Broncos safety Kareem Jackson conceded that the team’s quarterbacks made a mistake by not following the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but he also said that he believes the NFL sent the Broncos out to play Sunday’s game with a practice squad wide receiver lined up at quarterback much of the time as an example to the league’s other 31 teams.
The Broncos, with Kendall Hinton at quarterback for just more than half of the team’s snaps, lost 31-3 to the New Orleans Saints at Empower Field at Mile High.
“I feel like maybe [the game] could have been moved, but at the same time, maybe the league was making an example of us as far as maybe not doing the things we needed to do in that particular room, that quarterback room,” Jackson said. “Obviously, the guys didn’t follow their protocols, and for [the NFL] to see that, I guess they felt like they had to make an example, so at the end of [the] day, it is what it is.
“… Obviously, it’s our guys’ fault for not wearing their masks, but at least maybe move the game to the next day or whenever so we’re given a fighting chance,” Jackson added. “[It’s] obviously disappointing. I’m not sure why it wasn’t moved. I have no clue … as a competitor, [it is] definitely frustrating.”
Hinton finished 1-of-9 passing for 13 yards with two interceptions as the Broncos gained just 112 yards overall, their lowest output since the team gained 128 yards in a 1992 loss at Washington. Hinton played 24 of the Broncos’ 43 snaps on offense, and running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay took direct snaps the rest of the time.
Lindsay left the game in the second half because of a knee injury — Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he “tweaked his knee a little bit” — and did not return. Freeman led the team in rushing, with 50 yards on eight carries.
The Broncos, now 4-7, were in an unprecedented position after Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles, who is on the practice squad, were removed from Saturday’s practice and told to isolate after being designated as “high-risk” close contacts to quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
The Broncos asked the NFL to move the game to Monday or another day so the quarterbacks, who all tested negative this past week, including Saturday’s test, could be in uniform. That request was denied. The team then asked if two assistant coaches could be signed to the roster for Sunday’s game, and that request was also denied.
“I was disappointed on a couple levels: that our quarterbacks put us in this position, that our quarterbacks put the league in that position. We count on them to be the leaders of the team, the leaders of the offense, and those guys made a mistake, and that is disappointing,” Fangio said. “Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they’re on their own … There was a failing there, and that’s disappointing.”
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