DENVER -- QB or not QB, that is the question after one of the most bizarre and depressing days in Broncos history.
According to multiple sources, Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were ruled ineligible for Sunday's home game against the New Orleans Saints after additional contact tracing with Jeff Driskel revealed players not wearing masks. Driskel's positive COVID-19 test was revealed Thursday, and the trio was last around him on Wednesday.
That leaves the Broncos with no quarterbacks available. They are learning toward using practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, a former college quarterback at Wake Forest, and a combination of running backs Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon.
Hinton played quarterback for the Demon Deacons, but threw only eight passes over his final two years, and none his senior season. The last time he played the position regularly was in 2015. The possibility of using a wildcat formation with Royce Freeman, the team's emergency quarterback, Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Godon remains a realistic scenario.
The Broncos' situation began to unravel Saturday afternoon as Lock, Rypien and Bortles were pulled from practice five minutes before it was scheduled to start.
The chain of events left players a bit perplexed. The quarterbacks last had contact with Driskel, who had no symptoms, on Wednesday. They were cleared to practice Thursday, coach Vic Fangio canceled practice Friday after Diontae Spencer's positive test, and Saturday the quarterbacks were told to isolate as the league worked through issues and remained in communication with the Broncos regarding additional contact tracing information.
Turns out the additional review revealed the mask issue. Earlier in the week, the league sent a memo to teams regarding the updated COVID-19 protocols. According to NFL Network, one of the first sentences read: “MASKS SHOULD BE WORN BY EVERYONE AT ALL TIMES!” As such, the game remains on as scheduled. Competitive balance is not a deciding factor.
Lock, Rypien and Bortles have no symptoms and have taken extra daily COVID-19 tests with negative results.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio explained Thursday how the trio was cleared earlier in the week.
"No, the other quarterbacks were only on there minimal amounts, like two minutes and some seconds -- four minutes. That's over a three or four day period," Fangio said. "They thoroughly checked those guys that were on the two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, and they came back and said nobody else needs to go on the list and they cleared us to have normal activities and normal practice (Thursday).”
Multiple players were not happy that the Broncos practiced Thursday. Fangio said he was given permission to work out Friday, but he chose to shutter the workout after Spencer landed on the COVID-19 restricted list.
Broncos player representative Brandon McManus tweeted about the topic on Friday.
"Need a league wide decision tree. Can’t have some facilities shut down and others stay open and risk exposing more players when they just practiced with a positive player," McManus tweeted.
The Saints were scheduled to arrive in Denver on Saturday afternoon. Earlier this week, the NFL moved the Ravens-Steelers game from Thursday to Sunday and eventually to Monday after an outbreak among the Ravens. This is the first instance where an entire quarterback room has been impacted.
A few Broncos players showed a sense of humor the stunning developments. Von Miller posted a picture on Instagram of him dropping back to throw a pass and rookie Jerry Jeudy threw his cap into the mix.
"Guess ima have to get my Lamar Jackson on," said Jeudy, who grew up playing against the Ravens quarterback.