DENVER -- A promising season has turned into a two-week grimace of pain and disappointment.
Quarterback Drew Lock joined the Broncos' high-profile list of injured players, spraining his right shoulder on a sack in the first quarter Sunday at Pittsburgh. After a lengthy exam on the sideline, Lock returned to the locker room, favoring his right shoulder and did not return.
He will undergo an MRI when the team arrives back in Denver, and admitted he expects the team to "proceed with more caution" because it's his throwing arm. It's likely Lock, who did his postgame interview with a sling on, will miss at least two weeks, per a source, possibly much longer.
"We’re gonna take it day-by-day, get it checked out," said Lock, who finished 1-for-5 for 20 yards.
On third-and-7 from the 25-yard line, Lock was flushed right as T.J. Watt burst into the backfield past tackle Elijah Wilkinson. As Lock scrambled, he stumbled and was smashed to ground by linebacker Bud Dupree, who was pursuing from the opposite side of the field. Lock grimaced in pain as the ball squirted loose for a Steelers recovery. The trainers walked with Lock to the sideline before he ultimately left the field.
"I have been throwing a ball long enough to know that it felt funny," said Lock of trying to warm up on sideline after the injury.
Jeff Driskel, signed this offseason, replaced Lock. He led a second-quarter scoring drive as the Broncos shaved Pittsburgh's lead to 7-3 with a 49-yard field goal from Brandon McManus with 12:07 remaining in the half. Driskel produced a strong effort under the circumstances, finishing 18 of 34 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
"As a backup QB, it’s my job to be ready at all times. You never want to see your guy go down. But, my job is to give us a chance to win the game and we didn’t do that," said Driskel, who blamed himself for not recognizing the blitz on Denver's final offensive play that spoiled the comeback.
For Lock, Sunday's play looked eerily similar to the preseason mishap against San Francisco in preseason a year ago. On that play, Lock lost his footing and fell awkwardly on his right thumb, sidelining him for 10 weeks. Quarterbacks can work through shoulder injuries, but this is complicated because it is his throwing arm.
"What you have to do is stay healthy as a quarterback," said Lock, visibly frustrated and disappointed. "I am not going to say I won't stay aggressive. I just need to not have these awkward things happen."
The Broncos are 4-3 in Lock's seven career starts. Until Dupree's hit, Lock had been sacked only five times in his last six games, the fewest in the NFL.
The NFL is about as sympathetic as a parking ticket when it comes to injuries. Opponents don't care. It has left the Broncos in a tough spot. Von Miller was lost for at least three months after dislocating his left ankle tendon, Phillip Lindsay sat out Sunday and is expected to miss the Tampa Bay game with a turf toe issue, and starting cornerback A.J. Bouye will not return until the season's fifth game with a shoulder issue. He was missed as Ben Roethlisberger picked on rookie Michael Ojemudia for two scores.
"We have a very resilient team. We have guys who are going to fight. It sucks that we have those guys out," tight end Noah Fant said. "But will continue to fight."
It’s a season of big sports events airing this fall on Denver7. Check out our upcoming schedule:
- Sept. 21: NFL Monday Night Football: Saints vs Raiders
- Sept. 29: MLB Wild Card Series
- Sept. 30: MLB Wild Card Series
- Sept. 30: NBA Finals Game 1 on Denver7
- Oct. 1: Broncos vs Jets on Denver7
- Oct. 1: MLB Wild Card Series (If needed)
- Oct. 2: NBA Finals Game 2 on Denver7
- Oct. 4: NBA Finals Game 3 on Denver7
- Oct. 6: NBA Finals Game 4 on Denver7
- Oct. 9: NBA Finals Game 5 on Denver7
- Oct. 11: NBA Finals Game 6 on Denver7
- Oct. 13: NBA Finals Game 7 on Denver7