ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the on-field scenario many in the league feared the most with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Denver Broncos plan to play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday with no available quarterbacks for the game.
The Broncos’ three eligible quarterbacks — Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles — were each deemed to be a “high-risk” close contact to quarterback Jeff Driskel, and none of the three can be in uniform for Sunday’s game, sources told ESPN.
Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and was moved to the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list later that day.
The Broncos will not be forfeiting Sunday’s game, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Lock, Rypien and Bortles, who is on the practice squad, were pulled off the field early in Saturday’s practice and told to isolate at home after contact-tracing concerns had arisen, sources told ESPN. The three were discovered to have not worn masks at one point during contact with Driskel, team sources told ESPN, but it was unclear if that occurred during practice or a meeting.
Lock, Rypien, Bortles and Driskel are usually closest to each other when the players stretch to open practice each day — they are all next to each other in the front row at that time — and the Broncos have conducted some socially distant position-group meetings at their facility.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio has previously said running back Royce Freeman is the team’s emergency quarterback.
The Broncos also have wide receiver Kendall Hinton on their practice squad. He was a quarterback during his first three seasons at Wake Forest.
While Broncos tight end Noah Fant seemed apprehensive about the team’s situation, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and linebacker Von Miller took to Twitter to try to make light of it.
“I’m not one to complain, but @NFL y’all can’t possibly send us into a game without a QB,” Fant wrote on Twitter. “The most important position to a offense. We don’t even got a back up….”
I’m not one to complain, but @NFL y’all can’t possibly send us into a game without a QB. The most important position to a offense. We don’t even got a back up….
Noah Fant (@nrfant) November 29, 2020
Guess ima have to get my Lamar Jackson on
Jerry Jeudy (@jerryjeudy) November 28, 2020
Been waiting my whole life for this moment! “Von ELWAY”. Ima passing QB don’t need to run much! Ankle is good for QB pic.twitter.com/Kc3ww0fOkp
Von Miller (@VonMiller) November 28, 2020
The Saints were 6-point favorites before the Broncos’ quarterback situation was disclosed Sunday night, causing most sportsbooks to halt betting on the game. Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports reopened the line at New Orleans -13. The point spread quickly grew to Saints -14.
It all came on fast for the Broncos, who had been given clearance by the NFL to practice Saturday. They opened the workout, which began about 1 p.m. Mountain time, with the plan of having all three of their quarterbacks participate.
On Saturday, Fangio said the quarterbacks are more than six feet apart from each other during meetings and that “all our meetings are set up to where everybody’s spread out.”
Fangio said the NFL had cleared the Broncos to practice both Thursday and Friday after positive tests by Driskel and wide receiver Diontae Spencer. Fangio, however, elected to cancel Friday’s practice and all other on-site activities.
Friday was the third time the Broncos have canceled practices and other on-site activities at their facility this season.
ESPN’s David Purdum contributed to this report.