ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — From dropped masks to mom's Facebook post, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock cleared the air Wednesday, moving forward after a week of controversy.
The league ruled Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles ineligble for last Sunday's game after they were identified as high-risk through contact tracing. It left the Broncos compromised at the most important position and embarrassed by the Saints.
Lock admitted his mistake and aims to finish strong as he returns home Sunday night to face the Kansas City Chiefs, who have beaten the Broncos 10 straight times.
"Yeah, first off, obviously this is a big, big week with everything that went on. Obviously, again, I feel like this team and everyone that's been involved has done a great job in protocols. We came in on that Tuesday and got some extra work in when no one was here, and we got too lackadaisical with it. It ended up hurting us and it hurt this program and I apologize for letting that happen," Lock said. "We could have been better. That's the point of the matter here. We needed to be perfect and we weren't perfect."
All four quarterbacks, including Jeff Driskel, who remains sidelined by COVID-19, were fined for their breach. Teammates welcomed them back Wednesday, even though some were disappointed Sunday, shaping coach Vic Fangio's postgame message to the media. He gauged the temperature in the locker room before admitting he loved the quarterbacks, but was "disappointed in them."
The fines demonstrate that there were consequences.
The entire episode made the Broncos the object of punchlines as practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, who earned universal respect from teammates, completed one pass with two interceptions. The Broncos stood no chance, and the anger about the blowout spilled into social media venting by fans, who blistered commissioner Roger Goodell, and the players, who wondered why the game wasn't moved.
Even Laura Lock, Drew's mom, weighed in on the matter.
"Shame on the many that think they can speak of others in damning ways," Lock's mom wrote, in part, in a lengthy Facebook post defending her son. "The NFL used one of their own as an example -- this is where the shame is."
Lock has long had a close relationship with his parents. Wednesday, he was asked about his mother's comments.
"Moms will be moms, that's just a fact. They're going to stand up for their kid regardless of the situation. My mom is fiery. There's never a game where I played bad and wasn't more scared of her than my dad. So, she's just always been that way," Lock said. "It's gotten me to this point. She's taught me a lot of lessons to help get me to the league and she's just always been fiery. We'll leave it at that.”
The Broncos remain ready to put Sunday in the rearview mirror. It serves no purpose to grouse about the league or the protocols. As CEO Joe Ellis said Tuesday, they all must take responsibility for the lapse, correct it and improve.
For Lock, that begins with his play on the field. It was at this time a year ago, he took over the starting job, winning four of the final five games, while posting seven touchdowns and three interceptions. A sequel would go a long way in increasing the confidence in Lock, whose status as the franchise quarterback has come into question. He is 3-5 this season with 11 interceptions and seven touchdowns and sits last in the NFL with a 55.6 completion percentage.
Denver's offense reflects the struggles in the passing game, ranking last in turnover margin, giveaways and 31st in points per game (19.0).
"We need to put one play back-to-back-to-back-to-back -- play, good football, sound football. We'll always do our job at a high level and if we can keep doing that and keep proving that and keep improving in our own specific jobs, I feel like this team will start playing some really good ball in these last weeks," Lock said.
Fangio did not dismiss the quarterbacks' actions on Sunday or Monday as he met the press. Lock had no issue with the discipline and changes (Bortles will now come to the facility to grab a meal, but will not practice with team to leave him available in case of an emergency).
"Anything that Coach Vic says, it's not in my jurisdiction to really get upset with him. He's my boss. He's the leader of this team and whatever he says goes. I feel like we were taking a little bit of leadership by coming in and getting ready by ourselves and doing that by ourselves on a day where everyone else is at home. So, I feel like that shows leadership," Lock said. "But, again, we didn't do the right thing. We didn't have them on the whole time we were in there. That's just the point of the matter is they felt like it was off for the amount of time to be able to keep us out of the game. That's what it is, and we've got to be better.”
Parks returns, Callahan lands on IR
Will Parks never really wanted to leave Denver, where he became a fan favorite for his outgoing personality and relentless effort. Now, the safety and sometimes corner is back, claimed off waivers Wednesday. He will not be eligible this week as he clears COVID-19 protocols, but will provide depth and knowledge of the defense.
The Broncos were seeking experience as the team's best cornerback Bryce Callahan was placed on the injured reserve with an injury to a bone in his foot. He is required to miss a minimum of three games. Callahan demonstrated Pro Bowl-caliber play this season in 10 games, but injuries continue to trail him. Callahan missed all of last season after a new screw was inserted in his foot.
Defensive end Shelby Harris was activated of the COVID-19 list, and hopes to play his first game in a month. ...
Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked why last Sunday's game was played on a conference call Wednesday. "We’ve had multiple high-risk contacts (in) multiple games all year, back in I believe it was October and then going back even further. With our union, we provided a great deal more flexibility with our clubs and expanded the rosters (for the practice squad) and gave them more ability to move players from one list to another. Our focus has been, when we have a high-risk contact, we’re going to put them into the protocol and they will not be eligible to play until they get out of that and we will not reschedule games for that purpose, even when you have multiple injuries in a specific position group, which is what we agreed to with the clubs early on in the season and we’ve stuck with that.” ...
Punt returner Diontae Spencer, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, did not practice. Neither did Phillip Lindsay (knee) or outside linebacker Malik Reed (shin). The Broncos had four people test positive last week, Driskel, Spencer, and two employees, not coaches, who work in the building.