DENVER — Vic Fangio looked tired, a testament to the season's length and the grind of trying to return a team to contention.
But there was another reason for appearance Thursday. He learned at 4 a.m. that third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19. He goes on the restricted list, but the contact tracing created anxious moments. Would Driskel impact the quarterback room, placing Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles in isolation? In a word, no.
"They were thoroughly checked," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
It was determined the trio were not around Driskel more than two to four minutes the last few days, according to Fangio. In working with NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, the Broncos were cleared to practice Thursday. The league has experienced a chaotic week with the virus. For the first time in months, a game was moved, as the Ravens-Steelers contest was shifted from Thursday to Sunday following eight Ravens' positive tests by players and seven from staffers, according to The Washington Post.
"There must be a universal rule for positive tests in the NFL. Can’t have each team do it differently. Will put players at ease with a definitive solution for each circumstance," tweeted Broncos player rep Brandon McManus.
Will the NFL go to a playoff bubble format, which was used successfully by the NBA and NFL? On Thursday, Sills said on NBC News that "all options remain on the table and we'll be monitoring the data very carefully over the next few weeks to see what makes the most sense come January."
The Broncos have had their share of issues with the virus. Defensive end Shelby Harris will miss his fourth game because of COVID-19, first landing on the restricted list because of exposure to someone with the virus -- his self-reporting protected teammates -- and later contracting it. CEO Joe Ellis and general manager John Elway returned to work last week after bouts with the coronavirus, but defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has been sidelined for a month, though he is improving.
The pandemic has provided the lens from which to view this season. So while the Broncos' record is not what they expected, they are thankful to be playing.
"It's time to be thankful for a lot of things," said Fangio, who planned to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with his girlfriend. "I had my doubts in July before training camp started, but I am thankful we have gotten to this point. I think we will get to the finish line. I am thankful that the guys that have gotten the virus in our organization have done well with it. I am thankful that Ed Donatell is on his road to recovery and doing better. I am thankful for being a teammate with the players on this team."
Right guard Graham Glasgow (calf) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) returned to practice on a limited basis. Jerry Jeudy (foot) was not expected to practice. ...
With Driskel out, the Broncos adjusted their preparation for Saints quarterback Taysom Hill. Driskel, because of his running ability, was playing Hill on the scout team, a role now shifted to Rypien and Bortles. ...
Linebacker Mark Barron, added to the active roster, will likely not make his Broncos debut this this weekend, per Fangio. ...
Fangio on the Broncos moving forward during a pandemic. “Ultimately, 90 percent of the credit needs to go to the players. Our players have done a great job, for the most part, of trying to do the right thing as it relates to COVID."