Elway Hints at When Broncos Will Finally Activate QB Drew Lock

Chad Jensen

It's been a true conundrum, trying to suss out the rationale that has governed the Denver Broncos 'plan' (or seeming lack thereof) for quarterback Drew Lock. As an injured reserve player, Lock has been eligible to return to the practice field technically for several weeks. 

However, we're now entering Week 9 and the Broncos are yet to even greenlight the return of their rookie signal-caller to the practice field. In the wake of Joe Flacco's neck injury, it appears as if the Broncos' dragging of their heels on Lock is coming back to haunt them. 

All indications, including from what head coach Vic Fangio said more than a week ago, are that from a physical standpoint, Lock is healthy. We learned a few weeks ago from Lock himself that he no longer feels pain in his formerly sprained right thumb when he grips or throws a football. 

Fangio himself said that of the four IR players eligible to return to practice, Lock is the farthest along physically. And yet, we know WR Tim Patrick is practicing this week, but not Lock. 

It has always felt like there's a lot more to the Broncos' delay tactics than Lock's health and with Flacco likely to miss the next 5-6 weeks minimum with a herniated disc in his neck, fans and media alike are demanding to know what the plan for the team's rookie second-round QB is. 

On Wednesday, GM John Elway finally opened up and gave fans a peek behind the curtain of the Broncos' mystifying plan for Lock. In his weekly appearance on KOA radio's Logan and Lewis, Elway even revealed a tentative timetable for Lock's return to practice and it only muddies the water further. 

“Well, first of all, we want to get him ready physically," Elway said. "He’s got all the ability to play in the NFL. Now, he hasn’t practiced since training camp, so he’s been playing catch obviously in his rehab but physically, he’s not ready to go yet either. That’s why we’re going to wait on that. We’re going to try to take advantage of the three weeks that we get with him because the bye week counts as a week of practice. We’re not going to do much in the bye week, so therefore it’s a wasted week. So that’s why we’re going to wait. We’re thinking about looking at the Minnesota week."

Elway says Lock "isn't ready physically", which contradicts what Fangio and even Lock himself has said. Lock is no longer injured. Mixed signals and contradictions yet again. 

Now you can see why I used the term 'tentatively' because all Elway would say is that the team is "thinking about" and "looking" at activating Lock to practice during Week 11's preparation for the Minnesota Vikings. That road trip comes immediately following the team's Week 10 bye.

The day an IR player begins to practice, the team has only three weeks to decide whether to promote him to the active roster or keep him on IR for the season. So, part of what's apparently delaying the team in its Lock decision is that three-week window and how it coincides with the bye week.

Most teams will hold just two practice sessions during the bye, which is obviously atypical of a normal workweek ahead of a game. It's meant for rest and recovery for the players and self-scouting for the coaches. 

If Lock were activated now, for example, that bye week would count in the NFL's three-week window for deciding on designating a player to return off IR and that fact appears to be impacting Elway's preferred timetable for Lock. However, there are two flaws in Elway's logic. 

1.) The three-week window, or deadline, is only an issue if there's any doubt on the team's part of activating the player to the 53-man roster. Could there be any conceivable reason why the team would activate Lock back to practice without the full and committed intention of activating him to the 53? Week 10 is a wasted week for Patrick, too, but I don't see Elway waiting to get him on the practice field. 

2.) The longer Elway waits to begin practicing Lock, the longer the Broncos will have to go before playing him. And there's the rub. 

The bottom line is, the Broncos never wanted to play Lock in 2019 and only the misfortune of a 2-6 start and Flacco's injury is forcing the issue. And they certainly don't want to play Lock in Week 11 at Minnesota and Week 12 at Buffalo — which would be against two very stout defenses on the road. 

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The question is, why don't the Broncos want to get Lock onto the field? Why are the Broncos still dragging their heels? 

Elway said he is reliant on the recommendations and reports from the coaches. Not so much in terms of Lock's health (he's healthy) but in terms of his knowledge of the scheme. That's fine, but how are the coaches supposed to ascertain anything about Lock's wherewithal in the scheme if he's not even practicing?!!

