The Broncos will be playing the Saints in Week 12 without a quarterback, a result of multiple COVID-19 related issues. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Denver had an option to forfeit the game, given it has no quarterbacks, but opted to go forward. The Broncos will be facing one of the best defenses in the NFL in New Orleans, which will undoubtedly cause problems to a team with no quarterbacks.
So, how did we get to this point? We’ll explain it all below.
Why don’t the Broncos have a quarterback in Week 12?
Backup Jeff Driskel was the first quarterback on the Broncos to test positive for COVID-19 this week. According to 9News’ Mike Klis, Driskel had no symptoms and interacted with fellow quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, Driskel tested positive.
According to Schefter, Lock, Rypien and Bortles were not wearing masks during their interaction with Driskel. While those three quarterbacks did not test positive for COVID-19, they were deemed as “high-risk close contacts” and ruled out Saturday evening.
Here’s how Denver got wiped out at the QB position in a 72-hour span:
QB Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID on Thursday.
Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles did not wear masks, per a source, and were deemed high-risk close contacts today. They now are out Sunday.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 28, 2020
The surprising part here is the fact the Broncos allowed Bortles, who is on the practice squad, to remain in close contact with the team. For instance, the Bills have Jake Fromm practicing away from the team just for this scenario. COVID-19 spreads quickly, and once one person on a team gets it, there’s a strong chance another player will get it as well, especially if they’re in close contact.
Why can’t the Broncos sign a quarterback?
The logical thought one might have to the Broncos not having a quarterback is to simply sign a new one. But the NFL implemented COVID-19 rules for new players, which limits when they can actually play for a team. Per the NFL protocols, a new player cannot enter their team facility or start to practice until they test negative for five straight days and then test negative on the sixth day with a point of contact test.
Even if the Broncos reacted right away and signed a quarterback after Driskel’s positive test, there would not have been enough days in between for them to be eligible to play.
So who will start at QB for the Broncos?
Royce Freeman was listed as the team’s emergency quarterback, so he is an option. But practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton appears to be gaining momentum. Hinton played quarterback at Wake Forest before going undrafted this year.
Per team source: Looking more and more like former Wake QB and current Broncos PS WRKendall Hinton will be Broncos QB tomorrow and NOT Royce Freeman per league source.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) November 28, 2020
It is worth noting, however, that Hinton quit playing quarterback at Wake Forest in 2018 as he transitioned into being a receiver.
It also appears as if the Broncos considered using offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese, who played QB at UCF in 2012, but league rules wouldn’t allow it.