drew Lock on IR. They believe there is a chance he could return sooner than 3 games. But they also understand that he could miss 4-5 games. Denver just doesn’t want to 'eliminate the possibility,'" Palmer tweeted on Wednesday.
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Head coach Vic Fangio addressed the issue in his Wednesday presser.
“We considered putting him on IR, but there’s a chance he may not have to miss three games, but at the same point, there’s a chance he might have to miss four or five," Fangio said. "Rather than eliminate the possibility of him coming back if he’s healthy enough, we’ve kept him on the active roster at this point.”
The team doesn't know for sure just how quickly Lock will recover but suffice to say, in this case, Denver wants to keep its options open in the event that he heals up quicker than three weeks. That should excite fans, many of which have written off the 2020 season for the Broncos in the wake of all the injuries to key players, with Lock going down being the straw that broke the camel's back.
If Lock misses 2-3 weeks, the low end of his prognosis, that would put him back in the saddle in Week 5 or 6 (Week 6 more likely), which would give the Broncos plenty of time to turn the ship around and get back into the AFC playoff picture.
Keep in mind, the Broncos played their best football last year after Lock came off IR down the stretch, finishing 4-1. Yes, the team will have to take precautions not to rush Lock onto the field before he's fully recovered, especially considering the injury is to his throwing shoulder, but if the Football Gods favor the young QB's recovery, the Broncos could get him back before the bye with all the time in the world to make a playoff push.
Say Lock only misses three weeks. If the Jeff Driskel-led Broncos can win even one game between now and then, the Broncos would be 1-4 (which isn't good) but there'd still be 11 games to go which is an eternity in the grand scheme of things.
Meanwhile, the Broncos opted to place defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker (calf) and linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) on IR on Wednesday. But not Lock.