"I think the key thing is, it’s the conversation with the coaches," Elway said. "They’re with him every day. They’re seeing how he’s handling what we’re doing offensively. Like we’ve said, there’s a big jump coming from the system that he was in, to the system that we’re running now in the fact that there’s a lot more verbiage in the plays that we call, a lot more things that we do at the line of scrimmage. So that adjustment is the biggest thing, to be able to get him in a situation. Now, obviously, we would ask different things of him than we would ask of Joe [Flacco], just because of the difference in experience and where he’s been. But most of my information comes from where the coaches think he is. And that’s what I’ll rely on. We can watch him at practice and see how he does. But it all comes down to how he’s mentally adapting to what we’re doing on the offensive side.”

Again we reach a disconnect. Elway's message to the fans through media simply doesn't hold water or add up. It doesn't make sense. There's no way to accurately gauge Lock's progress in the scheme without him actually participating in practice. 

Elway speaks as if by virtue of Lock practicing with his teammates, the Broncos are mandated to start him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Broncos can practice Lock for as long as they want before actually starting him. 

The longer the Broncos wait to even practice Lock the more the team risks botching his development. He needs to be able to take snaps from under center. He needs to be able to work on his footwork and drop-backs — with the coaches, for crying out loud. 

How can the Broncos expect Lock to develop at all if they're not even willing to practice him? This ridiculous plan is costing Lock precious time to develop, learn and progress.

Lock himself remains publicly supportive of Elway's dictates but privately, he's got to be wondering what he got roped into by landing in Denver of all NFL places. This is the most bizarre handling of a rookie quarterback that I've ever seen. And then Elway says this. 

“He’s a guy that’s very talented that can play in the NFL. He’s got all the talent."

If Elway truly believes that, why is he depriving his QB-talent-starved offense of Drew Lock? We'll probably never know the answer other than to assume that Elway's decision making is being governed through the rubric of some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder that is still lingering from the Paxton Lynch bust. 

I'm sorry. Nothing else even remotely begins to explain it. 

Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen and @MileHighHuddle.

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Comments (24)
No. 1-14
Studlee14
Studlee14

My problem with this whole situation: if you dont want to play him in 2019, come out and say he will not play in 2019. Whether or not fans and media agree with that decision, at least we would have a definitive answer. Dont say he isnt ready to play because he hasn't been practicing for 10 weeks, but then refuse to let him practice. Even if you dont start him at all this year, at least activate him and get him practicing.

smilinassassin
smilinassassin

I’m starting to think Drew Lock will have to be truly revolutionary to overcome the numbskullery and mishandling of QBs by this organization. This is Cleveland Browns level stuff.

Badbrew77
Badbrew77

This is just nothing more than excuses by Elway I said it before and still believe it and by Elway’s actions believe it even more. Drew Lock is not Elway’s guy he never was Elway passed on Lock 3 times in last years draft and only drafted him when the value of the pick was there in the middle of the second round. Many have said Lock is a project and that why he was passed over in the 1st round taking Lock in the second took the label of bust off of him and Elway. I believe Elway’s guy is Justin Herbert and always has been you said it yourself Chad in another article Lock possesses the traits to be a franchise QB. Herbert is a franchise QB right now most draft gurus have Herbert as the 1st or 2nd rated QB in this next draft. Had he came out last year he would have been the clear cut number 1 QB in the draft and everyone knows Elway gushed over him and I believe would have mortgaged the future to move up and draft him. Personally I have watched 4 Oregon games this year and see nothing special about Herbert in fact I think Lock is a better overall athlete but who knows. Call me stupid call me crazy but if Lock was really Elway’s guy he wouldn’t be dragging his feet making up excuse after excuse not to play him.

Dsmoot
Dsmoot

Waiting until week 13 makes sense. I don’t know why you are struggling with this idea. On the football field or in life, putting a young person in a place where he can have the best chance to succeed will do wonders to maintain confidence and grow. Mental reps or not better for him to play against less explosive defenses is a good idea. What difference does 2 or 3 games make with a porous OL and taking a beating. If he gets in 4 full games along with additional reps they will learn enough.

PositiveFreedom
PositiveFreedom

Maybe Elway is concerned about Garrett Holds ruining Lock... Still seems like Drew is not John's guy though.

