Lock returns to practice, apologizes again for COVID-19 slip
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Many viewers cringed at Denver's ugly loss to the Saints behind a rookie receiver pressed into duty because every Broncos quarterback was barred by the NFL over coronavirus concerns.
Among them was Drew Lock.
"It hurt my heart, hurt my soul," the Broncos starter said Wednesday. "It was tough. It was really tough. It wasn't something that I enjoyed doing. I would much rather have been out there on the field helping my teammates out."
Lock, a former University of Missouri and Lee’s Summit High School star, and backup Brett Rypien returned to the practice field about an hour later, but veteran practice squad QB Blake Bortles was isolated in case the Broncos run into another quarterback quandary this season.
The trio served what was essentially a one-game banishment for not wearing their masks last week around QB Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thanksgiving.
In addition to isolating Bortles, the Broncos began putting QB Kyle Shurmur, son of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, through COVID-19 protocols to possibly be signed later in the week. A three-year starter at Vanderbilt, Shurmur spent last season on the Chiefs' practice squad.
The Broncos' four QBs went into work on their day off last Tuesday to watch film, but they didn't have their masks on the entire time. After Driskel's positive test, a league investigation deemed Lock, Rypien and Bortles as high-risk close contacts and ordered them into quarantine Saturday.
The QBs were pulled off the practice field Saturday and the Broncos scrambled to get Kendall Hinton up to speed on a truncated playbook that mostly involved handoffs.
Hinton, who played quarterback at Wake Forest, was promoted from the practice squad shortly before kickoff and completed just three passes, two of them to the Saints in Denver's 31-3 loss.
Hinton returned to catching passes, not throwing them, when he went back to the practice squad Wednesday.
Coach Vic Fangio, who fined his QBs this week for violating COVID-19 rules, called out his quarterbacks after the game for putting the team and the league in a precarious position, something that upset Lock's mother, Laura, who defended her son on social media.
Lock said he had no problem with anything Fangio said.
"He's my boss. He's the leader of this team and whatever he says goes," Lock said. "I feel like we were taking a little bit of leadership by coming in and getting ready by ourselves and doing that by ourselves on a day when everyone else was at home. So, that shows leadership.
"But again, we didn't do the right thing, we didn't have them on the whole time we were in there."
As for his mother coming to his defense, Lock said, "Moms will be moms. That's just a fact. They're going to back up their kid. They're going to stand up for their kid regardless of the situation, and my mom is a fiery human. There's never a game where I played bad and wasn't more scared of her than my dad."
Lock praised Hinton for stepping in on very little notice and making his NFL debut at the league's toughest position – against the NFC's top team, no less.
"Gosh, he had to go out there, not take a rep at quarterback, play against one of the best defenses in the league. What else can you ask this guy to do?" Lock said. "I mean, he went out and he played his butt off."
Lock said he was sitting in his vehicle Monday awaiting results of his rapid COVID-19 test when he saw Hinton and told him, "It takes a lot of guts and a lot of heart to go out there and do what you did in the circumstances you did."
Fangio said he was disappointed the events of last weekend "overshadows all the good work everybody has done here, starting with the players" to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
"That part bugs me a little bit, but hey, it is what it is," Fangio said. "We had that mistake with the quarterbacks and we have to own it."
Team president Joe Ellis, who battled the coronavirus last month, met with Fangio and general manager John Elway on Monday and said, "While it's easy to point fingers, all of us must take responsibility and work together to prevent it from happening again."
NOTES: Fangio said CB Bryce Callahan (foot) will miss one to two weeks minimum. ... DE Shelby Harris returned to practice after missing four weeks with the coronavirus. ... RB Phillip Lindsay (knee) is expected to play Sunday when the Broncos (4-7) visit Kansas City (10-1). ... DC Ed Donatell is back part time after COVID-19 sidelined him all last month. ... Fangio said Von Miller hasn't been cleared medically to return to practice. Miller has made it his goal to play this season after a freak ankle injury six days before the opener.