The weirdest season in NFL history took another left-hand turn on Saturday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. MT, when Broncos vice president of football operations Mark Thewes waved coach Vic Fangio into his office and let him know the league office was on the speaker phone sitting on his desk.
Out a window, they could see their players 20 minutes into warmups on the field and 15 minutes away from what would be an accelerated walkthrough—as the Broncos tried to make up for a Friday practice they canceled after putting backup QB Jeff Driskel on the COVID-19 list on Thursday. Even then, the Broncos had no idea how strange things were about to get. They were just told to pull the rest of their QBs from the practice field.
Fangio went out and did that, telling Drew Lock, Blake Bortles and Brett Rypien to head home and wait for more direction. The coach then ran practice, after he and a few others discussed canceling it in Thewes’s office. And the direction he asked the quarterbacks to wait for came at about 4 p.m. local time.
As result of video Denver turned in to the league, none of their quarterbacks would be eligible Sunday.
Everyone in and around the NFL has talked a lot about worst case scenarios over the last four months. Suddenly, the Broncos were living theirs. And with team president Joe Ellis and GM John Elway now involved, the team first looked for a reprieve.
Could the game be moved to Monday? No, they were told, games could only be moved for health-and-safety reasons. Could they sign offensive quality-control coach Rob Calabrese, who last played as a senior at Central Florida in 2012, to step in? No, they were told, the NFL didn’t want to open that can of worms, with a coach coming off the staff to play in a one-off situation.
That left Denver to find a quarterback somewhere on its roster.
What followed may not have been pretty. But for those involved, it’ll also be something that they will never, ever forget. The NFL, in turn, got its most 2020 game to date.
Week 12 is still two games from completion, and it feels like the NFL is trying to stay afloat after a tidal wave of COVID-19 hit its ranks last week, with the prospect that another is on its way. But over the last four days, the league did manage to get 14 games played, so we still have a lot to get to in this week’s MMQB. Including …
• A look at the job market as three openings in two cities popped up this weekend.
• How the Titans took it to an undermanned group in Indy, and exacted revenge.
• What’s kept the Vikings alive after a 1–5 start.
• Why Deshaun Watson kept swinging, even as things came undone around him.
• Where Ron Rivera’s been able to bring his Football Team in less than a year.
And much, much more. But we’re starting with the NFL’s COVID-19 problem, with its most coronavirus-afflicted game to date as the backdrop.
The truth is, the Broncos woke up Saturday morning not realizing the problem they had. A PCR test taken by Driskel on Wednesday came back positive on Thursday. He went on the COVID-19 list that afternoon, and those who’d been around…
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