Studlee14
Studlee14

Fangio just said in his presser that "Drew Lock needs to practice". So if Elway is getting his information from the coaches, why is the HC saying he needs to practice, yet it hasn't happened already? I honestly think it might be Theo Riddick. Of the new players Elway has brought in this year, Riddick seems to be the forgotten one. This might have been his worst move of the offseason, literally giving away future assets for a player that will NEVER play a down in a Broncos uniform. At least Juwwan James and Bryce Callahan should be good to go next year.

xecutioner
xecutioner

All said good podcast 🤔

Broncosfan101
Broncosfan101

I can think of a lot of reasons why they are waiting to start Lock practicing. Maybe they want to know James is fully back, in order to bench Bolles before getting the young kid killed. (I know he is more mobile, but they don't want him seeing ghosts either). That could ruin the kid just like David Carr. Maybe they are trying to put in offensive changes with Allen, the receivers, TE'S, RB's, etc in order to be more prepared before putting Lock out there so the team is better prepared to support his strengths. I am sure there are also other things we do not know about behind the scenes.

Most likely even if he was practicing now they would only play him the last 3 to 4 games of the year. At this point I don't know why everyone is making such a big deal about 1 week of practice given next week is a bye week.

Linebacker
Linebacker

So we are supposed to believe Allen, who didn't spend a day with the Broncos during the preseason and has likely been getting minimal 1st team reps during the season and Rypien understand and can execute the offense better than Drew Lock. Maybe all those hits Elway took as a QB have finally caught up with him, because he doesn't have a clue and needs to be sent packing along with Ellis. While certainly making his share of rookie mistakes, Lock was showing progress during the preseason before being injured, far more than Rypien. Allen has never so much as sniffed the field during the regular season and was joke acquisition as a backup QB. For the fourth year in row Elway has left this team out to dry at the Quarterback position.

SayWhatDawg
SayWhatDawg

Do we want Drew Lock to play merely to satisfy our impatience, even if he bombs, or would we like him to be prepared. MVP Pat Mahomes and Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers weren't rushed and that worked out. Dan Marino wasn't rushed. Be patient. Let the coaches work with Lock and prepare him to succeed, not just take snaps. Many of you must want to have sex with women before the first date. Be patient. Elway saw how the mob chewed up Paxton Lynch. He's mentioned how media and fans were not patient. Because of the hooligans, he wants to protect Lock from that date should he suck at first.

Rcsodak
Rcsodak

I SO enjoy reading these diatribes from you head coaches, owners, ex nfl players. I mean, all of your VAST experience just lends to your valuable opines on what elway is doing wrong. What WOULD we do with your invaluable input.

Broncofansince60
Broncofansince60

I agree. Just be honest with your fans.

T-REV-IT-UP-BRONCO
T-REV-IT-UP-BRONCO

The more Elway and the coaches contradict themselves the more this situation is becoming more clear to me. Elway says hes communicating with coaches that Locks not ready. Scangarello says lock is doing great but they need to get him in to practice to see where hes at. Fangio and Elway taking about the wasted week 10. The coaches are regurgitating alot 9f the same crap Elway is. They've forgotten about him for a reason. I believe this is Elways plan. He has to know hes going to be judged on a massive scale if Lock doesnt work out. Possibly let go this time. So hes sticking to his 2 to 3 year developement process. He knows the line sucks so why risk it. March out some punching bags until the 2020 draft where he can fortify that line. I bet flacco starts again next season or until its blindingly obvious Lock is ready. 100% not drafting a top 2020 qb Its going to be Oline Wr Dline/Edge Cb But i agree the more reps Lock takes the better for broncos country

Sajiky
Sajiky

As I see it the reason's pretty simply. If Lock is activated and practicing, he will end up playing one way or another the current situation being what it is. Regardless of whether or not that's "the plan". He would end up playing.

If they activated him and he started practicing but actually DIDN'T play, you along with the vast majority of fans would be even more freaked then you already are. Screaming "how could you possibly not play him with Flacco's injury and the season a wash".

I'm a proponent of playing young QBs rather than sitting them. But if a GM believes they should sit, this is the ONLY way to get that done in a situation like this one.

The main thing is he's clearly not Lynch. He's working hard and studying.

He's the type of guy who's going to develop to whatever his personal ceiling is, regardless of which philosophy they go with. Doesn't automatically mean he'll be great, but he'll be as great as he can be, I'm certain of that.

Whether or not a QB (or anyone in any walk of life) maximizes whatever their personal potential is is at least 90% up to themselves and who they are. Outside forces have very little to do with it.

Plus he's got one other big advantage over Lynch.

He can throw a spiral.


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