Broncos QBs tried to fool COVID system in 2020 but were caught on surveillance

Do you recall the Denver Broncos having to start a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback against the New Orleans Saints last season?

Broncos fans might have tried long and hard to forget that one, in which Kendall Hinton, who played some quarterback in college, admirably stepped in at QB for Denver but completed only 1 of 9 passes for 13 yards with two interceptions in a 31-3 shellacking at home.

It looked at first that the NFL was bending over backward for the Baltimore Ravens, who also endured major COVID-related roster issues that week and had their game pushed to the middle of the week, but not so much for Denver. But the reason the Broncos were forced to deal with their situation, it turns out, appears justified.

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Every Broncos QB on the active roster at the time last November — Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Blake Bortles and Jeff Driskelwas ruled ineligible for the Saints game. It was reported at the time that those quarterbacks were not forthcoming during contact-tracing investigations, were in close contact with each other without wearing masks and didn’t carry their tracking devices as they were instructed.

Denver Broncos quarterbacks Brett Rypien and Drew Lock were among the players who reportedly tried to sidestep the league's COVID policies last year. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos quarterbacks Brett Rypien and Drew Lock were among the players who reportedly tried to sidestep the league's COVID policies last year. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Now we have new info on what went down at the team's facility that led to the QB wipeout, according to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. The league could have delayed the game, as it did with Ravens-Steelers that week, but those situations ended up being quite different. It turns out that the quarterbacks tried their best to sidestep the league's COVID protocols — and likely thought they wouldn't be caught.

Here's the key takeaway from Farmer's story:

John Elway, Denver’s president of football operations, made several frustrated pleas to Goodell to postpone the Sunday game until Tuesday, when the quarterbacks would be available. The league denied those requests because surveillance video from Denver’s facility showed the quarterbacks had tried to fool the system. They had removed their contact-tracing devices and put them in the four corners of the meeting room, then they sat together to watch film. That close contact automatically made them ineligible to play.

The darned eye in the sky strikes again. That the quarterbacks didn't think or know that there might be surveillance at the UCHealth Training Center is a bad enough look. Apparently lying about their actions afterward also didn't work to their benefit, but it put the team in an awkward spot.

The NFL rescheduled the Week 12 game between the Ravens and Steelers three times that same week before finally playing it on the following Wednesday, six days after it was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving. The NFL had to reset multiple times because it appeared the Ravens might not be able to field a competitive team amid a rash of positive tests among several players.

At the same time Denver was afforded no such concessions, and now we have a good idea why. The toughest look might be for Lock, who lost his starting job to Teddy Bridgewater this August and is the only QB remaining from last year's group on the team's active roster now. Rypien and Hinton are on Denver's practice squad.

We're guessing that none of them will attempt to circumvent the rules again, having been burned once and possibly costing the team a game last season.