The NFL denied repeated requests from the Denver Broncos to postpone their game against the New Orleans Saints from Sunday to Tuesday so they could field a quarterback, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.
The Broncos lost all their signal-callers to COVID-19 protocols less than 24 hours before the scheduled kickoff. Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles were all deemed high-risk close contacts of Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Lock, Rypien, and Bortles have not produced any positive tests.
Denver couldn't sign a free-agent quarterback at the last minute due to the multiday incubation period the NFL has instituted amid the pandemic.
The league also reportedly denied Denver's request to play offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese at quarterback, citing a concern that teams could use low-level coaching positions to store potential players in the future. Calabrese played quarterback at Central Florida and ran the Broncos' offense Saturday at practice with none of the regulars available.
To make matters worse, the Broncos expect to be fined and be stripped of a draft pick for failing to obey COVID-19 safety protocols, Schefter reports. Lock, Rypien, and Bortles reportedly weren't wearing masks when they came into contact with an infected Driskel.
The Broncos promoted Kendall Hinton - a former college quarterback and current wide receiver with Denver's practice squad - to the active roster for Sunday's game. Running back Royce Freeman was previously considered as the emergency quarterback and could also factor into the team's plans for the position.
The NFL has appeared determined to push through COVID-19 issues in the back half of the season; the league reportedly plans to stage the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game Tuesday without further delay.